[Source: Arizona Republic, Amy B. Wang, 10-04-2009] — The budget-beleaguered Arizona State Parks office recently released more than $6.1 million in Heritage Fund grants to benefit historic-preservation projects, trail maintenance, and local and regional parks. In total, 53 projects around Arizona can move forward with the release of grant money that had been frozen for more than six months, the result of state budget woes that had trickled down to the parks department. “We are extremely happy to release funding for these very worthy trails, historic preservation and park projects,” said Renée Bahl, executive director of the parks, in a statement. Twenty-two other projects that had been due to receive Heritage Fund grants were canceled.
The Heritage Fund, created by voters in 1990, is funded by Arizona Lottery sales. Up to $10 million in proceeds are designated annually for the conservation of the state’s wildlife and natural areas. The State Parks Board appropriates the money to projects each year. In February, the department’s grim financial situation forced the board to freeze all grant money. “It was frozen because we didn’t know that we’d have enough money to operate the agency,” said parks spokeswoman Ellen Bilbrey, citing layoffs that could have affected the staff that worked with distributing the funds. [Note: To read the full story, click here.]