Nevada state parks may face substantial cuts
Associated Press Writer
Nevada lawmakers raised concerns Friday over limited park operations and park staff reductions that would be required under Gov. Jim Gibbon’s proposed budget cuts.
Spending by agencies dealing with conservation and natural resources, including the state’s park system, would be reduced by just over 18 percent, to about $52 million for the coming two fiscal years.
Of Nevada’s 25 state parks, 10 would be operated on a seasonal basis, and would close during the least-visited times of the year. Full-time park staff would be cut 111 to 98, state Parks Administrator David Morrow told a Senate-Assembly budget subcommittee.
Besides the cuts, the park budget includes just over $100,000 for new equipment, including a snow blower, two trucks and other items. Morrow said the requests were critical for safety, security and keeping parks accessible during snowy weather.
Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, said the idea of reduced park operating times was troubling. He also suggested that money proposed for equipment be used for park staffing instead.
“It’s painful to even close access for a day to a state park, and to have them closed for months at a time is tough,” Coffin said after the hearing.
“Things that are wearing, we are just going to have to wear them out more. I’d rather do that than lose people. That’s what keeps a state park alive,” he added. “It’s nothing without a person there. It’s just a place on the map.”
Allen Biaggi, director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said his staff’s approach to the budget was to “swap and grab certain budget reductions so we didn’t impact any one program to a significant extent.”
Assemblyman Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, said the proposed closings of state parks reduces the time people in urban areas have to experience the state’s natural settings, particularly the people in his district. He said such cuts add to other services, such as libraries and museums, which could be reduced under Gibbons’ budget.
“We need to put our feet down and not accept all of these cuts,” Hogan said. “Taken together, they have a devastating impact that will be with us for years to come.”
Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, the budget subcommittee chairwoman, asked Morrow to submit at the next subcommittee meeting his top five priorities of budget items to be kept if the governor’s proposed budget does not go through.