By Etta Pettijohn
A bill to transfer management of the state park system from the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) to the Tourism Department was tabled on Tuesday in the House, Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee, a procedure that prevents the legislation from advancing to the House floor.
Rep. Rebecca Dow, (R-38) is one of two sponsors of HB 258, which sought to transfer all property, money, personnel, and contractual obligations to the Tourism Department, aligning them with the state's tourism and marketing efforts.
“I get emails about the top-down poor management of our state parks all the time,” said Dow. “I believe moving state parks to tourism would finally give them the attention and care they need. Our parks have been left to disarray for far too long.”
Dow and former Senator and Finance Committee Chair John A. Smith attempted two years ago to secure several million dollars to address serious funding deficits in the state parks, particularly at Elephant Butte Lake, which brings in more revenue and visitors than any of the parks, but was told by State Parks Director Christy Tafoya they didn’t have the staff to implement projects the money would finance.
There are four state parks in District 38.
After the bill was tabled Dow said, “State Parks is a forgotten division under EMND. I’ve talked to committee members who have served for years, and they never take a deep dive on the parks’ needs, the opportunities.
“It will take intentional focus on our state parks to address dormant park improvement plans, coordinate marketing and to assure state parks plan their economic recovery.”