Rebounding Arizona State Parks System Plans to Add 100 Rental Cabins

Source:  KJZZ 91.5.com – September 28, 2016

Arizona’s rebounding state parks system plans to more than quadruple the number of rental cabins at parks statewide, one of several major projects on the drawing board to improve and expand parks facilities less than a decade after the system struggled to keep parks open during the Great Recession. A legislative oversight committee’s recent endorsement of the plan set the stage for Arizona State Parks to solicit proposals from private vendors for 100 additional cabins at six parks.

The plan would have the park system pay a fraction of the cabins’ up-front costs, with most of the costs paid by a vendor who would provide the cabins. The state and the vendor then would share the rental revenue.

Parks where new cabins would be located are Cattail Cove at Lake Havasu, Lost imagesDutchman in Apache Junction, Dead Horse Ranch in Cottonwood, Roper Lake near Safford, Alamo Lake north of Wenden and Buckskin Mountain near Parker. There are now 28 cabins at four parks: Roper Lake, Alamo Lake, Dead Horse Ranch and Lyman Lake near Springerville.

THE REASONING BEYOND THE PLAN

Executive Director Sue Black said the basis for the planned additional cabins is a belief that there’s a market for them.  “Visitor service is the No. 1 thing,” she told the Associated Press. “My theory is that people want to rent them.” Cabins are particularly useful to tourists visiting Arizona from other countries who can’t easily camp, she said.

“They don’t have all the equipment and gear to go out camping per se,” Black said. “There is the demand out there.” Investments in park improvements pay off, she said. “We electrified 60 sites at one of the parks and our revenue doubled.”

A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS

The money to pay for the state’s anticipated $963,300 share of the up-front costs would come from two special funds, including one fed by taxes on boaters’ gas purchases.  The state would have the option to purchase the 100 cabins from the vendor for $450,000 per cabin after six years and then receive 100 percent of the rental revenue.

“It’s creative financing is what it is,” Black told the AP. “Raise revenues and re-invest … to generate more revenue. Rinse and repeat.”  The occupancy rate for the existing 28 cabins is about 52 percent, according to legislative budget staff. Senior Fiscal Analyst Micaela Larkin told lawmakers during a Sept. 21 committee hearing that the question is whether that rate can be duplicated when there are many more cabins. Black expressed confidence about that during the AP interview. “There is the demand out there,” she said. “I think it’s an exciting time for the parks.”

TIMES HAVE CHANGED

The oversight committee endorsed the cabins project at a meeting when lawmakers also backed a planned $6.4 million redevelopment of Cattail Cove State Park and a total of nearly $2.5 million of projects at five other parks.  The current lineup of expansion and improvement projects stands in sharp contrast to the beginning of the current decade when during the Great Recession the parks system struggled to keep parks open, let alone add facilities or amenities.

Legislators faced with plummeting tax revenues raided the parks system’s funding, and auditors reported in 2012 that reductions or shifts of park system funding totaled $72 million over a five-year period.  Several parks were closed, and others went to seasonal status and operations as the agency shed personnel to cut costs. The state resorted to asking local governments and volunteers to help keep some parks open.

Havasu’s Contact Point Arizona State Park Plan Moves Forward

Source:  Havasunews.com – August 1, 2016. 

Arizona State Parks announced formalized plans for Contact Point State Park on Monday, which is expected to be the first piece of the most significant development since the city’s founding.

The 198-acre park will feature a marina with a launch ramp, docks, dry boat storage, along with a restaurant with boat docking, a beach and ramadas. The park is anticipated to open in 2020. It will further provide the basis for the city’s Havasu 280 project and will lay adjacent to 250 acres of proposed residential housing.

“This is probably the most significant development to take place in Lake Havasu City possibly ever,” City Manager Charlie Cassens said. “Aside from Robert McCulloch’s original development of the city, this would be the most significant overall master plan.”

Contact Point State Park will be developed through a public-private partnership with Komick Enterprises 57a03a1ad57fb.imageof California, which also owns the adjacent property intended for residential use. According to a press release, Komick Enterprises was selected in July through the State of Arizona’s competitive bidding process to undertake the project. The developer is working in partnership with the locally based real estate firm Desert Land Group on the project.

“Contact Point is kind of the catalyst to the whole project. Now the city and private development will all be moving forward together,” said Mychal Gorden of Desert Land Group. “It’s really exciting and will be the catalyst to kick off a whole new amenity package for visitors and set up Havasu’s future on the south side.

According to a Desert Land Group press release, projects are scheduled to be developed in phases over the next 10 years, and the city will break ground later this summer on roadway improvements connecting State Route 95 to the projects. The city previously approved $450,000 for road improvements related to the development this fiscal year.

