Valdez: GOP’s stealth attack on Arizona state parks

635914190477922394-Kartchner-Caverns[SOURCE: Linda Valdez, ​Arizona Republic, Feb. 18, 2016​] – A House committee told the public to butt out of decisions about Arizona State Parks.

You’d better tell them that’s not OK.

The committee voted to eliminate the State Parks Board and vest all its duties in the director.

Those duties include managing, developing and operating the State Parks.

Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club says the board was an advocate for the parks.

And they need one.

The parks have been systematically stripped of funding despite a long list of deferred maintenance needs​.​

Lawmakers even took the the $10 million a year in Lottery money that voters earmarked specifically for the parks when the Heritage Fund was approved by a two-to-one margin in 1990.

If they could do that while a board was watching, imagine what sleight of hand GOP lawmakers will manage with only an appointed director on guard.

The board conducted regular meetings where issues could be discussed and the public could be heard, Bahr said.

Without the board, the process of running these public parks will be much more opaque.

So could the process of dismantling them. After all, the state’s ruling Republican Party favors privatization.

Bahr was on hand to testify against the bill, which was a striker to HB 2600. It passed the House Government and Higher Education Committee Thursday.

The board was eliminated as part of a larger effort to streamline the number of boards and commissions.

Maybe some of them should go.

The Parks Board isn’t one of them.

But it will go unless people raise a ruckus. So get on your cell phone.

It’s the governor who will have to sign or veto this thing. Tell him what you think.

The board serves as a valuable champion for State Parks, as well as an easy access point for people to engage with those who make decisions about places that are recognized as highly significant for their natural, historic​,​ and recreational value.

Parks are important to Arizona, and the parks board is important to the parks.

Arizona Game & Fish Heritage Fund O&M Resolution Workgroup Meeting Summary, 08/06/14

nazsr_landscapephoto_600webArizona Game & Fish Heritage Fund O&M Resolution Workgroup Meeting Summary, 08/06/14

Attendees: Bob Vahle, Bill McLean, Josh Avey, Beth Woodin, Allen Taylor, Jim Unmacht, Jim deVos, Jim Hinkle, Jorge Canaca, Pat Barber, and Marianne Cox. Not attending: Bob Hernbrode Location: AGFD Headquarters

Meeting Summary:

  • Review of agenda, identification of additional agenda items including:
    • Addition of crowd funding to agenda for discussion
    • Clarification of the agenda: ‘discuss mechanisms/ability/guidance for Commission to consider regarding removal of non-historical structures properties that…’
    • June 16 meeting summary correction to incorporate suggestion to seek repayment of Heritage Fund funds previously swept by legislature to the list of approaches considered.
  • Group reviewed summary of Fiscal Year 13, 14, and 15 costing (budgeted and expenditure) as well as anticipated deferred maintenance costing for Heritage Fund acquired properties.
  • Discussion and agreement amongst group to allow recommend changing recommended modification to 17-298 whereby the Heritage Fund acquisition portion of the fund would change from 40% to 35% to allow for funding Heritage Fund acquired property operation and maintenance costing from the non-acquisition portion of the fund.
  • Discussed recommending amendment of Commission Policy to require annual Commission approval for use of Heritage Fund grant funds towards Heritage Fund acquired property operation and maintenance costing.
  • Discussed the need to utilize an open comment process to identify support for the recommendation to reduce the Heritage Fund acquisition portion from 40% to 35%; it was noted that this work group was established with membership intended to represent stakeholders on this issue and that the expectation is that work group membership should be providing information regarding recommendations to the Commission, expressing positions to the work group and serving as liaisons and conduits of information in support of public process and transparency.
  • Discussed approach and recommended modification to 17-298 such that acquisition may include fee simple title, or any possessory or non-possessory interest in land.
  • Disposal of property that does not carry the Heritage Fund value is already possible albeit cumbersome.
  • Structure removal on existing or future properties was discussed as a suitable recommendation.
  • Recommendation to minimize acquisitions that have structures that would have regular operation and maintenance costs.
  • Discussed approaches and feasibility for use of endowments (long term) and crowd funding and corporate sponsorship approaches in building a privately held endowment fund.

A suite of options to present to the Commission at the September Commission meeting was developed that entail: 1) long term funding generation/savings (solutions), 2) Short term funding generation/solutions, and 3) Legislative changes. See list of options below.

Work group reviewed the objective and tenets put forth by the Commission and determined that they met those objectives to the extent possible. No further meetings are needed.

