[Source: Bonnie Bariola, Special to the Florence Reminder] — As the result of the Legislature reducing funding for Arizona State Parks, the Arizona State Parks Board has approved the use of Heritage Grant Funds to be used for State Parks operations. State Parks has consequently suspended 71 Heritage Fund grants; five are located in Florence and are worth a total of $617,284. These grants would have been matched 50/50 by the owners of each of the properties, which would have provided over a $1.2 million investment in Florence.
In 1990 the Arizona Heritage Fund was approved by two-thirds of Arizona voters. This voter initiative designated $10 million from the Arizona Lottery funds each year to be used for grants administered by Arizona State Parks. The Arizona Heritage Alliance is a nonprofit organization created in 1992 to protect Arizona’s Heritage Fund and its objectives. It is guided by a Board of Directors drawn from a broad base of outdoor sports, environmental, conservation, and historic preservation organizations that helped pass the 1990 statewide voter initiative creating the Heritage Fund.
Members of the Heritage Alliance released a statement, “This fund has become a nationally acclaimed quality of life and economic development tool that supports and protects our state’s parks, open space, wildlife habitat, environmental education, trails, historic and cultural sites, and public access to public land. It was not designated as operating funds for State Parks. Since 1990, more than $338.5 million of Heritage Funds have been invested in preserving and enhancing an incredible array of natural, cultural, and recreational resources in every Arizona county and legislative district. The economic multiplier factor brings that number up close to $1 billion.”
A total of 71 Heritage Fund grants totaling $11.4 million had been approved and were from 0 – 91% complete when the State Parks Board unanimously voted to suspend them. The Heritage Alliance reported, “Many are ‘on the hook’ with signed agreements they cannot keep without the funds, as well as half-restored and roofless historic properties, half-built park structures that are now an eyesore and possible safety hazard, and fragile archaeological artifacts that now are not in compliance with federal standards. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]