Baby boomers retire here for the hiking, yet Arizona starves its parks. How smart is that?

Source:  Opinion by Linda Valdez – Arizona Republic – azcentral.com – September 17, 2018

Opinion: Arizona’s environment is an asset. Yet we are starving the state parks that provide exactly
what baby boomers say they want from us.  Arizona’s has a fast horse in the race to attract Baby Boomer retirees. But our state is starving the poor beast. Recent census figures put Arizona second only to Florida as a destination for today’s retirees, according to reporting by The Republic’s Catherine Reagor. And what is at the top of the list of what these retirees want? — Hiking. It’s the great outdoors that Baby Boomer retirees crave, and we’ve got plenty of it. But we aren’t taking care of it.

Consider:

  • The total operating budget for Arizona’s State Parks was $29 million in fiscal 2018, according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. This is $15 million less than what Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute said was needed in 2009 to operate and maintain the state’s parks.
  • Since 2009, state parks have gotten no general fund money.
  • The parks don’t get to use all of the money they bring in through gate receipts and concessions. That money goes into the State Parks Revenue Fund, which reported total revenue of $20,460,700 in fiscal 2018. Only $14.4 million of it was appropriated back to the parks.
  • More than a decade ago – in 2007 – the parks had fewer visitors and more money. The fiscal 2007 parks budget was $37 million, and that included $27 million from the general fund.
  • During the recession, Arizona’s GOP-controlled Legislature stripped away $10 million a year in Heritage Fund money that had been dedicated to the parks by a 1990 citizens’  initiative. This funding, which came from the Lottery, has not been restored.
  • In 2014, then-Parks Director Bryan Martyn put a $80 million price tag on the cost of needed capital improvements in the parks – no-frills things like water lines and septic tanks.
  • Gov. Doug Ducey’s Parks Director Sue Black has faced criticism and investigations over her treatment of staff, according to reporting by The Republic’s Craig Harris. Concerns about her leadership remain but have not been resolved.

Open spaces mean economic growth

This isn’t just about the spiritual, emotional and psychological benefits nature provides to those who take the time to get out into the wide open spaces. This is about cold, hard cash. It’s about planning for an economically sustainable future. Arizona’s environment is an asset. It attracts people. That’s increasingly true as the large cohort of Baby Boomers look for retirement options that include outdoor experiences. Our State Parks include first-class natural, archaeological and historical sites. The parks need to be properly maintained to conserve the resource and give visitors a first-class experience.

It’s a National Parks problem, too

Arizona’s parks – along with Arizona’s wealth of National Parks and other federal lands – give us an edge in attracting Baby Boomer retirees who have money to spend on an outdoor lifestyle. And guess what? There’s a problem at the national level, too. The Restore Our National Parks and Public Lands Act of 2018 aims to begin spending on deferred maintenance on federal public lands. The price tag in Arizona alone is $531 million, including $330 million in needed maintenance at Grand Canyon National Park. Democratic Reps. Raul Grijalva and Kyrsten Sinema are original sponsors. Other Arizona House members signed on are Democratic Reps. Tom O’Halleran and Ruben Gallego, as well as Republicans Andy Biggs and Debbie Lesko. The bill is not moving.

Arizona’s missed opportunity

Meanwhile, back in Arizona, Ducey and his Republican colleagues in our Legislature like to talk about their commitment to economic development. But they lack awareness of how to market and maintain Arizona’s natural assets. They are systematically starving the horse that can help us win the national competition for retirees who want exactly what our state parks offer.

 

Beth Woodin, Past President of the Alliance and Longtime Arizona Conservation Activist

Source:  Tony Davis, Arizona Daily Star – January 17, 2018

When the state bought 1,400 acres near Patagonia 14 years ago, the wetland home of a major endangered fish population was saved from the bulldozer. Beth Woodin was a driving force in creating the Arizona Heritage Fund that supplies money for such purchases.

Woodin died last week at her Sabino Creek home at age 71. She spent at least 40 years fighting to save wildlands like that acreage around Coal Mine Spring, home to the endangered Gila topminnow but until then a likely subdivision site. Woodin, a native New Yorker, lived along Sabino Creek since the 1970s with her husband, William Woodin, an early Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum director.