Action Items:

  • Send list of recommendations for Commission consideration – Marianne Cox
  • Present options developed by workgroup to Commission for consideration at September Commission meeting – Jim deVos

Adjourn

 

Arizona Game & Fish Heritage Fund O&M Resolution Workgroup Recommendations List for Commission Consideration, August 6, 2014

Long Term Funding Generation/Savings (solutions)

  • Endowment – held by 501(c)3
  • Divest of non-sensitive species value properties (those portions that no longer meet intent of purchase)
  • Remove non-value-added (non-historic) structures from properties
  • Investigate the economic potential of new programs such as a wildlife watching Heritage Fund stamp
  • Modify Heritage Fund language to change acquisition fund percent from 40 – 35% so 5% ends up in IIPAM from where O&M expenditures can be made
  • Modify Heritage Fund language to allow for acquisition via non-possessory language and the divestiture of these properties using same
  • Seek corporate sponsors
  • Develop an O&M assessment with each new property being considered for purchase

Short Term Funding Generation/Solutions:

  • Minimize acquisitions that have structures that need O&M
  • Crowd funding for specific O&M actions
  • Seek legislative refunding of funding swept by prior legislature in 2003 – $10 million from Heritage Fund acquisitions fund

Legislative Changes:

  • Change percentage in Heritage Fund Acquisition fund from 40% to 35% so extra 5% ends up in IIPAM from where O&M expenditures can be made
  • Allow for non-possessory acquisition such as conservation easement and disposal of property or portions of properties by “conservation buyer” under a conservation easement

Love Arizona parks? Then get out there and use them

635528131686761919-VerdeKayak-CVR[Arizona Republic Editorial board, December 8, 2014] – There’s a big difference between idealizing a faraway river and feeling the current beneath your boat. That distinction matters to Arizona’s state parks, and the Arizona State Parks Foundation understands why.

When city folks express support for the state parks, it represents a casual friendship. When people get out there and experience the real thing, it leads to a committed, long-term relationship — a relationship worth working to preserve and enrich.

“The more people we get into the parks, the more people will be actively interested in the parks,” says Bill Meek, president of the parks foundation board. “We need to get people out there experiencing what we’ve got.”

An engaged constituency is essential because politicians have not been good to the parks. Funding was stripped during the recession, and the current budget deficit may lead to more pain.

Lack of funding translates into at least $80 million in capital needs at the 31 natural, historic and archaeological sites that make up the state parks system. In addition to funding to keep the sites safe and well maintained, more than $200 million in capital projects have been requested to provide better experiences for visitors.

The problem is not a lack of public support. Over the years, Arizonans have shown continued support for parks in polls, through surveys and at the ballot box. In 1990, they approved the Heritage Fund, which targeted $10 million annually to the parks from Lottery revenues.

The problem is lack of public engagement. Consider this: Lawmakers stripped Heritage funding from the parks during the Great Recession while letting it continue to flow to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Hunters and anglers form a strong and active constituency. Lawmakers didn’t ignore them.

The constituency for state parks is much broader and less actively engaged politically.

Enter an idea that could help raise money and public consciousness on behalf of these state treasures.

Verde River kayak tours run by the Verde River Institute and the parks foundation include a guide to interpret the flora and fauna, as well as stops at local communities and a tasting session at a winery cooperative.

The $200 fee includes a $115 donation to the parks foundation. Tours this fall brought in about $5,000, which will become seed money to develop a business plan to expand the tours, parks foundation Executive Director Cristie Statler told The Arizona Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl.

Meek says if the tours are expanded, they could develop a funding stream that lawmakers could not sweep. He says parks systems around the country are using “social enterprise,” an idea that uses commercial strategies to benefit human or environmental needs. That’s the kind of creative thinking our parks need in these tough budget times.

But that’s not all.

Giving people a hands-on experience with resources they had not previously touched deepens their understanding and appreciation. It builds deep commitment. That makes them more likely to “take action and talk to their legislators,” says Doug Von Gausig, director of the Verde River Institute. He leads the river tours.

The more opportunities people have to experience the state parks, the more committed Arizonans will be to speak up for these amazing places.

Source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/editorial/2014/12/07/state-parks-benefit-engaged-constituency/20058401/

Heritage Alliance Elects New Board & Officers

At its December 5, 2014 board meeting at the Flinn Foundation office in Phoenix, the Arizona Heritage Alliance board of directors elected a new slate of board members and officers. Returning to the board for three-year terms are:

  • Bonnie Bariola, Florence
  • Margaret Bohannan, Scottsdale
  • The Honorable Sam Campana, Scottsdale
  • Peter Culp, Sedona
  • Don Farmer, Scottsdale
  • James Holway, Phoenix
  • Jennifer Martin​,​ Phoenix
  • Kathleen Roediger, Phoenix
  • William Thornton, Tucson
  • Elizabeth Woodin, Tucson
  • Tom Woods, Phoenix

Larry Weigel of Tucson was elected as a new board member. David C. Bartlett of Tucson chose to leave the board after five terms​. Beth Woodin, on behalf of the full board, thanked David for his 15 years of service on the board.

The board then elected the following officers for 2015:

  • President – Elizabeth Woodin, Tucson
  • Vice President – Jim McPherson, Phoenix
  • Secretary – Bonnie Bariola, Florence
  • Treasurer – William Thornton, Tucson

Board members also thanked Janice Miano for her work on behalf of the board.