Idaho park officials approve new corporate naming rules

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho park officials say the Idaho Legislature should have final approval authority in naming new and existing state parks.

The Idaho Parks and Recreation board approved the requirement Thursday as part of a new set of rules involving state park naming rights. The rules are needed after the state parks department recently received the green light to pursue sponsorships with corporations to help offset slashed state revenue.

Thursday's rules are an amended version from the ones submitted last week. Board members delayed voting after realizing the clauses do not ban the possibility new state parks could be named after private companies that give large donations or sponsorships.

The new version still doesn't rule out that option, but it now requires legislative approval for the naming of any state park.

"I can't see where this is going to be a problem for us," said Tom Crimmins, board member.

The rules also state that the board would not be allowed to consider naming a new state park simply based on the amount of a donation. Instead, the rules state the naming should be based on location, topography, natural resources and other historically known characteristics.

Idaho lawmakers overwhelmingly approved legislation corporate sponsorships this year, but not without a handful of legislators citing concerns that the names of current and future parks would be renamed to the highest bidder.

Wanting to prevent "Coca-Cola State Park" or "McDonalds State Forest," lawmakers gave park officials instructions to finalize rules on naming rights to be reviewed by the 2016 Idaho Legislature.

Maine, New Hampshire, California and Georgia are some of the states that have implemented some kind of sponsorships with businesses to support their state parks.

The parks department received $3.5 million in state funds this year. In fiscal year 2008 —before the economic downturn— the agency received nearly $18 million in state general funds. The department largely relies on fees and sales, along with grants and registration fees collected on boats, snowmobiles, motorbikes and RVs.

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