Arizona State Parks unfreezes grants; funding allows 53 projects to resume

[Source: Arizona Republic, Amy B. Wang, 10-04-2009] — The budget-beleaguered Arizona State Parks office recently released more than $6.1 million in Heritage Fund grants to benefit historic-preservation projects, trail maintenance, and local and regional parks.  In total, 53 projects around Arizona can move forward with the release of grant money that had been frozen for more than six months, the result of state budget woes that had trickled down to the parks department.  “We are extremely happy to release funding for these very worthy trails, historic preservation and park projects,” said Renée Bahl, executive director of the parks, in a statement.  Twenty-two other projects that had been due to receive Heritage Fund grants were canceled.

The Heritage Fund, created by voters in 1990, is funded by Arizona Lottery sales.  Up to $10 million in proceeds are designated annually for the conservation of the state’s wildlife and natural areas.  The State Parks Board appropriates the money to projects each year.  In February, the department’s grim financial situation forced the board to freeze all grant money.  “It was frozen because we didn’t know that we’d have enough money to operate the agency,” said parks spokeswoman Ellen Bilbrey, citing layoffs that could have affected the staff that worked with distributing the funds. [Note: To read the full story, click here.]

Newsweek magazine covers Arizona State Parks mess

[Source: Jessica Ramirez, Newsweek Magazine] — Ken Travous has spent the past month trying to get out of the red.  During a meeting with Arizona State Parks Board members Feb. 3, Travous, who serves as parks director, explained that statewide budget cuts would mean he’d have to close up to 11 state parks. The board naturally wanted to avoid such drastic measures and asked him to come back with “more options” for cutting $27 million.

Unfortunately, the options aren’t necessarily better.  Shutting down the parks would mean closing some of the oldest public lands in the state, a loss of about 31 jobs and roughly $50 million dollars in economic impact to the state. Plan B would mean asking employees to take furloughs, laying off up to 40 park workers, and cutting about $12 million in funds for community projects like local parks, trail developments, and historic preservation.  Without that funding, landscapers, carpenters, and plumbers hired by these communities would be out of work.  It’s this choice that made him feel like he’d been punched in the stomach every time he sits down at his desk.  “I have spent the last 23 years as the director of this state park system, building it up,” he says.  “Now I see it crumbling beneath my feet, and it makes me sick.”   [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Tucson couple starts website to save state parks & cultural sites

 

die080.aiHusband-and-wife team Alan Sorkowitz and Michele Rappoport have created a new website, seeitbeforeitcloses.com. Alan, a retired book publishing executive, and Michele, a retired marketing communications writer, moved to Tucson in 2006 and began learning about and appreciating the natural beauty and rich cultural, historical, and archaeological heritage of Arizona.

Alan enjoys hiking in the Sonoran desert and volunteering on archaeological digs.  He is a member of numerous state and local cultural organizations and serves as archivist for the Tubac/Santa Cruz chapter of the Arizona Archaeological Society. Michele designs and creates jewelry, much of which reflects the heritage of her new home state.

They created seeitbeforeitcloses.com in outrage over the threatened cuts to the Arizona state park system and to cultural sites — ancient Indian ruins, historic properties, arts centers, and others — being reported throughout the state.  “We didn’t move to Arizona to watch helplessly as its beauty and distinctiveness are lost to shortsighted budget cuts that threaten both Arizona’s tourism economy and the quality of life for its citizens,” says Alan. Michele underscores this point, saying, “Arizona’s parks are America’s parks. People come here to witness the majesty of a place they can experience nowhere else in the country.”

The goal for the website is to raise awareness and provide information as well as to raise funds that can be used to maintain Arizona parks and cultural sites and organizations.

Collaboration may put Papago Park in Phoenix on par with Central Park

[Source: Dianna M. Nanez, The Arizona Republic] – – A collaboration involving three Valley cities and a Native American community could put Papago Park on a par with New York City’s Central Park or San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  While some public projects, especially those needing the blessing of multiple government agencies, often run out of steam before they ever reach fruition, the stars seem to have aligned behind plans to revamp the Papago area.

A $576,897 bill for a consultant to assess the more than 1,500 acres of central desert land bordering Scottsdale and sprawling over Phoenix and Tempe would be a lofty goal, even in brighter economic times. But Tempe, Phoenix and Scottsdale, the cities leading the Papago Park effort, can thank Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community for covering more than half of the consultant fee. The Native American community awarded Tempe a $100,000 grant in 2007 and Phoenix two grants totaling $284,000 to develop a Papago Park master plan. That plan would involve developing a Web site for public input, looking at the area’s natural resources and facilities, studying the culture and historical ties dating to ancient times when the Hohokam Indians cultivated the land and balancing the area’s future development with preservation and educational efforts. The remainder of the funding is coming from $100,000 in Tempe bond funds and Phoenix is assessing a $100,000 contribution. [Note: to read this full article click here.]