[Source: Arizona Republic editorial board] — Stealing a dead woman’s legacy — that’s how far the Legislature has gone in its raid on funding for Arizona State Parks. Our parks system has taken a wildly disproportionate hit in state budget-balancing efforts. It has been years since the state itself put any money into the parks. Now, lawmakers are draining virtually every other source of revenue.
Including $250,000 bequeathed by Asta Forrest, a Danish immigrant and Fountain Hills resident. She gave the money with no strings attached (big mistake, as it turns out), just because she loved Arizona State Parks. Forrest must have seen how state parks offer the best of Arizona for entertainment and education. From Lake Havasu to Kartchner Caverns to Picacho Peak to the Tombstone Courthouse, there are places for boating, hiking, fishing, birding, swimming, sightseeing, and exploring. In a tourism-oriented state, these are economic assets as well as part of our quality of life.
Yet in December, lawmakers siphoned so much out of state-park accounts, including money from entrance fees, that the very existence of the system is at stake. That $8.6 million raid filled just a speck of this year’s $1.5 billion state budget hole. On Jan. 15, the State Parks Board will weigh what parks to close — with the risk of going into a death spiral of falling entrance fees that force more and more closures. It’s time to consider a task force’s proposal to fund parks with an optional $15 vehicle-registration surcharge.
In this crisis, every state agency must endure painful cuts. But not gutting. [Note: To read the full editorial online, visit Viewpoint: Arizona Legislature raids legacy of dead woman.]