Friends of Idaho State Parks is opposed to HO496, currently under consideration in the Idaho Legislature. The bill would move the director of Idaho’s Department of Parks and Recreation under the purview of the governor. Currently, the Idaho Park and Recreation Board, a bipartisan citizen board selected by the governor, hires and fires the director based on merit. Friends of Idaho State Parks would prefer that it remains that way, but it really isn’t the issue with this bill.
Harriman State Park was given to the State of Idaho by Roland and Averell Harriman. They put some strong conditions in the gift deed, the most relevant of which is that the State of Idaho must maintain a professional agency with employees based on merit. HO496 would turn the lead position of that agency into a political appointment. We think that violates the terms of the gift deed. The Attorney General thinks it may not. We respect the AG’s office, but would point out that this is an opinion, not a ruling. There is no shortage of lawyers ready to argue otherwise.
What if the AG’s office is wrong? They have been on occasion in the past on such opinions. If the descendants of the Harrimans believe this change in the way directors are selected violates the gift deed, they would be within their rights to ask for the property back.
Why risk it? Is it really so important that the governor have one more position to fill that’s it’s worth putting the 16,000-acre Harriman State Park at Risk? We don’t think so. If you think it’s an unnecessary risk, contact your legislators and tell them to vote no on HO496, or amend it to exclude the director of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.