Official Government Website

History of Idaho State Parks

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation owes its existence largely to the vision of one man, Governor Robert E. Smylie. He looked into the future and saw a professionally managed system of state parks available for the enjoyment of all Idaho’s citizens and visitors. He kept that vision in mind when Roland and Averell Harriman offered to donate their beloved Railroad Ranch to the state if a professional managing agency was put in place before the transfer of their generous gift would take place.

Others took up this vision and, when the opportunity presented itself, added recreation to the agency’s charge to take advantage of the new federal Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1966. The agency became the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, and through that federal program helped countless cities and counties across the state fulfill their own outdoor recreation visions in their individual communities.
three people looking at a map
Steve Bly with Gladys and Roland Harriman

Since 1965, the Department has been governed by a six-person board with each member representing a different geographic area of the state. The board has the power “to appoint a director to serve at its discretion” (Title 67, Chapter 42, Idaho Code).

Past Directors
1966- 1971
Wilhelm A Beckert
Steve Bly
Dale R. Christiansen 
Robert L. Meinen
Yvonne Ferrell 
Rick Collignon
Robert L. Meinen
Nancy Merrill
David R. Langhorst
2020 (September, Interim), 2021 (April, Permanent)-Today
Susan E. Buxton
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