7 ways to pay for great state parks

[Source: Arizona Republic Editorial] – The ominous clouds hanging over Arizona State Parks need to start raining money. Parks managers struggle to protect valuable resources with no money from the General Fund. Unique remnants of Arizona’s heritage have lost dedicated money streams meant to protect them.

At risk are playgrounds for urban Arizonans and sources of tourism for rural residents. At stake is the chance for your children and grandchildren to travel through time from cave formations that began 200,000 years ago to prehistoric Indian ruins to a Spanish presidio to a territorial prison — and wrap it all up by waterskiing across a man-made lake.

What’s at stake is something irreplaceable and beloved. “It’s time people got their dander up and told the Legislature this is one thing that touches their lives,” says Ken Travous, former executive director of Arizona State Parks.

Here’s what people should tell lawmakers:

Restore the State Parks share of the Heritage Fund. In 1990, voters approved $10 million a year from Lottery revenues for parks. During the recession, lawmakers took that funding. Several attempts to restore it have failed at the Legislature. It’s past time to give it back.

Restore the authority of State Parks to spend money raised from gate fees, gift shops and other money-making enterprises. Park managers used to put increased revenue to work for the parks. Now they need legislative authorization to spend the money the parks make. Beginning in 2003, that enhancement fund was swept by lawmakers and used to supplant General Fund appropriations.

Encourage innovation and resource development through parks’ concessions and development. Parks Director Bryan Martyn is looking at a plan to contract with a single concessionaire for all the state parks. It could result in more investment in the parks if the private contractor serving big money-makers, such as Lake Havasu, also is required to develop resources in less-visited parks. The State Parks Board needs to carefully scrutinize any contract to make sure it serves the public’s best interest.

Recognize the need to create additional sources of permanent dedicated funding. A 2009 Morrison Institute report put the cost of operating and maintaining the parks at $40 million to $44 million a year. The current budget is half that. In addition, the parks have at least $80 million in capital needs. The idea of a surcharge or voluntary donation on vehicle registration has been floated — and rejected by lawmakers — since 2009. It is a painless way for people to add $5 or $10 every year to benefit state parks.

Dedicated means dedicated. Protect funds that benefit the parks from legislative raids or sweeps.

Restore the authority of the State Parks Board to hire and fire the parks director. That position became a political appointee with 2012 changes in the state personnel system. The director now serves at the pleasure of the governor. The parks board lost clout. The director lost the independence of being insulated from a governor’s whims.

Face facts. “No state parks system in the United States pays for itself from earned revenue,” according to the Morrison Institute report, “The Price of Stewardship: The Future of Arizona’s State Parks.” Parks need more than they get from Arizona’s Legislature. They deserve more.

Arizonans demonstrated their support by establishing the Heritage Fund in 1990, and they reiterated that sentiment nearly two decades later when a Gallup Arizona poll released by the Center for the Future of Arizona found that “the state’s natural beauty and open spaces are seen by citizens as our greatest asset.”

It’s time to stop stiffing state parks.

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WHAT YOU CAN DO

Arizona State Parks are a resource for today and a promise for tomorrow. But short-sighted funding decisions imperil their future. You can help change that.

  • VISIT. Arizona’s state parks offer dazzling natural wonders, family recreational activities and authentic windows into Arizona’s history and prehistory. azstateparks.com
  • BE A CHAMPION. There’s an election coming up. Ask candidates for state office how they plan to support Arizona’s parks and let them know you want this to be a priority issue.
  • GET INVOLVED. More than a dozen parks have volunteer “friends” groups that provide fund-raising and other services for their chosen park. For information on joining or starting one: azstateparks.com/volunteer/v_foundation.html

Arizona State Parks Foundation is a non-profit that engages in advocacy, fund-raising, and other support. Visit their website at arizonastateparksfoundation.org  The Arizona Heritage Alliance is a non-profit that promotes and protects the Heritage Fund and its goals: azheritage.org

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ABOUT THIS SERIES

Arizona State Parks are a valuable resource in great peril. Stripped of funding during the recession, they struggle without state money and stagger under deferred maintenance. Yet they offer open spaces and outdoor recreation for a growing urban population and an economic engine for rural communities. Popular with the public, but lacking political support, funding solutions can help the parks deliver on their remarkable potential.

A big idea to close Arizona parks’ budget gap

[Source: Bryan Martyn, Arizona Republic Opinion] – Arizona State Parks and programs generate more than $300 million annually for rural economies thanks to the almost 2.5 million visitors exploring Arizona’s wide-open spaces.

Unfortunately, the legislative funding to keep parks healthy and promoting Arizona’s tourism has dwindled to almost nothing. Five years ago State Parks’ operating funds were swept by $81 million and the annual $10 million from the voter-approved Heritage Fund was eliminated.

To help overcome these operating fund losses and to create funding to mitigate an $80 million backlog in park maintenance projects, the agency made it a mission to review best business practices from around the country to help identify alternative funding sources.

One of the best business concepts is to create additional revenue by enhancing the services provided by private concessionaires.

The State Parks department utilizes eight concessionaires who provide valuable amenities and services within the parks. These concessions provide everything from boat rentals to fishing tackle.

