Iowa Department of Natural Resources Proposes State Park Concession Revisions

August 2, 2023

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposed revisions that would remove the need to check concessionaires in state parks against Iowa’s child abuse registry. These revisions include eliminating the requirement for vendors to sell healthy food. In addition, it would increase the contract limits from five to ten years. These changes aim to attract more concessionaires.

The Iowa DNR has encountered challenges in recruiting concession operations due to the seasonal nature of the business. However, the proposed changes can potentially incentivize investments in these operations, thereby aiding Iowa state parks. Currently, the number of authorized concessionaires offering food or drinks and renting outdoor equipment is considerably low compared to the total number of state parks in the region.

Conducting a child abuse check is a common practice for employers, especially when dealing with positions that involve interactions with children. As such, this check became a standard step in screening prospective concessionaires because state parks attract many families with children. However, the Iowa DNR still intends to remove this requirement.

This change would remove the requirement to check against Iowa’s child abuse registry. In addition, it would stop checking a confidential list of caregivers with discovered child abuse reports. This list includes parents and other individuals with related backgrounds. Many employers conduct both checks because a background check will show prosecuted child abuse cases, though some do not result in prosecution.

The Iowa DNR intends to change the selection process used for concessionaires. In this case, they would keep the criminal background check requirements and eliminate the child abuse registry check. These changes would help better conform with typical contracting standards.

The proposed changes are part of Iowa’s government-wide review of regulations that the governor ordered in January. As such, the DNR will seek public input on the changes and hold a public hearing in September. Affected parties should know that the mentioned change applies to concession operators only. As such, most employers working with vulnerable populations may continue checking the child abuse registry in their screening processes.

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