Funding cuts imperil marina plan

[Source: John Rudolf, Lake Havasu News-Herald] — A move by the deficit-challenged state legislature to sweep millions of dollars from the State Parks department could imperil a plan to build a new marina at Contact Point.  “I would not be candid if I did not say I was not nervous,” said Bill Porter, a volunteer member of the Arizona State Parks board, and a key supporter of the marina project.  “It’s at a critical point.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Three legislators kill popular ATV bill (Tucson Citizen editorial)

[Source: Tucson Citizen] — When is three greater than 37?  When the Legislature starts counting votes.  A bill with wide bipartisan support in the Legislature and broad backing from groups that traditionally don’t get along with each other was killed this week.  The bill, which would have required that all-terrain vehicles be registered and owners pay a user fee, was co-sponsored by 37 legislators, more than one-third of the total.

HB 2573 easily passed the House 43-13, with four members not voting.  It was sent to the Senate and assigned to the Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee.  The bill died Wednesday on a 3-3 vote.  The only southern Arizona senator on the committee, Marsha Arzberger, a Democrat from Willcox, voted to support the bill. 

ATV safety and control legislation is a definite need in Arizona, and the bill had support on the basis of widespread concurrence on that point.  Off-road vehicle use has risen sharply, by 350 percent since 1998, the Arizona Game & Fish Department reports.  That has exacerbated the issues of rider safety and environmental damage.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

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.]