Our View: Don’t Kill Arizona’s State Parks Board Now

Picacho Peak State Park

Arizona Forward: Open Letter to Their Members

Source:  Email blast from Arizona Forward, February 8, 2017

The Arizona Legislature is considering a bill that includes a repeal the Arizona State Parks Board (HB2369), which we strongly oppose.  As part of Arizona Forward’s historic advocacy of parks and open space, as well as our work in creating a primer on the economic benefits of Arizona’s natural assets, we have registered our opposition to this measure and encourage you to do the same!

The State Parks Board provides citizens’ oversight to State Parks and is composed of people with various backgrounds, including recreation, tourism, and livestock, as well as the general public. Its purpose is to “select, acquire, preserve, establish, and maintain areas of natural features, scenic beauty, historical and scientific interest, and zoos and botanical gardens for the education, pleasure, recreation, and health of the people….”

On February 2, 2017, the House Government Committee voted 5-3-0 to repeal the Arizona States Park Board. I testified against the measure and will keep you updated as it moves the legislative process. Elimination of this important board will result in less transparency, fewer opportunities for public engagement on a broad level, and one less entity to advocate for a parks system badly in need of more advocates.

Please take action by sending a message to your state representatives today! If you are not sure who your legislators are, go to Find My Legislator and click on the link where you enter your address. You can then select legislators to find their contact information. Be sure to leave a message with an assistant or on voicemail.

We must be good stewards of these amazing resources, and need your help to ensure that happens!

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DIANE BROSSART
President & CEO
Arizona Forward

Since the publication of this letter, HB2369 is scheduled to be heard by the House Rules Committee on Monday, February 13, 2017 at 12:45 p.m. in HHR4.  Here is a link to the agenda. 

Producers of “Arizona Wildlife Views” Took Home Seven Regional Emmy Awards

Source:  Arizona Game and Fish Department Alert, October 14, 2016

The producers of “Arizona Wildlife Views,” the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s1476480651553-w5yxxrlbfpceapak-e5bca87f87889372a20ed7386556ba39 television show, took home seven regional Emmy Awards in four different categories
from the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) on Oct. 8. The awards ceremony took place at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale. The award recipients and categories were:

Program Feature/Segment/Special

  • Arizona Wildlife Views – 2016 Show 2.  Featured wildlife conservation stories about saving endangered species and assisting injured golden eagles. (https://youtu.be/FVQeJ6FJFrk).  Producers Ben Avechuco, Carol Lynde, David Majure.

Environment – Program Special

  • Arizona Wildlife Views – 2016 Show 1.   Featured some of the state’s most iconic wildlife, as well as efforts to conserve majestic bald eagles. (https://youtu.be/ugJJxjV2E0Q).  Producers Ben Avechuco, David Majure.

Director (non-live)

  • A Triumph for Pronghorn Antelope.   See the impressive results of a 4-year project designed to save a diminishing herd of pronghorn antelope in southeastern Arizona. (https://youtu.be/Bb4pyyHzs6Y).  Producer David Majure.

Video journalist

  • Bats and Burned Forests.   See how Arizona Game and Fish is helping Northern Arizona University researchers who are looking into the impact of the State’s largest wildfire on tree-roosting bats. (https://youtu.be/4iN3T6VPsWg). Producer David Majure.

More than 900 entries were submitted for this year’s Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter Emmy Awards by television and video production professionals in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and El Centro, Calif. For more information, visit: http://rockymountainemmy.org.  

“Arizona Wildlife Views” is a half-hour original series produced by the Information Branch of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The show airs on local PBS stations, city cable channels across the state and YouTube. The current 13-week season is airing at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays on Arizona PBS Channel 8.  More information can about Arizona Wildlife Views Television can be found online.

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.