Charting a New Tomorrow builds on previous planning efforts, including the Montana State Parks System Plan (1988), State Park Futures Committee I (1990), State Park Futures Committee II (2002), and the HJR 32 Study of State Parks, Outdoor Recreation, and Heritage Resource Programs (2012). This new strategy provides direction to:
- Prioritize and balance resources across the system to enhance visitor experiences;
- Align expectations with our brand promise of managing significant, accessible, and relevant sites and programs; and
- Focus investment on the most significant sites while creating opportunities for partnerships.
A Differentiated Approach
Classifying Montana’s state parks is a key outcome of Charting a New Tomorrow to manage our system in a differentiated approach, rather than trying to be all things to all people. Classification groupings are identified using criteria to align with our brand promise, and to prioritize investments across the system. This approach, along with our Peer State Analysis and our Facility Condition Inventory Report will be an important metric in addressing our top concerns of adequate funding and staffing resources, enhanced visitor experiences, and improved resource conditions.
Using this information will be critical in strengthening our park system and making it one of the strongest in the nation.
PEER STATE ANALYSIS
Setting standards for staffing and facility maintenance will help us practically understand what it takes to manage sites and maintain visitor experiences. We analyzed surrounding state park systems in Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming to understand how we stack up against our neighbors.
We learned that Montana State Parks is at 68% of the four-state average for field staffing. With this information, we can proactively develop operational and staffing standards for our system moving forward.
FACILITY CONDITION INVENTORY
In 2015, Montana State Parks released an independently conducted inventory of priority projects at 34 of our 55 parks statewide. The study revealed almost $23 million worth of needed repairs across the state.
From deferred maintenance to projects that need to address immediate health and safety infrastructure repairs, the inventory identified needs such as a structurally unsound trail bridge at Makoshika State Park to a fire alarm system at Bannack State Park that has “reached the end of its useful life.” The agency’s average annual budget is roughly $8.2 million.
By looking at other state park systems and critically assessing our infrastructure needs, we can enhance best practices and management approaches. We can build the data necessary to effectively communicate our needs with customers, decision-makers, partners, and communities. This will help us develop stronger institutional knowledge and best practices for providing stewardship of our sites.