Viewpoint: Arizona legislature on verge of shutting park system

[Source: Bill Meek, President, Arizona State Parks Foundation, Camp Verde Bugle] — Without the Legislature’s help in securing immediate additional revenues for Arizona State Parks, the current FY10 budget will force closure of virtually all state parks, shutting a system that serves more than two million visitors annually, while depriving local communities of some $266 million a year in parks-related income.  During a public workshop last week, State Parks Director Renee Bahl explained that legislative sweeps of parks funds, including $3 million in entry fee income, have left State Parks with only $8.4 million in operating revenues for the fiscal year.  This compares to $30 million needed for bare bones operations, excluding any capital funds for repair of badly deteriorating historic buildings, unsafe sewer park systems and eroding lakefront facilities.  Such scant operational money is not enough to even close, fence and guard Arizona’s treasured array of 30 parks, recreation areas and historic sites, Bahl noted.

To avoid this disaster, somewhere between $18 million and $22 million must be restored to State Parks — an amount accounting for about 1/10th percent of the state’s overall budget and less than a half percent of its current $4 billion deficit.  Not to provide such modest funding will effectively wipe out more than 50 years of taxpayer investment in buying, building and opening such heavily-visited places as Kartchner Caverns; Havasu and Alamo lakes and on the state’s west side; Slide Rock, Red Rock and Dead Horse Ranch state parks in Northern Arizona; and Catalina, Oracle and Patagonia Lake state parks in southeast Arizona to name a few. [Note: To read the full story, click here]