PRIMER: Arizona State Parks Contribute To Booming Economy

New Provided by Governor of Arizona, September 30, 2021

From Slide Rock to Lost Dutchman to Catalina, Arizona’s state parks are second to none! Camping, hiking, boating, horseback riding — there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy the great outdoors at Arizona’s many state parks.

But the role our parks play goes well beyond mountain trails and pristine lakes. According to recently released numbers, Arizona State Parks and Trails last year supported an estimated 4,200 jobs and contributed $272 million to Arizona’s economy.

Arizona State Parks and Trails, in collaboration with the University of Arizona’s Regional Economic State Park Economic Contribution 06212021 (2) Analysis Program, completed a study on the economic contribution and impacts of Arizona’s state parks for fiscal year 2020.

Highlights from the report:

  • Spending by non-local visitors increased by 20 percent since 2014;

  • Total spending by all visitors to an Arizona state park, including spending in and within 50 miles of parks, exceeded $332 million; and

  • In Mohave County, where parks had the largest economic impact, the parks contributed $83 million in sales and supported 945 jobs.

Governor Ducey took action to make sure state parks remained open to the public during the pandemic, allowing Arizonans and visitors to relax and enjoy the outdoors in a safe and healthy way. This year, the Governor also waived the admission fee to state parks for Easter weekend and ensured that the parks remained open. During that weekend, visitation was up 103 percent compared to 2019, with almost every park seeing an increase in visitors.

Since 2014, there has been a significant increase in overall visits to the parks, along with increased hours of availability and the addition of more park properties. This has led to an increase in visitor spending and an overall positive impact on the state economy.

Residents and visitors to the state continue to choose to explore the great outdoors and the incredible beauty, diversity and opportunity that our parks provide.

Read the full Economic Contribution and Impacts of Arizona State Parks FY2020 report HERE.

Funding Restored for Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund 

On June 30, 2021 Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed the state budget for Fiscal Year 2022 , including $5 million to fund the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund.  

The State Parks Heritage Fund was restored in the 2019 legislative session via Senate Bill 1241, sponsored by then Senator Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix, but without dedicated funding until 2029 when Arizona Lottery funds would be utilized. This session, Senator T.J. Shope of Coolidge and Representative Joanne Osborne of Goodyear introduced bills, Senate Bill 1384 and House Bill 2127respectively, that gained strong bipartisan support in both chambers. Through the budget negotiation process, the final outcome was $5 million. 

 Through a matching grant process to be developed by the Arizona State Parks Board in consultation with staff of Arizona State Parks & Trails and the State Historic Preservation Office, the monies in the State Parks Heritage Fund will be allocated as follows: 

  • 50% on local, regional, and state parks for outdoor recreation and open space development, restoration, or renovation, 
  • 30% on local, regional, and state historic preservation projects, 
  • 10% on local, regional, and state non-motorized trails, and 
  • 10% on outdoor and environmental education 


Representative Joanne Osborne, who also sponsored a bill in 2019 to support the State Parks Heritage Fund, noted, “My family came to Arizona in the late 1800’s. Our state’s history can be found in so many places and needs to be preserved for future generations. Arizona is a unique and special place from its glorious lands to incredible places. Let’s keep the West alive and our Arizona Way. It was an honor to carry the bill to advocate for funding for the State Parks Heritage Fund.” 

According to Senator T.J. Shope, “After 11 years, our state’s executive and legislative branches finally came together to fund the State Parks Heritage Fund to maintain and upgrade the growing number of parks, trails, and historic preservation projects that have languished or are newly-proposed in every municipality, county, and tribal area in our state. I’m excited to see what projects start coming out of the ground to enhance the communities in which they’re located.” 

Russ Jones, former state representative from Yuma and current board president of the Arizona Heritage Alliance, a long-time advocacy organization for both the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund and Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Fund, noted that, “Communities may have the opportunity to double their impact by using State Parks Heritage Fund grant dollars to draw down a match from the National Park Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).” The LWCF is one of the nation’s most important conservation programs, responsible for protecting parks, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas at the federal, state, and local levels. 

