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

Budget cuts could hobble Arizona state parks system

[Source: Mary Jo Pitzl and Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — Proposed budget cuts to state parks could shut down the entire system by July 1, the agency’s director told lawmakers Thursday.  The dire scenario was the darkest to emerge from the cuts lawmakers are considering as they meet in a special session to take another whack at reducing the state’s $1.6 billion deficit.

The cuts are part of a proposed 7.5 percent reduction in the budgets of myriad agencies, according to the budget bill released Thursday morning.  But as testimony showed, not all cuts are created equal.

The elimination of nearly $9 million from the various funds that sustain the parks will add up to half of the system shutting down immediately, Director Renee Bahl told the Senate Appropriations Committee.  For example, the proposed loss of $1.9 million from the state lake-improvement fund would make it impossible to operate the state parks along the Colorado River, such as Lake Havasu State Park.  [Note: Read the full article at Budget cuts could hobble Arizona state parks system.]