Many of these small concession contracts are expiring soon, and these facilities are in need of new capital improvements. To address this issue, the agency is exploring the possibility of attracting a single concessionaire with the business acumen and financial strength to dramatically increase the agency’s concession revenues and provide amenities to help drive those revenues.

Arizona’s state parks directly and indirectly generate millions of dollars each year to boost Arizona’s tourism economies. Parks currently generate $13 million annually through gate fees to operate all parks and statewide agency programs.

The agency has 163 full-time employees, down from more than 400 in 2007. We effectively utilize 1,000 volunteers who donate $5 million worth of salaried time to help keep the parks operating.

Bryan Martyn is director of Arizona State Parks.

Story Highlights

  • State parks struggle to find the money to stay afloat
  • Staff and volunteers have performed valiantly
  • But hiring a single concessionaire could provide the financial acumen to improve amenities

State wants to change Becker Lake fishing rules

[Source: Karen Warnick, WMIcentral.com] – Kelly Meyer of the Game and Fish Department presented information at a public hearing at the Eagar Council chambers on changing the status of Becker Lake to catch and release only. The meeting was held Sept. 21 and about 30 to 40 people attended. The proposal by Game and Fish will be sent to the Game and Fish Commission in early October for a vote.

History of Becker Lake –“Becker Lake was created in 1880 by constructing a dam at the head of an old oxbow of the Little Colorado River,” according to Game and Fish. “The lake was used principally for irrigation purposes. However, a fishery did exist there. In 1973, the Becker family sold 338 deeded acres to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission which included the lake of approximately 100 surface-acres. In that year, the Commission directed the Arizona Game and Fish Department to manage Becker Lake as a quality trout fishery. Since that time, the Department has managed the lake as a ‘Blue Ribbon’ fishery with special regulations, such as motor restrictions, bag and possession limits, restricted methods of take and seasonal closures. In January 2002, the Department purchased an additional 291 acres of adjacent private land utilizing the Department’s Heritage Fund to protect and enhance stream and riparian habitat along the Little Colorado River for wildlife species of special concern.” [to read the full article click here].

Arizona Lake Campgrounds

[Source: Livestrong.com]

Overview

Photo source: Livestrong.com

Hikers, bikers and fishermen can definitely find themselves at home at some of Arizona’s lakes. Keeping active with a camping vacation can be a good way to stay healthy and release some stress. The spring, summer and fall months are prime season to get out to Arizona’s lake campgrounds, which are usually open from about May to the early fall. Some lake campgrounds, such as Fool Hollow Lake in eastern Arizona, are open to campers year-round.

Upper Lake Mary Campgrounds

Upper Lake Mary is a large lake in Flagstaff that’s well-stocked with a wide variety of fish. Located on federal land, this destination offers camping opportunities from early May to mid-September. In addition to two campground areas, the Upper Lake Mary recreational area offers boat ramps, picnic areas, hiking trails and fishing areas. The Upper Lake Mary campgrounds are fully developed with clean drinking water, cooking grills and maintained toilets. The fee for camping at Upper Lake Mary is $6, and for $35 campers can purchase a seasonal pass, as of August 2010.

Ashurst Lake Campgrounds

Like Upper Lake Mary, the Ashurst Lake Campground is managed by the federal government as part of the Coconino National Forest. This pristine campground, a mere 20 miles from Flagstaff, offers free camping from May to mid-October. There are 50 camping spots on the grounds, and each provides drinking water, toilets and cooking grill areas. According to the Forest Service, Ashurst Lake is unique among lakes its size in Arizona for its ability to hold water throughout the dry season. The lake is equipped with a boat ramp and excellent fishing opportunities. Anglers can expect to find rainbow and brook trout.

Patagonia State Park

The 250-acre Patagonia State Park in southeastern Arizona might be one of the state’s better kept secrets. The campground is positioned on a man-made lake, and opportunities abound for avid hikers, anglers and rowers. The lake is stocked for fishing from October through March, while campgrounds are available for $17, as of August 2010. Campgrounds are fairly well-developed with restrooms, showers and electric hook-ups. Park entrances are open to campers from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m., but overnight stays are allowed.

Lyman Lake State Park

One of Arizona’s lake campgrounds that provides cabin or yurt camping is Lyman Lake Park, located in the eastern part of the state. Lyman Lake Park is also fairly big, with over 1,200 square acres. It costs $50 to rent one of Lyman Lake’s cabins and $35 for a yurt, as of August 2010. Tent and RV camping sites are also available for less. Cabins and yurts are open from late May to early September. This Arizona lake campground is a good spot for hikers and tourists as well, who can participate every weekend in a guided tour of the area’s historical features–the former Rattlesnake Point Pueblo, a native American settlement.

Fool Hollow Lake Campground

Some Arizona lake campgrounds provide opportunities for year-round camping and recreation. One of these is the Fool Hollow Lake, also located in eastern Arizona. This area is a state park with developed campgrounds, featuring both electrified and non-electric campsites. In addition, these sites share showers, restrooms and picnic areas. Fishing is available and Fool Hollow Lake, too, including rainbow trout in abundant numbers, according to Arizona State Parks.

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