[Source: Pete Aleshire, Payson Roundup] — Tonto Natural Bridge State Park has put out an urgent plea for volunteer workers after learning it must lay off half its staff to cope with “devastating” legislative budget cuts. Staggered by the a mid-year $5-million budget cut approved by lawmakers over the weekend, the Arizona State Parks Board this week held an emergency meeting to find alternatives to closing eight of the state’s 27 parks. “We do not have enough money to run the parks until June,” said assistant director Jay Ziemann. “The parks system is rapidly falling apart.”
The legislature has now not only cut general fund contributions to the park to a fraction of the operating cost, but has swept some $32 million from various funds earmarked by law for various park and recreation purposes.
Tonto Natural Bridge features a 183-foot-high arch of travertine over a 150-foot-long tunnel dissolved in a wall of rock. The park remains one of the best-known attractions in Rim Country, where towns are struggling to maintain tourism in the face of the downturn. The cuts have killed the staff’s hopes for money to fix a leaky roof and restore the historic lodge, which park managers had hoped to contract for this spring. Now, the park will need more volunteers just to maintain minimal operations. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]