Roper Lake safe for now

[Source: Diane Saunders, Eastern Arizonan Courier]

Roper Lake State Park will likely stay open, but its future could lie in the hands of a private company.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wants to maintain state park funding at its current level, according to the state’s executive budget summary, but the State Senate is calling for a sweep of $2.090 million from the State Parks Enhancement Fund and privatization of “some or all state parks.”

The State Parks Enhancement fund is money from gate receipts, according to Cristie Statler, executive director of the Arizona State Parks Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the parks.

Last year, the Legislature swept money from the Arizona Heritage Fund — a funding source for state parks. That left the Enhancement Fund to pay for repairs or improvements.

“We’ve never been more reliant on the Enhancement Fund than now,” Statler said in a phone interview Thursday. This fund has about $10 million.

She added that the State Senate, House of Representatives and Brewer must agree to transferring the state park money to the state’s general fund.

A “fact sheet” for Senate Bill 1624 shows the State Parks Board must allow a private contractor to operate at least one park that was profitable and one that was not profitable last year. The board must award contracts by Feb. 1, 2012.

Meanwhile, District 5 Senator Sylvia Allen believes “Roper Lake will survive.” She also believes privatization is a good option.

Allen said Friday that negotiations continue for funding the state parks, including Roper Lake.