Officials: Vandalism in Yuma parks cost taxpayers $200,000

[Source: Associated Press] — Officials say Yuma’s parks and recreation areas have seen a spike of vandalism in the past month.  Toilets are getting smashed, trees have been cut down, playground equipment is being taken apart, and even drinking fountains are being destroyed.  City spokesman Greg Hyland says there are about 80 drinking fountains throughout all the parks in Yuma and each one gets fixed about once a week — sometimes even daily.  Hyland says it cost city taxpayers more than $200,000 last year to repair property damage and clean up graffiti left behind by vandals.

Now with budget cuts, he says the city might not be able to fix everything at the parks, which are usually open daily from dawn to 11 p.m.  Since the parks belong to the community, city officials are asking for the public’s help in watching the parks more closely and reporting any acts of vandalism or graffiti they see.

Proposal would bring Yuma’s Quartermaster Depot under local control

[Source: Joyce Lobeck, Yuma Sun] — A new vision for Yuma Quartermaster Depot was proposed to the Yuma City Council that would return the historic attraction to local control and make it a true community park open at no charge to the public. The proposal was presented by Charles Flynn, executive director of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, who oversees the city’s efforts to redevelop the riverfront.

The idea came out of the uncertainty about the future of the park under Arizona State Parks, which has faced severe budget cutbacks.  Originally slated for closure earlier this year, the Yuma landmark was spared, but the days of operation were cut back. Flynn told the council he is concerned that reprieve may well be temporary in the face of the state’s budget deficit, now projected to be close to $4 billion.

If the state decides to close the park, that would come just as the riverfront redevelopment is finally coming to fruition with the recent opening of the Hilton Garden Inn and companion Pivot Point Conference, he said. “This is a critical component of riverfront development that is outside local control,” he said. The park provides green space and a historic attraction as well as a venue for special events.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Canceling Arizona Heritage Fund grants sends wrong message, says State Parks Board member

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One of 36 casualties of Arizona State Parks Board decision to suspend Heritage Fund grants: renovation work at Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix (photo: jumpingnorman, Virtual Tourist)

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — …The [Arizona State Park] board’s decision to use local grant funds for operating expenses drew some criticism from members of the public. The board has canceled dozens of grants to communities around the state, including some for projects already under construction. “We’re angry with what’s happened to the… grants that were suspended,” said Janice Miano, executive director of the Arizona Heritage Alliance.

Board member Larry Landry said canceling grants to keep parks open sent the wrong message to the Legislature.  “We’re making it too easy for them to say we’re going to rape and kill every other program to keep parks open,” Landry said.  “If they’re going to take our money, they need to have consequences, too.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Arizona State Parks board puts off decision on closing parks

Rick Fernau, mayor of Show Low, attended the Parks Board meeting to protest the cancellation of a grant that was to be used to create a park (Photo: Daniel Newhauser)

[Source: Daniel Newhauser, Cronkite News Service] — With one round of legislative budget cuts behind him and more looming, Arizona State Parks Executive Director Ken Travous said Friday that heart-wrenching decisions eventually will need to made about closing parks.  “Right now, were having to decide which of our children we’re going to feed,” he told members of the Arizona State Parks Board. “And they’re all my children.”

Board members decided Friday to wait on adding to three parks already shuttered until the Legislature determines how much it plans to cut from the Arizona State Parks’ budget for the fiscal year beginning in July.  However, the board granted the agency authority to limit park hours by up to two full days per week if necessary. After trimming operations and cutting grants for parks, trails and historic preservation, the agency has enough money to operate remaining parks if lawmakers don’t cut anything, Travous said.  But it would be a pipe dream to think they won’t, he added.  Travous said he expects cuts of up to $12 million for fiscal 2010 against a total budget of around $23 million.

Meanwhile, the board unanimously agreed to support HB 2088, sponsored by Rep. Warde Nichols, R-Chandler, which would help prevent park closures by temporarily reallocating money from the Growing Smarter Fund voters created in 1998 to conserve land.  That legislation, which would require a three-quarters vote from both chambers, was awaiting a final vote in the House.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]