Janice Miano, past president and former executive director of the Alliance, noted, “The Arizona Heritage Alliance never gave up advocating for the restoration of the State Parks Heritage Fund. We just kept at it year-after-year to honor the legacy of long-serving board members who passed away during the funding hiatus – Brian Pinney, Beth Woodin, and Tom Woods – and to benefit future generations of Arizona residents and visitors.” 


The importance of Arizona’s local, regional, and state parks, trails, and open spaces became more evident as elected officials, businesses, and residents worked to overcome the social and economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Public parks and open spaces provided Arizonans the space for socially distanced recreation and respite during these challenging times. In a recent study conducted by the National Parks and Recreation Association, three in five U.S. residents – more than 190 million people – visited a park, trail, public open space, or other recreation facility at least once during the first three months of the pandemic (mid-March through mid-June 2020). 

2020 survey by Gallup and the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) finds widespread agreement among Arizonans on a broad range of policy objectives for the next decade, including the environment. Arizonans overwhelmingly appreciate the state’s natural beauty, with 91% rating it as “excellent” or “good.” A similarly high proportion (92%) say it is important for the state to “preserve and protect its rivers, natural areas, and wildlife,” one of the highest levels of consensus seen in the Gallup Arizona survey. 

According to Samantha Coffmann, executive director of the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association, “The work of the Arizona Heritage Alliance has been significant for our state’s parks, trails, open space, and cultural sites. Protecting funding for grants made available through the Heritage Fund is vital to Arizona’s quality of life and the overall economy. Monies received have positively impacted our state over the last 27 years. The Arizona Parks and Recreation Association and our members greatly appreciate the years-long effort the Alliance board has put into advocating for permanent authorization of funding for this key program.” 


If you hike, boat, ride, hunt, fish, watch wildlife, visit a park, or tour historic sites, then Arizona’s Heritage Fund affects your life. The Arizona Heritage Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created in 1992 to protect Arizona’s Heritage Fund and its objectives. The Alliance is guided by a Board of Directors drawn from a broad base of outdoor sports, environmental conservation, and historic preservation groups that helped pass the 1990 statewide voter initiative creating the Heritage Fund. 

The Alliance’s mission is to preserve and enhance Arizona’s historic, cultural, and natural heritage. It accomplishes its mission by actively: 

  • Protecting the integrity and voter intent of the Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Fund and working to restore funding for the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund, 
  • Monitoring state legislative and agency activity, 
  • Pursuing sustainable and dedicated funding sources for Arizona’s historic, cultural and natural initiatives, programs, and activities, and 
  • Educating people of Arizona about the benefits of Arizona’s wildlife, open space, parks, and historic and cultural resources 

Governor’s Heritage Honor Preservation Award Videos

Source:  Arizona Preservation Foundation, July 22, 2020

Since 1982, the Arizona Preservation Foundation and State Historic Preservation Office have partnered to present the Governor’s Heritage Honor Preservation Awards. The awards recognize people, organizations, and projects that represent outstanding achievements in preserving Arizona’s prehistoric and historic resources. The ten award winners are introduced and the Grand Award winner is announced at the annual Arizona Historic Preservation Conference.

This year at the 2020 Arizona Preservation Virtual Conference – “Preservation in Place” the Arizona Heritage Alliance was honored as one of the award winners for the Restoration of the Heritage Fund.  Click here to view the video featuring our efforts.



Here are the winners of Arizona Forward’s 2019 Environmental Excellence Awards

Source: Business News, AZ Business Magazine, Sept. 26, 2019

(NOTE: RESTORATION OF THE ARIZONA STATE PARKS HERITAGE FUND (Arizona Heritage Alliance) received an AWARD OF DISTINCTION in the category: Healthy Communities, Parks and Trails which is listed almost at the end of this article. We are so proud of the work our partners, Senator Kate Brophy-McGee and Representative Joanne Osborne, did help restore the Heritage Fund.  Thank you to everyone who supported our efforts in 2019.)

