Success: Reinstatement of millions of dollars for our state parks system

Gov. Doug Ducey flanked by Sen. Kate Brophy McGee and AHA Pres. Janice Miano with members of the AHA Board at SB 1241 signing. (Submitted photo)

“Endless pressure; endlessly applied” became the mantra for the advocates of the State Parks Heritage Fund — which after being approved by the voters with 66% of the vote in 1990 — was unceremoniously defunded 10 years ago.

These were lottery funds giving $10 million a year to Arizona Game & Fish (not rescinded) and $10 million a year to our state parks. Dollars invested in parks, trails, and historic preservation in every county of Arizona — with great return in the form of usage by Arizonans and our tourists.

These advocates were the Arizona Heritage Alliance (AHA) — a nonprofit formed to monitor legislation requiring the state to invest in Arizona’s outdoors — our state’s natural, cultural, historical and recreational resources. The first 20 years after citizens’ support and passage of the Initiative — realized over $368 million of investment.

But 10 years without this critical funding left our state parks system on life support. Only one park operates “in the black” — the internationally acclaimed Kartchner Caverns. Parks are an amenity — often intended to be free to the public — and not a revenue generator. So, infrastructure crumbled, park hours shortened or closed, precious historic buildings deteriorated, rangers disappeared. The Arizona We Want, commissioned by ASU’s Center for the Future of Arizona, confirmed that we covet our Natural Resources and further value our Health and Well-being, both of which were being compromised by this lack of funding.

With leadership from local activist Janice Miano, following in the footsteps of Beth Woodin and Tom Woods (sadly, neither lived long enough for this historic day), AHA introduced legislation or mounted an initiative effort nearly every year for 10 years – trying to reinstate these invaluable funds. “This year, building on past efforts, hundreds of our members and friends voiced their support” for this bill and hundreds more communicated with the legislature through phone calls, emails, letters or attendance at committee hearings, said Miano.

Their effective message: Arizona’s local, regional, and state parks and recreation facilities are economic development generators that encourage the spending of tourist dollars, attract businesses whose workforce choose jobs in locations with quality of life benefits, strengthen community cohesion, and increase property values. Historic preservation initiatives in our rural communities and urban areas promote economic development by creating jobs, revitalizing historic areas, increasing property values, and promoting heritage tourism.

Our most ardent advocates at the legislature, Sen. Kate Brophy McGee and Rep. Joanne Osborne (following Rep. Russell Jones’ bills in 2011 and 12), both Republicans led the bipartisan effort to shepherd SB 1241 through the legislature. This week the bill was formally signed in Governor Ducey’s office! Next efforts will be to ensure the Fund has dollars allocated through the budget process.

The work of the Arizona Heritage Alliance took 10 years of unwavering effort, resiliency, commitment and creativity. But when you head up north to cool Dead Horse Ranch, get wet at Lake Havasu, encounter fields of wildflowers at Picacho Peak, frolic among the Red Rock, or are content to just know that resources will again be available for our seventeen state parks — thank the Heritage Fund, the Arizona State Lottery, the Arizona Heritage Alliance, and your state elected officials. Know you must be vigilant and tenacious now to protect our most precious Arizona natural resources — parks, open space, trails, historic preservation investments, outdoor recreation, open space, non-motorized trails, outdoor and environmental education, and historic preservation. “Endless pressure; endlessly applied.”

Editor’s Note: Sam Kathryn Campana is a former Scottsdale mayor and AHA board member.

Arizona Legislature Approves Senate Bill 1241 to Restore State Parks Heritage Fund

Arizona Senate Bill 1241 (state parks board; heritage fund) – introduced by Senator Kate Brophy McGee (R-Paradise Valley) and co-sponsored by Senators Paul Boyer, Heather Carter, Sine Kerr, Tony Navarrete, Lisa Otondo, and Frank Pratt – has been transmitted to Governor Doug Ducey for his review and signature. SB1241 restores the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund to be funded by grants, donations, and direct appropriations until Arizona Lottery encumbrances are repaid and removed.

House Bill 2701 (state parks; lottery; heritage fund) as also introduced this session by Representative Joanne Osborne (R-Buckeye) and co-sponsored by her House colleagues Andres Cano, Regina Cobb, David Cook, Tim Dunn, Charlene Fernandez, John Kavanagh, and Ben Toma, as well as Senator Sine Kerr. Although this bill whizzed through committees and the House and Senate, it was held as a budget bill. HB2701 would not only have put back the Heritage Fund into statute, but it would have provided full funding of $10 million from the Arizona Lottery – its original funding source from 1991 to 2009.

