Small cities struggle with historic preservation efforts

[Source: John Yantis, AZ Republic] – The wrecking ball often swings faster in smaller cities trying to save history, preservationists and local leaders say. Money, know-how, constantly changing priorities and new residents with shallow roots in the community often hinder efforts to protect historic architecture and cultural sites. The dilemma leaves longtime residents disappointed and frustrates efforts to save local landmarks.

In June, former students failed to save an auditorium-turned gymnasium in Litchfield Park. Constructed in 1928, the gym was a reminder of the city’s early days. A month later, Buckeye officials voted to demolish a cotton gin that was also built in 1928. After the decision, a town councilman wondered aloud why Buckeye bothers to advertise its historic past. “The gin is just a rusty building,” said Councilman Robert Garza, a fifth-generation native of Buckeye. “But it is part of our heritage.”

Preservation can present challenges in larger cities, too. In Mesa, organized efforts to save historic sites began in the mid-1990s, but advocates said they only came after the city lost numerous noteworthy buildings, including a social hall, park and school.

Impediments to saving history in smaller cities are usually more acute. They often start too late. “It can happen at all different levels, but I think small communities haven’t spent a lot (of) time inventorying,” said James Garrison, state historic-preservation officer.

“They’re interested in growth and new things and attracting businesses and doing all these things and often don’t take a look around at what might fit a new use or be available for adaptive reuse.” Adaptive reuse is a process that allows older buildings to be used for new purposes while retaining their historic features.

Many large cities have preservation officers and commissions that allow experts to plan and look for properties that could become endangered, Garrison said. Smaller towns’ historic sites often go vacant, which escalates the cost to fix them up. Buildings left empty deteriorate quickly and are often vandalized. Also, often there is little practical discussion about what they will be used for. Every property can’t become a museum, but these sites still need an active life in the community, Garrison said.

Financial challenges – Preservation efforts in Arizona were recently complicated after a state-funding source dried up. In 2010, the governor and state Legislature stripped a portion of Arizona’s Heritage Fund that provided $1.5 million in grants for cities to find, preserve, stabilize and rehabilitate buildings and other historic sites. The fund was made up of lottery proceeds approved by voters in 1990.

The Arizona Heritage Alliance and others are working to restore the fund, which is administered by the Arizona State Parks Board. The Arizona Preservation Foundation, a group of volunteer preservation advocates, did not gather enough signatures to get the issue on the November ballot. They plan to get the issue on the ballot in 2014.

As public money for preservation becomes more scarce, some cities have unsuccessfully tried to find private financing. In Goodyear, a years-long effort to restore the Litchfield Train Station is taking a new direction after backers had difficulty raising enough money through raffles and car and train shows. Members of the city’s Centennial Commission decided in May to form a non-profit foundation, said Wally Campbell, a city councilwoman who serves on the board. Supporters hope the foundation will qualify for grants. Someday, foundation officials hope it will be part of a train park for children. “We’re excited about it, but we’re moving forward slowly,” Campbell said. The 1,900-square-foot station was built in the 1920s by the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 2009, the city moved the depot 3 miles from its original location, to an area near the intersection of Cotton Lane and Maricopa 85.

Ever-changing plans – In Buckeye, evolving city plans have frustrated historic-preservation efforts. For years, informal town plans called for turning the Eastman Gin into a museum and downtown gateway to showcase the area’s agricultural heritage. Town officials spent more than $2 million to buy the gin and surrounding property. In the end, renovating the landmark, which was once used to separate cotton from its seeds, was too costly. Demolition is expected to begin in early September. For Garza, it was the latest example of shifting priorities. “It’s hard because Buckeye went through a giant boom, and we had a big influx of people from outside,” he said. “They didn’t necessarily see what we saw in our community, in our history, in our culture.”

Successful saves – Jim McPherson, president of the Arizona Preservation Foundation, says there is greater awareness about the importance of historic preservation in smaller cities. Officials and the public are more focused on sustainability and adapting buildings to be reused, he said. Old Main, a 90-year-old vacant building on Peoria High’s campus, will be saved. About $1.6 million will be spent to save the building.

Phoenix has used bond money to renovate many historic structures, McPherson said.

And earlier this month, Litchfield Park struck a deal with the school district that will ensure the protection of a mission-style church built in the early 1920s. Unfortunately, some historic sites in small towns can’t be saved, McPherson said. “We hurt every time that happens because that’s one more strike against our heritage in a state that’s relatively new,” McPherson said.

Commentary: 22 years later, Arizonans may have another chance to vote for historic preservation

[Source: Bonnie Bariola, Florence Reminder, 2/9/2012] – In 1990 the people of Arizona voted unanimously to approve an initiative to allocate $20 million from Arizona Lottery Funds to the Heritage Fund, with $10 million going to Arizona State Parks and $10 million going to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. The initiative was very specific as to the use of the funds by both the State Parks Board and the Game and Fish Commission.

