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The future of Harriman State Park in the hands of legislators

About 90,000 visitors a year enjoy Harriman State Park. The park was gifted to the state of Idaho in 1977 from the Harriman family. A newly-proposed bill might turn the park back over to the family.

“If any law was broken or any part of the agreement was broken, that this parcel of land would go back to the Harriman family,” said Jodi Stiehl, the President of Friends of Harriman State Park Foundation.

Idaho legislators are reviewing a bill that would let the governor appoint the director of Idaho Parks and Recreation. Right now a board of six people choose the director of IDPR.

“You know we’re going to have a new governor and this would give him a chance to get his own people in there, I suppose,” Representative Thomas F. Loertsche said. “There have been some problems in the past that a governor can’t fire a director. It has to happen at the hands of those boards.”

That goes in violation of the Harriman gift agreement and puts the Harriman State Park of Idaho in jeopardy.

“There was also some family that sent a letter to [legislators] making them aware of the gift agreement,” said Stiehl.

There are parts of the Harriman family who want to see the park stay with the public, while others want the land returned to the family. If the gift agreement is broken, either side can challenge what happens.

This past weekend the bill was on the agenda, and on Monday it went to hearing and was voted to move to general orders.

The speed of the whole process, didn’t give the friends of Harriman State Park Foundation or an attorney general time to review it and see if it was actually violating any of the gift’s conditions.

“There are a lot of different opinions on that,” Stiehl said. “But when you look specifically at the gift agreement it states right in that gift agreement that if it is violated it will go back to the family.”

The bill is on the agenda for next week. For now, all supporters can do is drum up awareness of what’s going on.

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