PRESERVING PARKS: New Commission Helps

A group is working to improve state parks, just in time for a big celebration. Iowa led the nation when the state formed its first park in 1920. Now, the Governor wants to revitalize the system by the time the state marks 100 years of parks in 2020.

It’s hard not to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Henry Gunderson says, “When I was a kid, I used to go to Pine Lake State Park over by Eldora, and I’ve just fallen in love with the parks. They’re beautiful.”

The Roosevelt Sophomore isn’t alone. He is part of a new commission to revitalize Iowa’s 87 state parks. His dad Joe Gunderson with the Iowa Parks Foundation says, “The Governor’s Green Ribbon Commission was started this year.”

Volunteers from across the state are working on the public/private partnership, including four youth representatives. Youth Representative Maggie Norland says, “I’ve always loved the parks, whether city, state or local, and I thought they could use improvement. Always can.”

The Green Ribbon Commission is charged with getting Iowa’s parks ready for the centennial celebration in 2020. The group is an off-shoot of the fairly new Iowa Parks Foundation. Members have met three times to analyze park usage information, look at the current state of Iowa parks and plan how they can improve the system.

Co-Chair Bob Riley says, “Let’s look hard at the next 100 years: picture Henry here at 80 at 2075 and his children, and their children in 2120.”

The news conference took place in the DNR Courtyard on the Iowa State Fairgrounds, which the Governor says is fitting. He wants the Green Ribbon Commission to be similar to the Blue Ribbon Foundation.” Governor Terry Branstad says, “Which has been such a great success in renovating and revitalizing the fairgrounds.”

The Green Ribbon Commission has raised nearly $250,000 in private funds to complete the study. Governor Branstad says more public money will also be available to better maintain state parks.

Henry Gunderson says, “I want to see it move on to my generation, so my kids can enjoy the parks also.”

One of the Green Ribbon Commission’s goals is to connect state parks with city and county parks through trails and other links to improve local economies and people’s health. Another goal is to meet demand by possibly adding parks in the future.