News not promising for Jerome (Arizona) State Park

[Source: Philip Wright, Camp Verde Bugle] — If passed, House Bill 2001 would just about kill any hope that the Douglas Mansion in Jerome State Historic Park will reopen within the foreseeable future.  In spite of work continuing on the stabilization project to the mansion, the current news reports regarding the budgets for conservation funds, including State Parks, predict that most, if not all, state parks in Arizona may be forced to close.

Although the state parks board originally targeted Jerome State Historic Park for closure due to budget constraints, when it finally closed – suddenly – on Feb. 26, the parks board gave “maintenance and repairs” as the reason.   Tom Pitts, president of the Jerome Chamber of Commerce, said in a recent interview, “When they shut it down, that was the excuse. Most of us thought it was a ploy.”

Pitts, along with the chamber, the Jerome Historical Society and officials at town hall, were all surprised when the park closed so suddenly.  Most people involved locally assumed that the town would have time to come up with some proposals of its own to help keep the park open.  Pitts had put together a petition of more than 3,000 signatures of Arizona residents.  He included with the petition a fact sheet based on a 2007 study by Northern Arizona University on the economic impact of Arizona’s state parks.  [Note: To read the full article, visit News not promising for Jerome (Arizona) State Park.]

Verde Valley leaders seek options to keep state parks open

[Source: Steve Ayers, Verde Valley News] — There are few places in Arizona that will feel the impact of cuts to the Arizona State Parks budget as much as the Verde Valley.  With three recreational parks, two historic parks, and the Verde River Greenway, the valley encompasses almost one in five of the agency’s properties.

Last week the state legislature passed a bill that will cut State Parks budget in half.  The legislature cut it by one third earlier in this year.  Of the valley’s five parks only one makes money.  In 2008, the last year there are cost and revenue figures for, Slide Rock State Park generated $217,167 in revenue.  The other four parks operated a cumulative loss of nearly $500,000.

But local leaders and other advocates of the park system argue that profit loss statements for the individual parks do not tell the whole story.  In fact, a recent study of the state parks system estimated the parks generated over $250 million in taxes and other economic impacts statewide, while operating at a cost to the state of $2.3 million.

“These parks are huge for us.  They are revenue generators.  Closing them is like cutting off your nose off to spite your face,” argues County Supervisor Chip Davis.  “If the legislature could just help us out a little I believe we could put this together.”  [Note: Read the full article at Verde Valley leaders seek options to keep state parks open.]

Action Alert! Legislature prepares to decimate Arizona State Parks

[Source: Arizona Preservation Foundation] — The cuts proposed in House Bill 2001 of the 5th Special Session are catastrophic to Arizona State Parks. Fund Reductions and Transfers totaling $3,151,100, coupled with Fund sweeps of $6,088,700 will eliminate the agency’s ability to operate.  The Legislature seeks $205 million in cuts to begin to address a deficit currently estimated at $1.5 billion.  The proposed cuts to State Parks would equate to 5% of their solution, while State Parks currently receives less than 1/10 of 1% of the overall state budget.  Additionally, State Parks receives NO money from the state General Fund, but the impact of the park system on the state economy is more than $266 million.

The proposed cuts would force significant reductions in staff, thereby forcing a closure of much of the park system this fiscal year.  Without the revenues that the open parks generate, the agency will be forced to dispose of much of the property that it currently manages.

Some of the most problematic cuts include:

  • $2,302,100 in reductions and sweeps to the Enhancement Fund, the agency’s principal operating budget, will force reductions of approximately 75 staff and the closure of more than a half of the parks.  The resulting loss in revenue will result in a zero balance to begin the next fiscal year (July 2010).
  • $1,915,800 in reductions and sweeps to the State Lake Improvement Fund is more than the projected ending cash balance available.  These cuts would make it impossible to operate the parks along the Colorado River.
  • $3,909,400 in reductions and sweeps to the Arizona Heritage Fund will imperil funding for critical State Parks capital projects (including a water line for fire suppression at Lake Havasu State Park and the extension of Benson water line necessary for the long-term health of Kartchner Caverns), and grants currently under contract.

Please contact your legislator to express your opinion.  To locate your legislator, visit: http://azleg.gov/alisStaticPages/HowToContactMember.asp

For more information about your Arizona State Parks, visit: http://azstateparks.com/

PDF of this Action Alert here: http://www.box.net/shared/mlqbgbrvsq