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Montana News

State Park Leaders 'Need To Rebuild The Public Trust'

Two horses graze at Wild Horse Island State Park on Flathead Lake, Mont.

Leaders of the Montana State Parks system need to earn back public trust following an audit that revealed financial problems and disorganization. That’s what a state Parks and Recreation Board member told lawmakers Tuesday.

The April audit found that the parks division had an extra $11 million in its accounts at the same time as parks around the state were facing a $22 million backlog in maintenance needs.

State lawmakers in the Environmental Quality Council reviewed that audit Tuesday, of the agency that oversees Montana’s 55 state parks.

Angie Grove is the chair of the Montana State Parks and Recreation Board, a quasi-judicial group of governor appointed citizens that oversees the parks. 

"We really need to rebuild the public trust and confidence in our state park system," says Grove.

Grove also says the Parks In Focus Commission advisory council Governor Steve Bullock appointed in January of this year is working to identify improvement plans for internal policy. She also says the parks division is trying to work more closely with its overarching agency, the Department of Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.

According to the legislative audit, the Parks Division has increasingly worked in isolated autonomy from FWP, which led to disorganization and financial problems.

The Parks in Focus Commission is expected to release an initial report in late June highlighting key challenges facing the state park system.