The State Parks portion of the Heritage Fund was to be distributed as follows:

  • State Parks Acquisition and Development (17%): Up to $1.7 million annually;
  • State Parks Natural Areas Acquisition (17%): Up to $1.7 million annually;
  • State Parks Natural Areas Operation and Management (4%): Up to $400,000 annually;
  • Environmental Education (5%): Up to $500,000 annually;
  • Trails (5%): Up to $500,000 annually (Grants);
  • Local, Regional and State Parks (35%): Up to $3.5 million annually (Grants);
  • Historic Preservation (17%): Up to $1.7 million annually (Grants).

Although the initiative contained the following statements “All monies in the Arizona State Parks Board Heritage Fund shall be spent by the Arizona State Parks Board only for the purposes and in the percentages set forth in this article” and “in no event shall any monies in the fund revert to the state general fund,” in February 2009 the State Parks Board canceled or suspended all Heritage Fund grants that were 1 to 90 percent complete. At that time the Legislature stopped providing funding for Arizona State Parks. Then in 2010, the Legislature not only canceled funding the State Parks portion of the Heritage Fund, they also removed the language from the Arizona Revised Statutes that allocated these funds to Arizona State Parks.

The Legislature continued to fund the Arizona Game and Fish Commission’s portion of the Heritage Fund.

In spite of the Arizona Heritage Alliance having been formed for the purpose of attempting to prevent the Legislature from sweeping the Heritage Fund, the Legislature succeeded anyway. Since 2009 the Heritage Alliance members have worked diligently attempting to reinstate the State Parks portion of the Heritage Fund, this time to include language in the initiative that would really protect the monies from being taken by either State Parks or the Legislature.

Ballot initiative: Representative Russ Jones has introduced a Bill (HCR 2047) that, if approved, would once again put an initiative on the ballot for the people of Arizona to make the decision whether or not they wanted a portion of the lottery funds to go toward Conservation and Preservation by means of the Heritage Fund. HCR 2047 is cosponsored by seventeen additional representatives, one being Rep. Frank Pratt from District 23.

At the request of Arizona State Parks and the Heritage Alliance, Northern Arizona University prepared data showing the economic impact one year of the Heritage Fund had on the state of Arizona.

“Total direct expenditures from the Heritage Fund in 2007 were $12,895,267 spent on both land acquisition and construction related to maintenance and repair. The direct program expenditures resulted in indirect expenditures of $4.6 million and induced expenditures of $8.5 million for a total economic impact of $26.1 million. Direct expenditures resulted in 125 direct jobs, 33 indirect jobs and 66 induced jobs, for a total of 224 jobs from ASP Heritage Funds. Estimated total taxes for these expenditures (state, local and federal) were $3.3 million.”

The Arizona Heritage Alliance President Elizabeth Woodin said, “This very productive fund administered by Arizona State Parks created hundreds of jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars on the ground each year particularly in the rural areas. Those projects made life more pleasant and attracted more business and tourism. If the Legislature will not restore it outright, the least that can be done is to allow the voters to decide if they still want it. That is the fair and right thing to do.”

From 1991 through 2006 Florence received 18 Historic Preservation Heritage Fund Grants totaling $1,541,233, Casa Grande received 8 grants totaling $395,573, and Coolidge received 4 grants totaling $340,841. If the Heritage Fund can be reinstated, this funding source will again be available for not only Pinal County cities and towns, but for cities and towns all over the state to again rehabilitate their historic properties.

HCR 2047 is scheduled to be heard by three Committees. First is Agriculture and Water which is chaired by Representative Jones. This committee will hear it on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 9 a.m. It is currently scheduled to be heard by two more committees on yet to be determined dates.

Please contact your representatives and encourage them to support HCR 2047 which would give the citizens of Arizona the opportunity to again vote to reinstate the Arizona State Parks Board Heritage Fund.

Celebrate Arizona’s Centennial Through Conservation!

More than 100 Conservation Advocates Meet with State Legislators for Environmental Day at the Capitol.

January 31, 2012, Phoenix, AZToday at the Arizona State Capitol, more than 100 people from 25 different legislative districts and representing more than 20 groups met with their state legislators in support of environmental protection and conservation programs.

Volunteer advocates asked legislators to support adequate funding for State Parks and to specifically support legislation sponsored by Representative Karen Fann (R-1) that allows parks to keep revenue generated from the parks to support the park system.

“Our state parks deserve to be open, public, and keep the money they earn at the gate from visitors, said Bret Fanshaw with Environment Arizona.  “We hope the legislature will pass Representative Fann’s bill in good faith that state parks will be protected in this year’s budget and into the future.”

