Outdoor activity is essential for healthy children

[Source: Bill Thornton, Tucson, Arizona Heritage Alliance Board Member] — The theme of the 2008 Arizona Parks and Recreation Association Convention and Trade Show was “No Child Left Inside,” a new federal initiative to get children out from behind computer and TV screens and into outdoor activity. The need for action is compelling. The average child spends from six to nine hours each day watching TV and playing computer games with a corresponding reduction in outdoor activity. Due to budget constraints many school districts have reduced or eliminated physical education programs. The resulting lack of physical activity coupled with unhealthy diet is a major contributing factor in the epidemic of childhood obesity.

As a new board member of the Arizona Heritage Alliance the most valuable session for me was “Advocacy for Parks and Recreation.” Featured speaker, Richard J. Dolesh of the National Recreation and Park Association, sees the upcoming election as a historic opportunity to engage the new congress and administration with a pro park message. There will be a relatively short (i.e. six to twelve month) window of opportunity. During this time legislative priorities will be set. If parks don’t have a seat at the table the next four years could see further budget cuts and a very real possibility of park closings.

The park advocate’s task is to convince decision makers that parks serve a vital public need and are worthy of support. Emphasis should be on public health, quality of life, parks role in providing clean air and water, and parks as economic drivers. The message must be clear, focused, and compelling. Competition for decision maker’s attention is keen. If we have a dozen priorities we have no priorities. To accomplish our goals we need to reach out and form new alliances with health care professionals and other non traditional partners. The health benefits of outdoor activity are undeniable. Cardiologists are writing prescriptions for outdoor exercise. Now is the time to carry the message to decision makers.

The same lessons apply at the state level. New legislators need to get the message early. In addition to his message of advocacy Mr. Dolesh also pointed out that a 12.5% levy on offshore oil production could raise $100 million extra dollars per year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Increased offshore drilling is considered likely regardless of the outcome of the election. We need to be vigilant so the funds aren’t diverted for other uses. Sound familiar?

The day concluded with an awards banquet that showcased many fine examples of innovative parks and recreation programs around the state. I considered it a day well spent.

Commentary: Stewardship is the responsibility of every Arizonan

[Commentary by Thom Hulen, Tempe, Arizona Heritage Alliance Board Member] — Stewardship can be defined as the individual’s responsibility to manage his life and property with proper regard to the rights of others and I believe this is what Arizona voters intended when the Heritage Fund was created in 1990. Arizonans realized that they could not take for granted the rich natural and cultural heritage bestowed upon them while Arizona continues to grow.

Since I was old enough to leave the house and wonder through Phoenix’s South Mountain Park on my own I have joyously marveled at the grandeur of the Sonoran Desert and the ancient Hohokam people who left their mark carved onto the boulders lining the canyons dissecting our nation’s largest city park. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of this gift. Then as well has today I think about the men and women who had the foresight to realize that if we do not take a role in our planet’s stewardship what we hold dear may not endure. We can love something to death through use, ignorance, and neglect.

The men and women who strove to create parks, preserves, museums and to protect important prehistoric and historic sites for all generations of people had the compassion and foresight to know if they stood by and did nothing it would someday be too late. When I see condors soaring over the Grand Canyon, photograph the petroglphs at Lyman Lake State Park, wander through the ruins at Homolovi Ruins State Park, or learn about desert plants at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, I not only think about the stewardship of the people who worked hard to preserve bits of our heritage, I also think of the thousands of Arizonans who voted to make the Heritage Fund a reality.

Unfortunately many Arizona legislators have not taken their role as stewards of our state’s natural and cultural legacy seriously and on numerous occasions have sought to ignore the will of the people by failing to adequately fund Arizona State Parks and the Arizona Game and Fish Department though appropriation and to raid the Heritage Fund to pay for other state expenses.

I agreed to join the Alliance’s board of directors because I feel a strong sense of stewardship of our state’s natural and cultural heritage and I believe that the voter’s intension in passing the Heritage Fund was acknowledgment of our responsibility to protect this heritage through our actions and not just sentiments. The Heritage Fund is all about stewardship and we all know that it takes more than hard work and commitment — it takes money to make stewardship happen. My intension for serving on the board is simple. I want to see the Heritage Fund protected, as the voters intended, and see it grow so that present and future generations will have the chance to appreciate Arizona’s wealth of natural and cultural heritage.

Historic hotel in Florence Arizona to get overhaul

Over the years, there have been several rumors of overhauling the structure but nothing came to life until now.  The historic building will get a complete makeover by the end of the year, say officials with the town of Florence, which owns the building and is paying for most of the renovations with more than $500,000 in grants.  The building won’t turn into another hotel but will instead be revamped into retail and office space, Florence Public Information Officer Jess Knudson said during a recent tour of the structure.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]