More than 650 business leaders, elected officials and their guests gathered together on Saturday, September 21, 2019 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in anticipation to hear who the recipients would be for this year’s prestigious Arizona Forward Environmental Excellence Awards presented by SRP. A total of 93 projects were nominees in the private and public sector. The night also celebrated sustainability in Arizona and featured a special Arizona Forward 50th anniversary award. 

The President’s Award, the top honor of all project submissions, was given to Mar 5 Gila River Indian Community Interpretative Trail. Governor Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community was present to accept the award. A collaboration between the Gila River Indian Community, Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project, Neil & Young Associates and Hunter Contracting Co., worked on the Managed Aquifer Recharge Site 5 (MAR 5) and Interpretive Trail giving Gila River Indian Community members a sustainable way to provide water for farming, materials for artisans to carry on their crafts, and educational classes to teach future generations after decades of being dried up land.

“I am beyond proud that the Gila River Indian Community was recognized as the recipient of the Arizona Forward President’s Award for our MAR 5 Gila River Interpretive Trail,” said Governor Lewis with the Gila River Indian Community.  “It is an honor to have our Community recognized as a leader in Arizona for innovative water management and sustainability practices, as we are focused on addressing the ongoing drought and climate change.” Governor Lewis added, “My father, the late Rod Lewis, had a vision for the MAR 5 Interpretive Trail: ‘The MAR 5 Interpretive Trail will be a living tribute to our Water Rights, our Huhugam and teaching our future generations our historic and ongoing ties to the Gila River.’ ”

The Governor’s Award for Arizona’s Future was presented by Anni Foster, General Counsel for Governor Doug Ducey’s office. The Crescordia Award, the highest honor within each category, went to Arizona’s Drought Contingency Plan Process (DCP) and Committee Co-chairs. Tom Buschatzke, Director with the Arizona Department of Water Resources and Ted Cooke, General Manager with Central Arizona Project, worked together as DCP Committee Co-chairs and accepted the award. Nearly 40 stakeholder representatives served on the DCP Committee with a variety of perspectives. After months of collaboration and compromise, the DCP plan details how impacted stakeholders, including Arizona and other states, will adapt to reduced Colorado River water to secure water supplies for Arizona residents. The Plan is intended to last until 2026.

“The gala was a special evening and we were proud to honor some very important projects,” said Lori Singleton, president and CEO of Arizona Forward. “There were many project nominations related to water this year which shows how focused the Arizona community is on this vital resource. We were also pleased to honor our state universities, Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona, with our 50thanniversary recognition. Arizona’s state universities have been our long-standing partners, and we look forward to making sustainability progress with them for Arizona in the future.”

A list of all the project nominations and a description summary for each can be found on Projects were reviewed by a panel of 10 judges led by Grady Gammage Jr, one of the founders of Gammage and Burnham, a known community expert and author of the book, The Future of the Suburban City, Lessons from Sustaining Phoenix.

Recipients of the CRESCORDIA AWARD for the remaining categories are listed below.

RESTORING WATER TO THE DESERT (Intel Corporation) Category (private sector): Sustainability Champion

Intel Corporation has committed to restore 100% of the company’s global water use through collaborative projects that restore water to watersheds that benefit communities. The corporation has funded 10 projects in collaboration with nonprofits to support Arizona watersheds. Once completed, these projects will restore about 650 million gallons of water to the environment each year. The initiative addresses a critical environmental issue while balancing the need for jobs and economic development in the last 5 years and builds on the 13 billion gallons of water Intel has already returned to the Chandler Community from its operations.

SCOTTSDALE WATER (City of Scottsdale, Scottsdale Water) Category (public sector): Sustainability Champion

Water Sustainability through Stewardship, Innovation and People is Scottsdale Water’s vision and the defining statement of the organization. Scottsdale Water holds the Arizona’s second largest allocation of renewable hydropower generated from Hoover Dam, representing approximately 12.7 percent of the annual energy use at the Scottsdale Water Campus, Choose Tap! awareness campaign aims at increasing consumption of tap water as a safe, affordable alternative to bottled water. In three months of operation, the City’s water trailer has distributed 11,575 gallons of water, equivalent to 74,054 one-time use water bottles. And 20 bottle filling stations, which include an automated bottle-fill counter, have filled over 61,437 bottles.

