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Park supporters still nervous about Harriman State Park bill

District 29 State Representative Elaine Smith has pulled a proposed amendment to House Bill 496.

Her amendment was aimed at protecting the terms of an agreement between the E. Roland and W. Averell Harriman family and the state of Idaho over the family’s gift of land that is now Harriman State Park.

The legislation would give authority to the Governor to name a director of the Idaho Transportation Department, Idaho Department of Correction and Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation and remove that authority from citizen boards appointed to oversee those agencies.

Smith’s amendment would have removed the Parks and Recreation Department from the bill.

Smith said she pulled her amendment after Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said the bill would not threaten terms of the Harriman Gift Agreement.

According to Smith, Wasden told her, “Nothing in the Gift Agreement requires that the state create a Park Board or authorize such a Board to hire a director.”

But, the Friends of Harriman State Park of Idaho disagree. In a blog post tracking the bill, the group said Harriman family lawyers may have an opposing position, which could negate the original gift agreement.

According to the group, the agreement laid out these requirements.

The Railroad Ranch was to be “Harriman State Park of Idaho.” A state agency would be established to administer all of Idaho’s parks with a professionally staffed career Park Service. The agency’s staff would be chosen on merit alone. The state would pay Fremont county a tax bill for the property. No hunting, shooting or trapping. Fly fishing only.

The HGA also included provisions for the return of the Railroad Ranch to the Harriman Estate in the event gift conditions are violated.

According to the group, “If the agreement is violated by the State of Idaho, the Harriman family has recourse to take Harriman State Park back. This is covered in two agreements, the first signed in 1961 by Gov. Robert Smylie, E.Roland Harriman and Averell Harriman, and the second signed by E.Roland Harriman, Averell Harriman and Gov. Cecil Andrus on November 16, 1976.”

You can view the original supplemental gift agreement HERE.

The bill is currently under “General Orders” in the Idaho House. By legislative definition, “General Orders designates bills the entire house will work on together, as a “Committee of the Whole.” It will remain on the General Orders agenda until there is a majority consensus to either move it, amend it or vote on it. This can happen at any time.”

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