“It has been ten years since the State Parks Board was forced to cancel or suspend $11.7 million in Heritage Fund grants already awarded and contracted. It has been a long, hard journey to restore the Heritage Fund, but we finally did it,” said Janice Miano, Arizona Heritage Alliance Board President. “This year, building on past efforts, hundreds of our members and friends voiced their support for one or both bills via the Legislature’s Request to Speak system and hundreds more communicated through phone calls, emails, letters, or attendance at committee hearings.”

“If anything, we’re tenacious. We won’t give up until the State Parks Heritage Fund is 100% whole again. We’re thankful to our bill sponsors, all legislators, and our friends for making great progress this year,” said Russ Jones, Alliance Board Member and former State Representative who introduced bills in 2011 and 2012 to restore the Fund.

ABOUT THE ARIZONA HERITAGE ALLIANCE
Formed in 1992, the Arizona Heritage Alliance is a non-profit 501-c-3 organization that is funded solely with private donations, grants, and memberships. The Alliance’s mission is to protect, preserve, and enhance Arizona’s historic, cultural, and natural heritage by protecting the integrity and voter intent of the Game and Fish Heritage Fund; working to restore the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund; monitoring state legislative and agency activity; and educating Arizonans about the benefits of wildlife, open space, parks, and historic and cultural resources.

ADVOCACY ALERT – SB 1241 and HB 2701, both State Parks Heritage Fund bills, move forward.  Please contact your Senators & Representatives

Source:  Arizona Heritage Alliance Alert – March 10, 2019

Dear Friends of the Heritage Fund

Arizona voters approved the creation of the Arizona Heritage Fund in 1990; The Heritage Fund originally allocated $10 million per year of Lottery monies to Game & Fish and another $10 million to State Parks. From 1991 to 2007, the State Parks Heritage Fund served our state well with its dedication to parks, outdoor recreation, open space, non-motorized trails, outdoor and environmental education, and historic preservation awarding 579 grants totaling $24,179,567 and supporting projects in every County in our State. However, as many of us remember, the State Parks portion of the Heritage Fund was defunded and eliminated from statute during the Great Recession.

The Arizona Heritage Alliance was formed in 1992 to help protect and educate about the Heritage Fund which was passed by Voter Initiative in 1990 with nearly a two-thirds majority of the vote. For the last decade the Heritage Alliance has been fighting to reinstate the State Parks Heritage Fund which was eliminated from statute in 2010 during budget negotiations, after 20 years of successful projects!! That’s a decade of lost income to Arizona’s communities. Game & Fish has continuously received their $10 million without a stop.

The Arizona Heritage Alliance Legislative Task Force has been working closely with our Sponsors Senator Kate Brophy McGee (LD28) and Representative Joanne Osborne (LD13).  It is our hope that this Legislature restores the Fund after satisfying all other current encumbrances, and to bring the Fund back to effect in a responsible and deliberate manner.

Senator Kate Brophy McGee’s Senate Bill 1241 (state parks; heritage fund) puts the State Parks Heritage Fund back into statute. There is no dedicated funding attached to this bill, however when Lottery encumbrances are repaid and removed, it will receive its $10 million from the Lottery as intended. It will also open the door for grants, donations, and direct appropriations. This Bill flew through the Senate with a vote of 30-0. It is now in the House.

Representative Joanne Osborne’s House Bill 2701 (state parks;lottery; heritage fund) would restore the State Parks Heritage Fund with $10 million in annual funding from the Arizona Lottery as originally supported by Arizona voters in 1990. HB2701 went through the House and is currently in the Senate and will be included in the Budget process, because it has funding attached.

We are almost there!!!
Please contact your Senators & Representatives
this week to voice your opinion in support of HB2701 & SB1241.

With the success of HB2701 & SB1241, the State Parks Heritage Fund will be back in statute which was the Voters’ original intent and the Fund will once again be whole and functioning, providing countless jobs, community pride, and potential for increased tourism to both city and rural areas.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at mail@azheritage.org or call 602-528-7500. Thank you for all your support.  We can’t make this happen without you, so let’s do this!!!

Janice Miano
President, Board of Directors
The Arizona Heritage Alliance
azheritage.org

Program that gave millions to restore parks could be coming back under new bill

Source – Andrew Nicla, Arizona Republic – Published February 22, 2019

Arizona parks and other public spaces could soon get millions of dollars of needed funding if one state lawmaker gets her way.

