Rebounding Arizona State Parks System Plans to Add 100 Rental Cabins

Source:  KJZZ – 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.


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.”


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.”


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.

“Work with Us, Naysayers” – Opinion by Pat Madden, Chairman, Arizona Game and Fish Commission

Source:  Arizona Central, September 11, 2016

My Turn: Listening to our critics, you’d never know we invest $6 million each89ad1681-20eb-40ea-b511-5d058eaceeb2 year in Arizona to help conserve species.  The Arizona Game and Fish Department conserves and protects the state’s diverse wildlife and promotes safe, compatible outdoor recreation. That’s our mission and we have a long history of successfully managing all 800-plus wildlife species in Arizona.

Political special-interest groups that disagree with the Arizona Game and Fish Commission’s wildlife conservation mission are complaining because we don’t buy into their political agenda.

Our message to agenda-driven ideologues: Work with us.

Listening to the critics, you wouldn’t know that the Game and Fish Commission and the Department invest more than $6 million annually into projects benefiting threatened/endangered species and other non-hunted wildlife. That’s $6 million in on-the-ground conservation, improving the lives of Arizona’s wildlife. We’ll work with any group that will lend a hand.

Here are just a few success stories

Because we collaborated with a coalition of bald-eagle advocates, Arizona’s bald eagles are now plentiful enough to have been delisted from the federal Endangered Species list in 2007.  Since delisting, the breeding population has increased by 30 percent, and the average annual fledgling count has gone from 21 in the 1990s to 55 since 2010. This year, a record 65 pairs of adult eagles produced 78 hatchlings.

Endangered Sonoran pronghorn were on the brink of disappearing from the U.S. by 2002, with only 21 remaining in southwest Arizona. Active management by Game and Fish and our partners has increased Arizona’s herd to more than 350 Sonoran pronghorn, and even more in Mexico.

In 1998, there were no Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico. Since then, Game and Fish has dedicated significant staff and financial resources to bring the wolf back while working to build social tolerance in local communities.  By collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies, Arizona and New Mexico now host 97 known collared wolves and 18 packs, with 42 natural-born offspring last year alone.

We’ll work with anyone to save species.  We also put substantial resources into recovering native fish species with proactive conservation efforts that can reverse the need to list them as endangered. Since 2006, we’ve conducted 300 native fish stockings at 130 sites, helping 18 native species and fostering 112 new native fish populations.

California condors, on the brink of extinction by the early 1980s, now number nearly 430, more than half of which live wild in Arizona, Utah, California and Mexico. Their comeback got an assist from Arizona hunters who voluntarily use non-lead ammo in condor country.

Many other species — desert bighorn sheep, black-footed ferrets, Apache trout, Gould’s turkeys, Chiricahua leopard frogs, and black-tailed prairie dogs to name a few — have benefited from collaborative on-the-ground conservation. We’ve achieved successes because we work with partners who roll up their sleeves and put boots on the ground.

The department will cooperate with any group that values and works toward on-the-ground conservation. We just have difficulty with organizations that focus their resources on rhetoric-laden fundraising letters, scare tactics and litigation. Conservation, like everything in life, only happens when you do the work.

Edward “Pat” Madden is the chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. Email him at

“Don’t Privatize Our Public Parks” Opinion by William Thornton

Source:  Arizona Daily Star – September 5, 2016

Sometimes a good editorial cartoon says more than an entire column.  A good example, by Jeff Stahler, appeared in the Arizona Daily Star on Aug. 27.  A family listens to ghost stories by the campfire.  Father assumes his scariest pose and says: “And then the decided to privatize the national parks.”

It’s a story that’s becoming reality in state and national parks and public lands.  A complex multifaceted issue with strong proponents on each side.  Good information including pros and cons is available online.  I can’t begin to cover the entire subject but in 30-plus years of camping in state, National Park and Forest Service campgrounds we’ve seen the good the bad and the ugly of public vs. contracted private operation.

Fool Hollow State Park on the edge of Show Low is the gold standard for how a park should be run.  We’ve averagedFOHO_G_02 at least two visits per year over more than 25 years and always found it to be fastidiously clean and well maintained. Best of all we’ve never been bothered by loud music or rowdy behavior.  In mid-summer our favorite high-country campgrounds, Winn, and Apache Trout at Big Lake, are run by the same private company under contract to the U.S. Forest Service.

A noteworthy difference between state-run Fool Hollow and contract-operated Winn and Big Lake is the much larger ratio of campers to camp hosts at Winn and Big Lake. Good for the contractor’s bottom line but what about the quality of camping experience.  It depends on the camp hosts.  Over many years camp hosts at Winn have been some of nicest people we’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Friendly, helpful, courteous and conscientious.

At Big Lake it’s been a mixed bag. Camp hosts included one who came on like a marine drill sergeant.  Another required a verbal kick in the fanny to enforce camp ground rules when children drove a go-cart up and down the road subjecting campers to nerve-racking noise and clouds of dust while the camp host did nothing. On another visit an overloaded trash bin stunk so badly that you could smell it half a mile away.

When camping experiences depend on the quality of hosts, we deserve better than luck of the draw whether in state, federal, or contract-operated facilities.  Oversight is the key.  On site-operators will be as good or as bad as the standards they are held to by campground owners, and that would be us. When they take the oath of office, our elected officials accept the awesome responsibility of managing our public lands for present and future generations. When they fail as stewards it’s because we’ve allowed them to.

As we celebrate the 100th birthday of our National Park Service we can be thankful for the foresight of private citizens and elected officials who created a network of protected public lands that’s the envy of the entire world. We must also accept responsibility for the $12 billion of deferred maintenance in our national parks, and many million more in our state parks.  Can private contractors be part of the solution? With effective oversight maybe so; but they must be held to a higher standard than what we’ve experienced.  It’s an election year.  On the presidential level it may be little more than a name-calling contest, but many other state and national offices are up for grabs.  If we want a well-maintained network of parks open and accessible to all now is the time to speak up.

William Thornton is a second-generation native Arizonan, conservationist and outdoor enthusiast. He serves on the boards of the Arizona Heritage Alliance and Friends of Ironwood Forest. Contact him at

Applications Sought for Arizona Game and Fish Commission

Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department, September 1, 2016.  The Governor’s Office is currently accepting applications for the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. Applications must be received or postmarked no later than 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Applications received or postmarked after the deadline will not be considered.

Governor Doug Ducey is seeking members who are well-informed and passionate about Arizona wildlife and its long-term conservation. In accordance with Arizona law, the Game and Fish Commission is required to be politically balanced and representative of all 15 counties (i.e., no more than three commissioners may be from the same political party, and no two commissioners may be residents of the same county).

Therefore, this Commission vacancy is NOT available to registered residents of Apache, Coconino, Pima, or Yuma counties. Residents of all other counties – Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Maricopa, Mohave, Navajo, Pinal, Santa Cruz and Yavapai – are eligible and encouraged to apply.

Interested individuals may aazgf_logopply by clicking here: Boards and Commissions Application.

For further information about the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and its mission, visit Individuals also may contact the Governor’s Office of Boards and Commissions at (602) 542-2449.