[Source: Steve Bodinet, NewsChannel 3] — State budget cuts have already forced three of Arizona’s 27 state parks to close. Fourteen others have cut back their hours. Due to the budget crisis, Arizona could soon be the only state without a state park system. [Note: View the news report at Arizona budget cuts could doom state parks.]
[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.]
[Source: Arizona Republic editorial board] — What’s on the list and under the tree for 2009?… Rubber bands and chewing gum. There isn’t much else to hold Arizona State Parks together after state budget cuts and sweeps wiped out so much of its funding.
[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.]