Despite budget cuts, Tombstone refuses to let its state park die

[Source:  Maria Polletta, Cronkite News Service, AZCapitolTimes.com] –It’s around 90 degrees outside and Mary Evans is buttoned up in a long-sleeved, high-collared white blouse that’s fastened at the neck with a black cameo. A black wool skirt, worn over bloomers, skims the top of her black boots. It looks uncomfortable, but Evans doesn’t seem to mind.

After six years of volunteer work at the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, Evans says she still gets caught up every time she browses the cases of wedding dresses, children’s shoes, dolls and toys. “Everything in the courthouse is special,” Evans said.

Evans couldn’t imagine losing the iconic building when budget cuts threatened funding for 19 of the state’s 28 parks, including the courthouse, earlier this year. Neither could leaders of this former silver-mining town, which draws tourists from all over the world with attractions like the OK Corral and Boothill Graveyard.

Under an arrangement with Arizona State Parks, the city of Tombstone officially took over the courthouse April 1. A professional service agreement allows the Tombstone Chamber of Commerce to oversee park operations for at least three years, with two more two-year terms possible. Since the courthouse changed hands, park hours have been extended from five to seven days a week, and volunteers have traded in state parks uniforms for period wear, said Patricia Moreno, the park’s manager. Staff and volunteers have also been working to create “living history,” such as trial re-enactments in the courthouse’s upstairs courtroom [to read full article click here].

Mesa Grande Interpretive Trail grand opening is held

[Source: Kevin Christopher, Arizona Museum of Natural History] — A community vision to bring an archaeological treasure to the public is finally realized!  A grand opening of the Mesa Grande Interpretive Trail [was] held Saturday, March 27 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Mesa Grande, located at West 10th Street and Date/Brown.  Mesa Grande is a major prehistoric Hohokam site that flourished from about 1000-1450 A.D.  The main feature is a large platform mound, about 27 feet high, that covers the size of a football field.  The site is administered by the Arizona Museum of Natural History.

“This is a day we have been looking forward to for a long time.  The opening of the trail will allow people to learn more about this unique site built by the Hohokam and our efforts to save it,” Arizona Museum of Natural History Curator of Anthropology Dr. Jerry Howard said.  The City of Mesa purchased the Mesa Grande ruins to preserve this cultural treasure and open it to the public as an educational and recreational facility.  Mesa Grande is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has also been designated by the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission as an Arizona Centennial Legacy Project.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Budget cuts hurting Arizona’s museums; institutions, parks falling into disrepair, forced to close

[Source: Jim Walsh, Arizona Republic] — Even as Arizona prepares for its centennial in 2012, the state’s history is becoming less and less accessible to the average citizen.  Museums across Arizona are cutting hours, restricting programs, merging or closing altogether in the face of drastic budget problems.  The State Archives, which had been open only two half-days a week, is trying to figure out how to go to a four-day schedule with a diminished staff.

And state parks, many with historical significance, can’t turn enough money at the gate to maintain aging and sometimes-dangerous facilities and stay open.  The impact is significant: In a state where so many people are newcomers, the institutions that can help them connect to their new state’s history are harder to access.  “The more people know about their place, the more likely they are to be good citizens,” said Dan Shilling, an expert in civic tourism and a former executive director of the Arizona Humanities Council.  Museums play an important part in extending that knowledge, Shilling said.  [Note: To read the full article, click here]

Mark your calendar for 2009 Governor’s Rural & Regional Development Conference

Save the date for the 2009 Governor’s Rural and Regional Development Conference, which will be held August 26-28, 2009 at the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park.  This year’s conference will examine opportunities and initial progress resulting from Arizona’s share of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Additional sessions include an update on the national, state and regional economies; Arizona’s competitiveness in site selection and incentives; renewable energies, and more.

The conference is a partnership between the Arizona Department of Commerce and the Arizona Association for Economic Development.  Registration will begin in June, and updates will be posted at the Department of Commerce’s website.