Conservation of state trust lands has long been a key priority for most Arizona conservation groups. While there is no comprehensive measure on the table to do that, advocates asked legislators to support conserving state trust lands and to support the bills being promoted by Senator John Nelson (R-10) to facilitate limited and transparent land exchanges for better management of state trust lands and public lands. They asked the legislators to refrain from trying to swipe the last of the Land Conservation Fund, a voter-protected fund that supports conservation of state trust lands and for which voters again expressed support on the 2010 ballot.

“We need to preserve certain state trust lands to save their natural resources, open spaces, wildlife habitat, and historic/geologic features so that our communities now and in the future have those treasures,” said Ann Hutchinson, Executive Vice President, North Country Conservancy – Daisy Mountain Preservation Effort. “The values go way beyond the obvious beauty of the land and the opportunities to recreate. The preserved open spaces have economic value. Businesses and residents look to preserves and parks to raise and maintain a high quality of life. Homes and land surrounding parks and preserves have higher value.”

Keeping funding for the Arizona Water Protection Fund was also a key issue for many advocates. The Arizona Water Protection Fund is the only dedicated funding source to protect and restore riparian habitats in Arizona. In 2011, the Legislature voted to permanently eliminate the general fund appropriation for the program.

Also on the priority list for advocates was a measure sponsored by Representative Steve Farley (D-28) that reinstates both the Heritage Fund and the Local Transportation Assistance Fund, which helps to fund transit. Prior to the Legislature’s elimination of the State Parks Heritage Fund as part of the FY2011 budget, these dollars helped fund natural areas, historic preservation, and local and regional park programs.

“An additional measure, HCR 2047, sponsored by Representative Russ Jones, is a referral to the voters for the 2012 election and would restore the language and funding of the Parks’ side of the Heritage Fund,” said Janice Miano, Director of the Arizona Heritage Alliance. “With the success of either measure, the voters’ Heritage Fund would once again be whole and functioning, providing countless jobs, community pride, and potential for increased tourism to both city and rural areas.”

Group leaders expressed concerns about the plethora of anti-environmental legislation, much of it aimed at ignoring or weakening federal environmental laws and land protections. Among them are bills that seek to control national forests and other public lands, measures whose intent is to assert total control of air and water and thus ignore the provisions of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.

“We need our state legislature and governor to step up to strengthen Arizona’s environmental protection laws, rather than seek to ignore or weaken the safety nets for clean air and clean water, as well as our endangered plants and animals,” said Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Without the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, there would be few, if any, protections for these important resources.”

Camp Verde Centennial Project Gets Official Nod

[Source: Steve Ayers, Verde Independent]

The State of Arizona has given its official endorsement to a local project that will celebrate the state’s centennial in 2012.

A letter from the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission, dated Nov. 4, officially notified the Verde Confluence Centennial Committee that their digital storytelling project would be included among dozens of Legacy Projects being carried out by communities and organizations statewide.

Titled “Echoes of the Verde Confluence,” the project will, over the next year, produce a series of three- to five-minute digital videos that will tell bits and pieces of the history of the lower Verde Valley.

The short movies will be stitched together into a full-length presentation and shown to the public on or around Arizona’s 100th birthday on Feb. 14, 2012.

Partners in the project include the Yavapai-Apache Nation, National Park Service, Arizona State Parks, Town of Camp Verde, Beaver Creek Regional Council, Yavapai College, Camp Verde Unified School District, Beaver Creek School, plus some are charter schools and community organizations.

The group received a $2,500 contribution from the National Park Service to purchase digital recording equipment and pay for storytelling workshops for anyone wishing to participate.

Three groups of students from Camp Verde High School are producing the initial videos. One will tell the story of the Wingfield family, another the story of the 1899 murder of Clinton Wingfield and Mac Rodgers and one the story of Main Street, past and present.

The project, however, is not just for students. The public is invited to participate.

“We are encouraging anyone who would like to produce a short history story to contact the Camp Verde Historical Society. We would love to have as many people as possible from Camp Verde and the Beaver Creek communities, participate,” says historical society president Shirley Brinkman.

According to Judy Piner, archivist and video storyteller for the Yavapai-Apache Nation and one of the committee’s technical advisors, a five-minute video takes about 30 to 40 hours to produce.

“We teach workshops for the tribal members, old and young, and the results are phenomenal. Anyone with a desire to tell their story can and should do so. No one needs to feel intimidated by the technology,” Piner says.

Those who like to participate but are unsure what story to tell can contact the historical society. They have lots of suggestions, according to Brinkman.

“There are so many stories to be told – so many good stories. We have lots of historic documents, recordings made by some of the area’s pioneers, photos and other resources that can be used to make a good story a great story,” Brinkman says.

The Camp Verde Historical Society can be reached at (928) 567-9560. The museum, located at 435 S. Main Street, is open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment.

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