SALT RIVER PIMA-MARICOPA COMMUNITY JUSTICE CENTER (Gould Evans) Category: Buildings and Structures, Civic

The Salt River Pima Maricopa-Indian Community Center (SRPMIC) is a tribal court and practitioners’ building located on 4.3 acres of Indian Community land. The justice center responds to an increased demand for a space dedicated to the Community and the judicial process. Redefining traditional judicial environments, while considering the natural landscape, was an essential goal for the tribal members and design team alike. 

BAND BUILDING STEELE INDIAN SCHOOL PARK (City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation) Category: Buildings and Structures, Historic Preservation

On the National Register of Historic Places and just west of Memorial Hall, this project was a partnership with the City of Phoenix Parks Department the Native American Connections and the Phoenix Indian Center; and ensures that the history of Phoenix Indian School and the story of its many students and families will never be forgotten. The 6,000 square foot space was transformed from the former Phoenix Indian School campus into a space for education and reflection. The new space is intended to help educate people unfamiliar with what the park used to be.

THE BOB AND RENEE PARSONS LEADERSHIP CENTER FOR GIRLS AND WOMEN AT CAMP SOUTH MOUNTAIN (Marlene Imirzian & Associates Architects) Category: Buildings and Structures, Commercial & Institutional

Located on a s site at the edge of the City of Phoenix South Mountain Park, the vision for the camp was for an urban program center, with camp appeal, built for girls but suitable for adult use with comfortable overnight facilities and large gathering space.  The project reflects the values of the Girl Scouts, a supportive place for girls to develop skills and foster community, and an example of sustainable desert development

MAR 5 & GILA RIVER INTERPRETIVE TRAIL (Hunter Contracting Co.)  Category: Site Development and Landscape, Landscapes and Preserves

Definition of the Project and its Purpose Managed Aquifer Recharge Site 5 (MAR 5) Interpretive Trail gives Gila River Indian Community members a sustainable way to provide water for farming, materials for artisans to carry on their crafts, and classes to teach future generations not only about their heritage but also how to carry on the farming and artisan traditions. The aquifer will be a source of water for farming irrigation to provide agricultural products throughout the world bringing revenue back into the state’s economy.

LOWER SALT RIVER RIPARIAN RESTORATION PROJECT (National Forest Foundation) Category: Site Development and Landscape, Landscapes and Preserves

The Salt River is a major artery for city water supplies, and on the Tonto National Forest, the Lower Salt River Recreation Area boasts a well-loved destination spot for thousands of visitors each year. Yet the health of the River has degraded over the last several decades. The purpose of this project is to restore an 11-mile stretch of the Lower Salt River by removing exotic plant species, planting over 500,000 native plants, and developing educational and volunteer opportunities.

SUSTAINABLE ACTION PLAN FOR COUNTY OPERATIONS (Pima County Government) Category: Healthy Communities, Public Policy/Plans

Equipped with ambitious objectives, measurable targets and easily integrated actions, the Plan’s purpose is to address the climate challenges of today. The Plan is an expansive and multi-faceted initiative, covering nine different sustainability focus areas  In its FY2014-2018 Plan alone, the County avoided more than 64,000 MtCO2e emissions; installed more than 6 MW of renewable energy; added 42 fully-electric vehicles; decreased the number of tobacco users by more than 40 percent; established or maintained nearly a thousand acres of natural habitat with County renewable water, and more.

