This story was published in the Dec. 9, 1987, edition of the Lewiston Tribune.
Yvonne S. Ferrell has been Idaho’s chief parks official for a week. “Sometimes it seems like forever,” she told a crowd of about 80 at Lewiston Tuesday evening.
Part of the reason for that trace of confessional candor is a schedule that has taken her to meetings at Coeur d’Alene, Boise and Lewiston during her eight days on the job.
Another is the hurly-burly of trying to get a grip on running a statewide department. “Probably everyone of you knows more about the Idaho parks than I do,” she added.
But Ferrell, who last week became director of the Idaho Parks and Recreation Department at Boise, had a bit of news for the Tuesday’s audience. That news was a Monday telephone conversation with an Idaho Health and Welfare Department official who announced the department had found $16,500 for a water quality study at Winchester Lake State Park.
That study is the keystone for a project that will total more than $70,000. State officials hope it eventually will help solve serious water pollution problems at the lake, just a couple of miles from U.S. Highway 95 in western Lewis County.
In an introductory meeting with Gov. Cecil D. Andrus last week, Ferrell said, it was clear Winchester Lake has his attention.
The governor, Ferrell said, said he wanted no more foot dragging or studies of the problem. He wants action,
“Please be assured that we’re going to have it moving as fast as we can,” she added.
Before taking the Idaho job Oct. 26, Ferrell was deputy director of the Washington Parks and Recreation Department at Olympia.
Ferrell’s visits around the state are partly courtesy calls on citizens interested in the parks and on legislators. They are also partly efforts to let the public know about what lies ahead when the Legislature convenes.
James B. Poulsen, the department’s recreation bureau chief, told the audience he expects the Legislature to deal with money matters affecting recreationists next year.
Poulsen said he expects an effort led by Rep. Deanna Vickers, D-Lewiston, to help lift the ceiling on appropriations for key department programs affecting boaters and recreational vehicle users.
The recent legislative revamp of Idaho’s boating registration system has been successful, by and large, for boating counties, Poulsen said.
Twenty-eight of Idaho’s 35 boating counties received more money last year because of the change that brought boat registrations under the department’s wing.
By allowing boaters a greater say in where their money was spent, some counties received four times the revenues they had received under the old system. Clearwater County, for example, saw its annual budget for waterways improvements jump from $7,000 to $27,000, Poulsen said.
On the horizon at the federal level is a bill that could have even broader implications, Poulsen and Ferrell said.
Rep. Morris Udall, D-Ariz., has said he will introduce a bill to revise the funding system for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund, while critical to Idaho recreation projects in the past, has withered to a meager contribution of about $300,000 a year.
Udall’s proposal to create a new recreation fund based on sales of heritage bonds could restore vitality to the federal program. Advocates estimate the new program could earn $1 billion a year.
Ferrell also told the audience she recognizes the economic importance of the state’s parks for small communities and Idaho’s tourism industry.
Tourism, she said, is a relatively stable industry compared to industries based on natural resources, such as timber or minerals.