Arizona state park closures delayed

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — The closure of eight state parks was delayed Tuesday as the Arizona State Parks Board asked to be given more alternatives to consider.  The board voted unanimously to ask parks director Ken Travous and his staff to consider closing parks seasonally, furloughs for employees, and other reductions in operating expenses in an effort to spare the parks targeted for closing.  “I’d like to see a bigger menu,” said Mark Winkelman, a member of the board and the Arizona State Land Commissioner.  “We need to come up with some options instead of (just taking) one approach.”

The board will meet again Feb. 20, when it is scheduled to make a final decision.  The parks up for closure are: Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde; Homolovi Ruins State Park in Winslow; Lyman Lake State Park in Springerville; McFarland State Historic Park in Florence; Oracle State Park in Oracle; Riordan Mansion State Historic Park in Flagstaff; Tubac Presidio State Historic Park in Tubac; and Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park.

About 20 people from around the state spoke out during a Tuesday morning meeting that lasted more than three hours.  In all cases, speakers urged the board to resist closing the parks and seek alternatives to closing a 2009 budget deficit estimated at $650,000.  “We must be vigilant in saving our few remaining historic buildings as a legacy for our future generations,” said Shifra Lea Boehlje, a volunteer at Fort Verde.  “If we don’t preserve these buildings and artifacts, we will be destroying the only remaining monuments devoted to the memory of those soldiers who gave their lives for this great state.”

Despite residents’ cries, Travous was not optimistic that park closings could be avoided. “We need to make up a lot of money real fast,” said Travous, who has worked at the parks department since 1986. “We can chip around the edges, but the fact is that we’re out of time.”