Executive Director of Arizona State Parks, Sue Black said the park will be “a game changer” for the area. She said the park’s additional boat slips are expected to ease boating related traffic congestion and extra amenities surrounding 10,000 feet of shoreline will make it a destination spot.

“It’s great to be working with Lake Havasu City, Arizona State Representative Sonny Borrelli and Jim Komick,” Black said. “Together, the vision of providing greater access and opportunity for the public to enjoy the beautiful environment at Contact Point State Park has become a reality.”

Gov. Doug Ducey also commented on the future Contact Point State Park, which is set to become the Arizona’s 33rd state park.

“Arizona’s state parks are known for their beauty and accessibility,” Gov. Doug Ducey said. “Contact Point State Park is another impressive piece of our state’s beautiful landscape that will be open for Arizonans and visitors to enjoy. It will provide even more amenities to Lake Havasu, driving more people to the region and creating economic prosperity. I’m excited this project is moving forward.”

My Turn: GOP Must Once Again Embrace Conservation by David Jenkins, President of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship

(Source: Arizona Republic, July 16, 2016).  The Republican Party’s newly adopted 2016 platform contains narrowly approved language calling for our national endowment of federal public lands, which currently belong to all Americans, to be surrendered to states in order to benefit special interests. Given the Republican Party’s strong conservation legacy, it is worth noting just how radical that position is.

The proposed platform language is way out of line with the public-land and conservation ethic that the country has embraced since the early 1900s when Republican president Theodore Roosevelt — responding to the rampant abuse of America’s natural resources — made conservation a priority.

The 1912 Republican Party platform was very clear about the party’s approach to our nation’s natural resources, proclaiming, “We rejoice in the success of the distinctive Republican policy of the conservation of our National resources, for their use by the people without waste and without monopoly. We pledge ourselves to a continuance of such a policy.”  Even though Roosevelt was not the GOP nominee that year, the party continued to embrace his conservation principles. This has also been the case in subsequent platforms.

Even more on point, the 1924 Republican platform declared, “The natural resources of the country belong to all the people and are a part of an estate belonging to generations yet unborn.”

What conservatism really means

That is the kind of prudent, reverent, unselfish and forward-thinking perspective one would expect from a genuinely conservative political party. And we have also seen it reflected in more recent platforms.

The 1988 GOP platform quoted Roosevelt and cited the party’s “long and honored tradition of preserving our nation’s natural resources and environment.” It called safeguarding “our God-given resources” a shared responsibility and stated, “We believe public lands should not be transferred to any special group” and that “we should keep public lands open and accessible.”

As recently as 2008 the platform Scenic view from Point Imperial, Grand Canyon Nationalpledged to manage our lands in a balanced way that protects our “irreplaceable environment” and noted that the “Republican perspective” is in agreement with Theodore Roosevelt’s view that the conservation of the nation’s natural resources is our most fundamental challenge.

Contrast the respect for our natural heritage, ethic of stewardship and commitment to balance reflected in those platforms — which according to polls is consistent with the views and values of most Republicans — with the radical anti-conservation agenda being pushed now by some within the party.

Who’s peddling this agenda?

That agenda includes, as now indicated in the 2016 platform, the wholesale transfer of our national forests, wildlife refuges and conservation lands, many of which were first protected by Theodore Roosevelt, to state and private interests.

It includes efforts in Congress to eliminate or undermine the Antiquities Act, the 110-year-old Republican-passed law that Roosevelt used to protect natural and cultural treasures like the Grand Canyon and Montezuma Castle.

It even includes an assault on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a universally popular — and conservative — program that dedicates a small portion of oil- and gas-lease revenue to land conservation.

Who is peddling this agenda within the GOP? Primarily a handful of Western lawmakers, along with Koch-funded special-interest groups like Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

They are trying to reverse more than 100 years of conservative stewardship, seize land that is the birthright of every American, and act against the long-term interest of our nation, in order to facilitate their own short-term gain. There is nothing remotely conservative about it.

Be alarmed, very alarmed

That this small faction can hijack and radicalize the Republican Party platform in such a way should alarm all Republicans who love to hunt, fish, hike or otherwise enjoy America’s great outdoors — and especially those whose livelihood depends on outdoor recreation or tourism.

The party of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan recognized the value of the nation’s public lands — its parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other conservation areas — to both present and future generations of Americans. It recognized that protecting them is, as President Reagan reminded us, “our great moral responsibility.”

Republicans who still share those values, and who want their political party to do the same, can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines.