7TH AVENUE STREETSCAPE (Canary, a Gould Evans Studio) Category: Art in Public Places

The 7th Avenue Streetscape is a rotating public art exhibition comprised of six large existing panels that regularly feature local Phoenix artwork. The narratives focus on sustainability to increase public awareness for reuse, recycling and social consciousness. The resulting exhibit creates an urban gallery with commentary on sustainability through race, climate and the local environment. Poem selection and design process were made in collaboration with Poet Laureate Rosemarie Dombrowski, City of Phoenix Office Arts and Culture and the Public Works department

ARIZONA WATER WATCH (Arizona Department of Environmental Quality) Category: Technology Innovation

Arizona Water Watch (AWW), offers Arizona residents and visitors the opportunity to help monitor and protect Arizona’s waters. This program facilitates collaboration between the Department’s scientists, local entities, and the public to gather the information that is used to update flow patterns, address water quality issues and identify waters for future study. The program applies innovative ideas through multilevel volunteer opportunities ranging from sending information and photos through a mobile app to collecting weekly water samples. It has consolidated answers from over 15,000 questions and 1800 photos submitted through the mobile app and produced outstanding results.

2019 TEN ACROSS WATER SUMMIT (University City Exchange at Arizona State University) Category: Environmental Education & Communication

The US Interstate 10 corridor provides the most compelling window on the future of the country, one which presents the challenges of the 21st century in the highest relief. This singular transect strings together many of the most pressing societal, economic, urban and environmental topics of our time. A project spanning the entire continent, Ten Across engages this region as a living laboratory for resilience and innovation.  March 26-28, 2019, Ten Across participants traveled from across the country to join the second annual 10X Water Summit (10XW2) in Phoenix, Arizona southwestern region to navigate safely into the known future. Takeaways from this Phoenix driven summit markedly shape the work and direction of 10X as the project travels to Houston for 10XW3 in 2020. 


City of Mesa’s Household Hazardous Materials Facility collects items such as cleaners, automotive fluids, pool chemicals, tires, and appliances to keep materials from contaminating the environment, landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and solid waste vehicles. Approximately 30 percent of all materials collected for disposal are in good enough condition to be reused and are placed into the “Swap Shop”, where Mesa residents can shop for free. The City also partnered with B&B Appliances to ensure good condition appliances are repaired and resold instead of going to scrap, and they have a robust latex paint remixing program and made significant donations to organizations in need. About 350,000 pounds of materials were collected in the first six months of operation.

The following project FINALISTS received an AWARD OF DISTINCTION :

SOUTHWEST WINE CENTER (Yavapai College) Category: Governor’s Award for Arizona’s Future

THE FUTURE IS WHAT WE MAKE IT (Honeywell International, Inc.) Category: Sustainability Champion

ON SEMICONDUCTOR TOP NOTCH RECLAMATION CENTER (ON Semiconductor) Category: Sustainability Champion

DESIGN EMPOWERMENT PHX (The Sagrado) Category: Environmental Education & Communication

ODOR CONTROL STATION 72 ARTS AND IMPROVEMENTS (City of Phoenix Water Services Department) Category: Art in Public Places


MARICOPA TRAIL (Maricopa County & Recreation Department) Category: Healthy Communities, Parks and Trails

RESTORATION OF THE ARIZONA STATE PARKS HERITAGE FUND (Arizona Heritage Alliance) Category: Healthy Communities, Parks and Trails

FLAGSTAFF CLIMATE ACTION & ADAPTATION PLAN (City of Flagstaff) Category: Healthy Communities, Public Policy/Plans

SUSTAINABLE TOURISM PLAN (Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau) Category: Healthy Communities, Public Policy/Plans

WASHINGTON PARK (Arizona Trail Association) Category: Site Development and Landscape, Landscape and Preserves

THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA ENVIRONMENT & NATURAL RESOURCES 2 (ENR 2) (Colwell Shelor Landscape Architecture) Category: Site Development and Landscape, Landscape and Preserves

SANTA CRUZ RIVER HERITAGE PROJECT (City of Tucson Water Department) Category: Site Development and Landscape, Landscape and Preserves

XERO STUDIO (Studio Ma) Category: Buildings and Structures, Commercial & Institutional

SAN LUIS 1 PORT OF ENTRY, NORTH ANNEX BUILDING (Jone Studio, Inc.) Category: Buildings and Structures, Civic

SMART PROGRAM (City of Tempe) Category: Waste Reduction