State-Owned Housing For Iowa Park Rangers Set to Be Terminated
To paraphrase Billy Joel, "well, if that's movin' up, then you're movin' OUT."
That's what the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is telling their park rangers who live in houses on the premises of 23 state parks because a recent evaluation showed $1 million in needed repairs that the state doesn't want to pay. These upgrades include a variety of things, including structural work, electrical and sanitation improvements as well as replacing carpet and deck work.
Why not pay for it, when there's a funding surplus?
There are state-owned residential homes occupied by rangers across the 23 state parks that need repairs, and according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Dubuque representative Chuck Isenhart points to a $1.24 BILLION general fund surplus. He also introduced a bill that would dip into the federal American Rescue Plan Act for a mere $20 million for repairs and renovations to not only the houses but to upgrades of other buildings in Iowa’s 71 state parks, forests, and preserves.
He says this is what one of today's most popular buzzwords, "infrastructure" is all about.
The DNR says it will be business as usual if the rangers are booted
Park rangers respond to things like boat crashes, power outages, fights, and other crimes that occur at state parks. They will still be showing up for work on their regular shifts and available for emergency response. Sure, but where are they going to live? In short: that's not the DNR's problem. Sue Cave represents the State Police Officers Council (SPOC) and says having rangers reside directly on the premises presents several advantages that will be lost if they are forced to leave.
Their (rangers’) function there is to be able to provide quick access to emergency response for anything that happens in the park as well as having a deterrent effect of having your house there
Cave says with many of the parks being located in the so-called "middle of nowhere", the quickness of that response will be hindered without rangers on the premises or close by. It's all fine and dandy, she says, if the evicted rangers can find affordable housing nearby, but that's not a guarantee.
The rangers were previously asked to pay rent
This isn't necessarily coming out of nowhere, as the park rangers were previously asked to pay rent on the state-owned homes on park premises. Their union stepped in and put the kibosh on that, so here we are.
Where they go from here is a concern, and what becomes of the houses sitting in the middle of the state parks with no occupants but repairs being needed is anyone's guess.
But, in short, saying that there is "no quantifiable benefit" to on-premises housing for state park rangers, the Iowa DNR said, "free and mandatory housing for park staff no longer is the norm in state parks."