Starving our parks (Arizona Republic editorial)

[Source: Arizona Republic] — Watch out!  Falling plaster!  Arizona’s state parks are literally crumbling.  Chunks of plaster are coming off the walls at Douglas Mansion in Jerome.  Parts of the sidewalk around the historic building are closed off to protect the public.

The Legislature slashed park spending and raided the capital funds in the budget crisis of 2002.  The money wasn’t restored when revenues were rolling in.  Arizona State Parks, with jewels that range from the underground wonders of Kartchner Caverns to the scenic and recreational pleasures of Picacho Peak, has an operating budget of $26 million — about $4 per Arizonan.  Now, with the state facing a massive shortfall, the legislative budget proposal would slash park spending further.

On top of that, there’s a breathtakingly illogical proposal to cut park fees.  Senate Bill 1458 would shrink the cost of an annual pass by 20 percent for Arizona residents.  It passed the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Rural Affairs on a 4-3 vote.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Bill seeks off-highway vehicle fee to fund restoration

An illegal trail created by off-highway vehicles scars the Desert Wells Multi-Use Area near Florence Junction in fall 2007. Officials say a trail blazed by one rider invariably attracts more riders, eventually compacting the soil and destroying plant life. A bipartisan group of lawmakers backed by a diverse coalition including conservationists and riders groups is advocating for a bill that would make owners of off-highway vehicles pay a registration fee that would be used for cleanup, education and enforcement. The bill also would clarify and toughen the definition of illegal off-highway vehicle use. Photo by Jonathan Cooper, Tucson Citizen.[Source: Daniel J. Quigley, Cronkite News Service] — Owners of off-highway vehicles would pay an annual $20-$25 registration fee under a bill that supporters say would help repair damaged landscapes, promote responsible riding, and cut down on dust.  It’s the second straight year Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale, has introduced a bill calling for an off-highway vehicle fee.  Last year’s failed by one vote in the Senate.

Weiers said this session’s version, HB 2573, stands a better chance because it has bipartisan support and the backing of groups representing riders, conservationists, vehicle dealers, and others.  It has nearly 40 sponsors and co-sponsors from both parties.  “Every year we wait damage is being done that’s going to take centuries to repair,” Weiers said.  “And we can’t afford, cannot afford, to keep putting this off.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Saving state parks is business of all (Arizona Republic letter to the editor)

[Source: Suzanne Pfister, Phoenix] — Kudos to The Arizona Republic for highlighting the plight of our wonderful state parks (“State-park cash crunch threatens links to past,” Sunday).  As a former Arizona State Parks Board member, I was lucky enough to see the parks firsthand and meet the wonderful staff and volunteers who keep our state treasures alive and protected.  But all their hard work and their generous spirit cannot make up for the years of limited state support.  We are at risk of seeing these places crumble — such as the Tombstone Courthouse and the Douglas Mansion in Jerome — and some of our special areas for conservation put at risk.

I would encourage everyone who cares about our open spaces and our terrific state parks to visit the Arizona State Parks Foundation website and sign up to get more information about the state budget.  You can lend your voice and your support to make sure we get the kind of financial support from the state that we need.  Even in times of fiscal constraint, it is important to maintain our historical places and protect the natural areas we hold so dear.  Your input can make a difference, but it is up to all of us to act.

State-park cash crunch threatens links to past

[Source: John Stanley, Arizona Republic] — The Arizona State Parks system is suffering a midlife crisis.  The 50-year-old system is showing the signs of age that only money can fix.  Budget shortfalls have meant that funds designated for repairs have gone instead to operating costs.

Jack A. Brown“We’ve bled ’em down,” said Rep. Jack Brown, D-St. Johns, speaking of the Arizona Legislature’s appropriations for parks.  “We’ve said, ‘Wait till next year.’  We need to do better by our parks, build them up instead of trying to close them.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]