Viewpoint: Arizona State Parks robbing Peter to pay Paul

[Source: Camp Verde Bugle] — Talk about bittersweet.  In rather twisted fashion, the Sullivan Hotel’s loss is Fort Verde’s gain.  A temporary stay of execution was issued to such Arizona properties as Fort Verde State Historic Park and Red Rock State Park.  At Friday’s meeting of the State Parks Board, Director Ken Travous announced that by cutting and suspending Heritage Grants, as well as other cost-cutting measures, the agency was able to make up $5 million in its decimated budget.  That meant not closing an additional eight parks, at least until July.  But this was robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Ask Mary Wills and Sally Dryer about being “robbed.”  After being approved for a $150,000 Heritage grant to sustain the old Sullivan Hotel in Jerome, taking out loans and mortgaging a house, the women were told in February that State Parks was canceling the grant.  It damaged Wills and Dryer financially, the last thing the state should be doing.

What the move may have saved State Parks in money has cost it in respect and reputation around here.  The board also went down the path of supporting a controversial House bill that will allow the state to take funds meant for land preservation and use it for the State Parks budget.  That smacks of underhandedness. Reneging on a promise, which is essentially what the Heritage Grant was, and going directly against voter intentions to snag more money are bad ideas.

Yes, the Legislature cut $36 million from State Parks’ budget.  And yes, come July, it may cut another $12 million.  It’s painful, possibly fatal for some parks. But limiting park hours or completely shuttering more would be preferable ethically to shifty moves that make anyone question State Parks’ honesty. While it was nice to hear, on the eve of the History of the Soldier event, that Fort Verde and other parks were temporarily spared being shuttered, it’s bittersweet to know such parks are staying open at such a cost.