A proposal in the state legislature would call for state parks to be properly maintained, brought up-to-date and in good working order.
The measure blocks the establishment of new state parks or expanding any existing park by more than 10% until needed repairs are done, including that no current state park would have deferred maintenance.
House Republican Randy Pietzman of Troy says he filed the legislation after youth groups in his district complained about a dilapidated swimming pool.
“They told me if they don’t fix these facilities by next year or the year after, at least tell them they’re going to fix them, they’re all going somewhere else” said Pietzman. “To me that raised a lot of concern. They’re just letting these places go so bad that groups that are supposed to be enjoying them feel like they can’t even come back anymore.”
Pietzman says extensive neglect is widespread at existing facilities.
The proposal requires the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which is responsible for park maintenance, to submit an annual report to lawmakers on construction at state parks and historic sites.
Pietzman claims DNR delayed repairing the swimming pool because it was an historic site that would be prohibitively expensive to restore to its original condition.
To address this issue, he inserted language in the bill to bring facilities up to “current standards”, which would allow for complete replacement of aging structures at a less expensive cost.
The measure also calls for DNR to report all revenues and expenses at each state park or historic site to ensure the agency doesn’t transfer money from a profitable park to one that’s under-performing.
Pietzman says his legislation is being warmly received across the state, including among park workers.
“When you start talking and bring this up to people around the state, they’re very happy about it, very happy. A lot of the park employees around the state have called me and told me that they’re very grateful that I filed this bill. I thought that that was pretty amazing actually”
Pietzman contends he has no ax to grind with DNR and calls his proposal an accountability measure. But he’s concerned construction of the massive Rock Island Trail for bicycling could drain money from maintenance efforts.
“They need million and millions of dollars of work on it to get it functional the way it sounded to me, with bridges and everything else in there. Just to give them a free pass on it, I don’t know if that’s going to work.”
Pietzman’s hopeful a twenty-year timeline for the trail to be completed will allow both it and proper park maintenance to take place simultaneously.
The Rock Island Trail is billed as a “rails-to-trails” trail which will stretch over 200 miles, intersecting with the existing Katy Trail, and extending the bike trails system into the Kansas City metro area, which is not currently served.
Pietzman says more work will be done to address the Rock Island Trail issue once the proposal hits the House or Senate floor.
It passed unanimously out of the House Conservation and Natural Resources Committee with bipartisan support, and was being looked at by a rules panel Monday. The Department of Natural Resources didn’t respond when asked to comment on the proposal by Missourinet.