Beth Woodin, President of the Arizona Heritage Alliance, (c)2010 Tye R. Farrell

Just before her Jan. 10 death from cancer, Woodin left her nine-year position as board president of the Arizona Heritage Alliance advocacy group. On Saturday, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission gave her an award of excellence, at a Phoenix-area ceremony she had hoped to attend.

“She was one of the most dedicated persons around to doing
wonderful things for wildlife,” said Jim DeVos, a state Game and Fish Department assistant director who knew Woodin for 35 years. “She was always looking for that compromise to move conservation forward. She had her fingers in more conservation projects than anyone I know.”

Woodin was a state Game and Fish commissioner from 1990 to 1995, sat on the Arizona Nature Conservancy’s board in the 1980s and ’90s, and was on the Desert Museum’s board of trustees multiple times. In the 1980s, she was instrumental in persuading the Legislature to create a checkoff program allowing residents to set aside some of their state income taxes for programs benefiting nongame wildlife. The checkoff raised nearly $860,000 in the five fiscal years that ended June 30, 2017, state records show.

In 1990, she was a prime mover for a statewide voter initiative creating the Heritage Fund, which then took $20 million annually from state lottery proceeds for parks and nongame wildlife. Game and Fish has used the fund to buy nearly 18,000 acres of habitat.

Woodin and other fund backers fought at least 30 legislative efforts to divert some of that money, succeeding until the 2007-’08 economist bust. After that, the Legislature swept $10 million annually, which had gone for parks, into the general fund. She and her allies unsuccessfully tried to push through legislation to restore the parks fund.

At the end of her life, Woodin was plotting another run at restoring the Heritage Fund for parks, said Janice Miano, the heritage alliance’s board president. “She never gave up. She always had a plan.”

Woodin is survived by her husband; four stepsons; a sister, Jill Burkett, of Northern California; and eight grandchildren. Services will likely be held in the spring.

Environmental Study Ranks Arizona Second Lowest Among Western States

Source:  Joshua Bowling, The Republic/azcentral.com, October 18, 2017

It found Arizona’s access to public lands and responsible energy development need improvement.

Arizona State Parks and Trails Brings Home the Gold Medal for Best Managed State Park System

Source:  Arizona State Parks and Trails Press Release – September 26, 2017

Arizona State Parks and Trails today won the Gold Medal for best managed state park system in the nation from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). The award was announced this morning during the national NRPA conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“This is a tremendous achievement that benefits everyone in our state – from residents to tourists,” said Governor Doug Ducey. “Winning the Gold Medal is a testament to the hard work, collaboration and innovation that Arizona State Parks and Trails demonstrated to get us to this point.”

Arizona State Parks and Trails was selected as a Final Four candidate in May, along with Tennessee State Parks; Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission; and Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites, and Trails.  Over the last two years, Arizona State Parks and Trails has established a self-sufficient funding structure, achieved record visitation and revenue and implemented a plan to reinvest in the system and create new parks.

“This Gold Medal win is not just about the staff of Arizona State Parks and Trails,” said Sue Black, Executive Director of Arizona State Parks and Trails. “This is about everyone in Arizona who contributes to our success or gets to enjoy our beautiful parks. It’s a huge honor to be considered the best-managed state park agency in the country, and we hope everyone will get out and see these amazing parks first-hand.”

To celebrate making it to the Final Four and hear the Gold Medal winner announced, agency partners, stakeholders and constituents gathered at the Arizona State Parks and Trails Outdoor Recreation Information Center on Tuesday morning as the event was live-streamed on Facebook from New Orleans. Executive Director Black accepted the award.

The Gold Medal Award honors state park systems throughout the United States that demonstrate excellence in long-range planning, resource management and innovative approaches to delivering superb park and recreation services with fiscally sound business practices.

For information about all 35 Arizona State Parks and Natural Areas, the Trails and Off-Highway Vehicle Programs and State Historic Preservation Office call 1-877-MY-PARKS or visit AZStateParks.com.

PRESS CONTACT: Michelle Thompson at (602) 542-1996 or (480) 589-8877 – Email: pio@azstateparks.gov