Rep. Joanne Osborne, R-Goodyear, is shepherding House Bill 2701, which would revive the now empty Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund that once gave millions each year to restoring and preserving parks, as well as maintaining and developing other outdoor areas. The bill passed a key committee vote Tuesday.

The fund was established by a voter initiative in 1990 that passed by a wide margin, but was drained during the Great Recession when the state was short on cash. At the time, the fund received $20 million annually and split that money between parks and wildlife preservation. The wildlife grant program, the Game and Fish Heritage Fund, remains funded through lottery money.

Before the parks fund was phased out in 2010, it received $10 million from state lottery money and was divvied up by a commission in a series of grants to cities that applied. This new bill would bring back the program into state statute and secure that lottery money.

Meanwhile, there’s a different bill moving through the Senate introduced by Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, which would put the program into state statute but not secure funds.

If the House bill 2701  is passed, according to the language, it would secure immediate funding and split up the money like this:

  • 50 percent to outdoor recreation, open space development, restoration or renovation projects.
  • 30 percent to historic preservation projects.
  • 10 percent to non-motorized trails.
  • 10 percent for outdoor and environmental education.

Earlier attempts to revive fund failed

That money is crucial to many now-halted projects that once got funding from the shuttered grant program. Between 1991 and 2006, the program awarded more than $24 million through 579 grants. Phoenix received $3.6 million from 48 grants.

Ever since the fund went away, both Democrats and Republicans have crafted bills in hopes of reviving it, but those never made it far at the Capitol because lawmakers couldn’t find room in the budget.

A network of trails across Oracle State Park makes it a popular destination with hikers and mountain bikers.On Tuesday night, Osborn pitched the idea to a groggy House committee, which seemed delighted to talk about something everyone agreed on after bickering for hours over water law. During her presentation to the committee, Osborn called the bill “our bill,” a nod to the wave of support from voters in the ‘90s, and said the time to reinstate it was well past due.

“It really is our bill because there were many voters of the state that wanted this to go forward,” Osborne said, adding that this is the “last item from the recession to be put back into the lottery funding.”

This is Osborne’s first session at the Capitol and she chose to support this, she said, because she felt obligated to help preserve the heritage and history of the state her family has been in since the 1800s.

“It’s the people of Arizona that wanted this for so long and I’m happy to be able to put it (the fund) back in its rightful place,” Osborne told The Republic.

Osborne and Brophy McGee were approached by members of the Arizona Heritage Alliance, a non-profit aiming to protect the fund. The group searched for lawmakers who could likely pass the measure, after spending months earning support from state lottery and Game and Fish officials and other stakeholders. So far, both bills have earned near-unanimous support in committees, advancing farther than most in previous years. But regardless of that support, there appears to be no certainty of refilling the account right now. Even if the House bill passes, it won’t necessarily guarantee complete immediate funding because it relies on lottery money, which is still tied up in other financing. When the fund was swept away, it carried some debt to the lottery with it. If funding was secured, it could take many years to fully repay.

Without money, rural projects languish

The longer the fund remains dry, according Lani Lott, the Alliance’s executive director, the longer some projects in rural communities outside of the state’s larger counties could remain on hold. Lott said many local and regional parks haven’t been able to make improvements, many parks are needing deferred maintenance and new parks that are coming may also need help.

“Everything has just been kind of not moving forward on certain levels in terms of those historic preservation projects and other improvements,” Lott said, adding that some grants had to be given back.

“But we have a lot of support from organizations across the state who’ve all seen the value of the Heritage Fund when it was in place,” Lott said. “I think if people love parks, historic preservation, visiting state parks in Arizona, I’d encourage them to support this.”

The Heritage Alliance has worked with a handful of other environmental groups to see this through, but there are few people who have supported the program for as long as Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. Tuesday’s hearing was one of many she’s attended to advocate for the fund’s revival, and has pushed for it long before she was an environmental lobbyist at the Capitol.

The fund is among a long list of programs and political interests grasping at the state’s budget surplus, which could also invest money into it if the lottery couldn’t otherwise. Bahr thinks the extra money helps push their case to jump-start the program and the bipartisan support so far has her and other advocates more optimistic than before that this could actually get done.

“There’s a greater understanding of the values it provided and can provide again,” Bahr said.

“What’s not to like?” she said. “It really is a fund that benefits communities throughout the state, both urban and rural communities, not just one area.”

Andrew Nicla covers the environment for the Republic. Reach him at andrew.nicla@gannett.com or on Twitter @AndrewNicla.

Environmental coverage on azcentral.com and in the Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Follow the azcentral and Arizona Republic environmental reporting team at environment.azcentral.com and at OurGrandAZ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.