Open-space planning must start early, state parks director says

Ken Travous, Arizona State Parks[Source: Sonu Munshi, Cronkite News Service] — Leaders and citizens are failing to consider spaces that should be preserved at all cost as Arizona grows, and there’s no way to replace what’s being lost, the executive director of Arizona State Parks says.  “Planning in the West is a four-letter word; it’s a curse word.  ‘You’re getting in the way of people’s rights to do what they want,'” Ken Travous said in an interview with Cronkite News Service.  “Well yeah, you are.  At some point in time, let’s get over it and talk about what’s good for our neighbors also.”

Travous said a combination of factors keeps Arizona from planning for open space ahead of growth, including a shortage of public funding for land acquisition and newcomers who lack a sense of Arizona’s history and long-term needs.  “There has to be some kind of a recognition that the cost of growth needs to be addressed in the early stage so it’s healthy growth, so it’s not malignant growth,” Travous said.  “It doesn’t all need to be saved,” he said.  “But let’s take a couple years, and let’s take a couple million dollars, and let’s get some good minds together and determine what is worth saving at all costs.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Put a price on priceless (Arizona Republic editorial)

[Source: Arizona Republic] — The stalactites at Kartchner Caverns and the quail at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge have something in common.  Inadequate budgets are threatening them.  Two of Arizona’s premier systems of recreation and preservation are at risk.

Our Arizona State Parks agency has developed a huge maintenance backlog, because budget cuts have forced it to use up capital funds for everyday operating expenses.  Our eight federal wildlife refuges are losing 16 percent of their staff.  It’s part of a national cutback by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to make up for shortfalls in funding.  In both cases, we risk long-term damage from shortsighted penny pinching.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Arizona’s parks are too valuable to let fall apart (Arizona Republic editorial)

[Source: Kathleen Ingley, Arizona Republic] — If you’ve slipped and bumped down the shoot of water at Slide Rock near Sedona.  If you’ve watched troops dressed in Civil War uniforms re-create the skirmish at Picacho Peak.  If you’ve climbed around Tonto Natural Bridge north of Payson.  If you’ve seen the glistening formations at Kartchner Caverns.  Then you’ve got a reason to celebrate.

Happy birthday, state parks!  Exactly 50 years ago today, Gov. Ernest McFarland signed legislation creating the framework for the parks system.  You’ve also got a lot of reasons to feel outraged.  Our parks are suffering from a shameful lack of maintenance and capital spending.  The budget was gutted five years ago, when the state was in a financial crunch, and funding is just being restored, leaving a huge backlog of repairs.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Officials: State parks need $43 million in repairs, upgrades

Bartlett Cabin, a landmark at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park thought to have been built in the 1920s, once served as a vacation home for Marge and Augustus Bartlett. Arizona State Parks, which purchased the land containing the natural bridge, would like to renovate the cabin.  Photo Tucson Citizen.[Source: Mike Meyer, Cronkite News Service] — The lodge at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park used to serve as an idyllic resort for vacationers.  Now the guest rooms stand vacant. Paint has peeled away from the ceiling and walls, revealing gaping holes in the drywall.  Built in 1927 by the land’s original homesteaders, the Goodfellow family, the lodge was one of the first guest ranches in the area and operated as a privately owned resort until the state purchased the land in October 1990.

Since then, the lodge, which is now used for meetings, has been hard-hit by water damage.  The roof shingles have deteriorated and support beams in the attic have been eaten away by leaking water.  The lodge doesn’t meet fire codes and needs repairs to its fire suppression system, park manager John Boeck said.  Whether or not the lodge is repaired depends in large part on the state Legislature, which is considering the State Parks Board budget.  “Sometimes they look at state parks as a nicety, not a necessity,” Boeck said.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]