Getting more vocal and more involved is the only way to prevent the anti-conservation agenda of a radical fringe from permanently supplanting the Republican Party’s long and storied conservation tradition.

David Jenkins is president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a national non-profit organization. Email him at djenkins@conservativestewards.org; follow on Twitter, @ConservStewards.

7 ways to pay for great state parks

[Source: Arizona Republic Editorial] – The ominous clouds hanging over Arizona State Parks need to start raining money. Parks managers struggle to protect valuable resources with no money from the General Fund. Unique remnants of Arizona’s heritage have lost dedicated money streams meant to protect them.

At risk are playgrounds for urban Arizonans and sources of tourism for rural residents. At stake is the chance for your children and grandchildren to travel through time from cave formations that began 200,000 years ago to prehistoric Indian ruins to a Spanish presidio to a territorial prison — and wrap it all up by waterskiing across a man-made lake.

What’s at stake is something irreplaceable and beloved. “It’s time people got their dander up and told the Legislature this is one thing that touches their lives,” says Ken Travous, former executive director of Arizona State Parks.

Here’s what people should tell lawmakers:

Restore the State Parks share of the Heritage Fund. In 1990, voters approved $10 million a year from Lottery revenues for parks. During the recession, lawmakers took that funding. Several attempts to restore it have failed at the Legislature. It’s past time to give it back.

Restore the authority of State Parks to spend money raised from gate fees, gift shops and other money-making enterprises. Park managers used to put increased revenue to work for the parks. Now they need legislative authorization to spend the money the parks make. Beginning in 2003, that enhancement fund was swept by lawmakers and used to supplant General Fund appropriations.

Encourage innovation and resource development through parks’ concessions and development. Parks Director Bryan Martyn is looking at a plan to contract with a single concessionaire for all the state parks. It could result in more investment in the parks if the private contractor serving big money-makers, such as Lake Havasu, also is required to develop resources in less-visited parks. The State Parks Board needs to carefully scrutinize any contract to make sure it serves the public’s best interest.

Recognize the need to create additional sources of permanent dedicated funding. A 2009 Morrison Institute report put the cost of operating and maintaining the parks at $40 million to $44 million a year. The current budget is half that. In addition, the parks have at least $80 million in capital needs. The idea of a surcharge or voluntary donation on vehicle registration has been floated — and rejected by lawmakers — since 2009. It is a painless way for people to add $5 or $10 every year to benefit state parks.

Dedicated means dedicated. Protect funds that benefit the parks from legislative raids or sweeps.

Restore the authority of the State Parks Board to hire and fire the parks director. That position became a political appointee with 2012 changes in the state personnel system. The director now serves at the pleasure of the governor. The parks board lost clout. The director lost the independence of being insulated from a governor’s whims.

Face facts. “No state parks system in the United States pays for itself from earned revenue,” according to the Morrison Institute report, “The Price of Stewardship: The Future of Arizona’s State Parks.” Parks need more than they get from Arizona’s Legislature. They deserve more.

Arizonans demonstrated their support by establishing the Heritage Fund in 1990, and they reiterated that sentiment nearly two decades later when a Gallup Arizona poll released by the Center for the Future of Arizona found that “the state’s natural beauty and open spaces are seen by citizens as our greatest asset.”

It’s time to stop stiffing state parks.

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WHAT YOU CAN DO

Arizona State Parks are a resource for today and a promise for tomorrow. But short-sighted funding decisions imperil their future. You can help change that.

  • VISIT. Arizona’s state parks offer dazzling natural wonders, family recreational activities and authentic windows into Arizona’s history and prehistory. azstateparks.com
  • BE A CHAMPION. There’s an election coming up. Ask candidates for state office how they plan to support Arizona’s parks and let them know you want this to be a priority issue.
  • GET INVOLVED. More than a dozen parks have volunteer “friends” groups that provide fund-raising and other services for their chosen park. For information on joining or starting one: azstateparks.com/volunteer/v_foundation.html

Arizona State Parks Foundation is a non-profit that engages in advocacy, fund-raising, and other support. Visit their website at arizonastateparksfoundation.org  The Arizona Heritage Alliance is a non-profit that promotes and protects the Heritage Fund and its goals: azheritage.org

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ABOUT THIS SERIES

Arizona State Parks are a valuable resource in great peril. Stripped of funding during the recession, they struggle without state money and stagger under deferred maintenance. Yet they offer open spaces and outdoor recreation for a growing urban population and an economic engine for rural communities. Popular with the public, but lacking political support, funding solutions can help the parks deliver on their remarkable potential.