Vandalism of public property along local Heritage Fund trail

[Source: Derek Jordan, The Sierra Vista Herald/Bisbee Daily Review] – Police are investigating a report of criminal damage at Cochise College High Desert Trail in Sierra Vista after several information plaques along the trail were found to be defaced or damaged.

Along the 600-foot path are about a dozen laminated information panels atop steel frames, many of which are now scarred with the letters “BK” carved into the plastic. BK is most likely Blood killer. It’s gang graffiti,” said Officer John Papatrefon, one of two officers who responded to the outdoor teaching area located off of North Columbo Avenue between the college and Berean Academy around 8 a.m. Friday morning. One of these panels was torn from its stand and discarded in a nearby wash, while others, including a stone bench, were sprayed with black paint. Some of the destruction is not new, according to the officer.

“Some of the damage has been there a while,” although the sign that was broken off most likely happened the night before or early that morning, Papatrefon said. “I’m taking this a little personal,” said Jamie O’Rourke, a facilities maintenance technician with the college and the one who discovered the damage during his morning rounds. “I made all those steel frames.”

The trail, which was funded with a combination of grant money from the Heritage Fund Program of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, as well as donations and matching funds and labor from the college, was opened in June 2003. Surrounded by native plant and wildlife, the path serves as an outdoor classroom for instructors, said Tasneem Ashraf, chair of the Science Department.

Arizona agencies get creative to cope with budget cutbacks

[Source: Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic] –  Since mid-2008, legislators have cut $3.4 billion from state spending.

Most of the cuts were lump-sum reductions. Rather than get into the nitty-gritty of myriad state programs, lawmakers left the details to state agencies. And those agencies responded to the smaller budgets in a variety of ways – from imposing fees on users to ending some services.

The agencies also had to adjust to the consequences of programs being terminated, from juggling lawsuits to referring people to non-profits or other groups that might be able to fill the gaps.

The following examples detail ways state government has responded to a budget that is 20 percent smaller than what it was four years ago [to read the full article click here].

Push to protect Arizona’s parks from budget cuts gains steam

[Source: Shaun McKinnon, AZ Republic, Page 1] –  Arizonans overwhelmingly support state parks and open spaces and believe such areas contribute to a region’s economic health, but few people understand how the state pays for its parks, a new survey says. That lack of knowledge could imperil a parks system already weakened by budget cuts if lawmakers don’t hear from enough voters who want open spaces protected, according to Arizona Forward, a newly organized group that commissioned the survey.

“Nothing is stronger than grass roots, with people calling their elected officials saying, ‘This is important to me, I want my parks to be open,’ ” said Diane Brossart, acting director of the group. “But I think we take these things for granted, and until there’s a crisis, people are not engaged with the issues.” [to read the full article click here].

Parks board still dreams of the future

[Source: Payson Roundup, Peter Aleshire, 7-20-2010] – Get through the beating. But don’t stop dreaming.

That could serve as the motto of the Arizona State Parks system, reflected recently at a rare retreat and strategy session that brought the board to one of its most endangered treasures: Tonto Natural Bridge. The state parks board finds itself in the position of a scrawny kid getting punched out by a bully after his lunch money. The system is bruised, bloody and curled into the fetal position — but still making plans for college.

The world’s largest natural travertine arch formed an apt setting for the discussion, since the park system’s partnership with Payson to keep the Rim Country’s best known tourist attraction open served as a model to save other parks. As a result of the last-minute rescues by Payson and other counties and towns, the state parks board approved agreements to keep most of the sites in the 28-park system open — despite drastic reductions in its budget. [to read the full article click here].