Governor Brewer signs budget that eliminates programs, including Heritage Fund

[Source: Sarah Buduson, KPHO TV] — The Arizona package of budget bills signed by Gov. Jan Brewer on March 18 permanently eliminates more than half a dozen state programs, including a program for uninsured children and a state parks preservation fund.

KidsCare is a program that provides health insurance for children of the working poor.  Under the new budget, the program has been eliminated and the 38,000 children who are currently enrolled will no longer have health insurance, according to Monica Coury, Intergovernmental Relations Assistant Director for AHCCCS.  “Our concern is that would mean more emergency room visits in hospitals and things that might have otherwise been avoided with routine medical care,” she said.  Coury also said eliminating KidsCare means Arizona will be the only state in the country that does not have a program for uninsured children.

The FY10-11 Arizona budget also eliminates the state parks’ share of the Heritage Fund. The voter initiated fund used money from the state lottery to preserve parks, trails and historical sites as well as build ballparks and soccer fields, according to Janice Miano, a member of the Arizona Heritage Alliance, a group that fought to preserve the fund.  “All the things that make Arizona a unique place — where people want to visit and to live — it’s gone,” she said.  [Note: To read he full article and view the video, click here.]

Over 200 Arizonans rally for parks and conservation at Environmental Day at the Capitol

[Source: Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club 2-1-2010] — Today at the Arizona State Capitol, more than 25 groups and over 200 people rallied for Arizona State Parks.  Speakers at the rally included House Minority Whip, Representative Chad Campbell; State Parks Board Chair, Reese Woodling; Richard Dozer, Chairman, Governor’s Sustainable State Parks Task Force; Bill Meek, Chairman, Arizona State Parks Foundation; and Elizabeth Woodin, President, Arizona Heritage Alliance.  They all focused on the challenges to the parks, but importantly, on what everyone can do to help save the State Parks and the State Parks system.

Arizona State Parks’ system consists of 27 parks and three natural areas and includes places such as Homolovi Ruins, the Tubac Presidio, Lost Dutchman State Park, Kartchner Caverns, among many others.  Recently, the State Parks Board voted to close 13 of these parks due to the lack of operational funding.  Four additional parks had previously closed: Jerome State Historic Park, McFarland State Historic Park, Oracle State Park, and the San Rafael Natural Area.  By mid-year 2010, more than half of our State Park system will be closed and, without additional funding, nine more parks will likely close later this year.

The parks are closing because the Arizona Legislature has left them with almost no operational dollars.  Arizona State Parks has had no increase in operating funds since 2002, a limited capital budget since 2003, and unmet capital needs of $150 million.  The agency currently stands at a 40 percent personnel vacancy rate.  The latest cuts by the Legislature will mean the loss of 70 more positions.  At parks where law enforcement, public safety, and water safety must be provided, reductions in staff means those parks must close.  State Parks was prepared to limp along with a seasonal park system on $19 million of revenue composed mainly of the enhancement fund (park entrance fees), state lake improvement fund (gas and usage tax), and lottery revenues (Heritage Fund).  However, the Arizona Legislature diverted and swept away about half of that, leaving State Parks with almost no source of operating funds.

“These 30 exceptional places have been conserved over the past half century for the recreational, environmental, and cultural enjoyment of all Arizonans,” said Sandy Bahr with the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter.  “They represent our history and our future.  We must do better as stewards of these amazing resources.”

Open letter to Arizona’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee

Dear Chairman Kavanagh and members of the JLBC:

The Arizona Heritage Alliance’s mission is to protect and educate about the Heritage Fund, its purposes, potential, and accomplishments, and to ensure that the Fund’s money is spent as it was established by initiative statute concieved for and by the people in 1990.

With that mission in mind, we respectfully request that you review favorably the Arizona State Parks Board’s budget transfer request which includes the return of Heritage Fund grant money to its rightful grantees from the 2009 grant cycle.  That grant money already awarded and in process of going on the ground was “frozen” by the Board in February 2009 following deep cuts made by the Legislature to the Arizona State Parks Budget.  The Legislature then permitted the Parks Board to use “other funds” (including Heritage Funds) to make up for the sweeps.  Heritage Fund grant awards were therefore “frozen” in February 2009 by the Parks Board.  This action caused great hardship to the grantees, their projects which included many historic monuments, and to their communities.  At the August Parks Board meeting, its members voted to “unfreeze” that grant money pending a positive review of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

The Arizona Heritage Alliance is hereby adding its voice to that of the Arizona State Parks Board in requesting that you permit them now to restore that funding so that they can release it to the awarded grantees at long last.

We appreciate this opportunity to share our concerns with you with the hope that the Arizona State Parks Board will be able to honor its commitments to those many grantees.


Elizabeth T. Woodin
Arizona Heritage Alliance

Five Arizona Heritage Fund projects left hanging in Florence

[Source: Bonnie Bariola, Special to the Florence Reminder] — As the result of the Legislature reducing funding for Arizona State Parks, the Arizona State Parks Board has approved the use of Heritage Grant Funds to be used for State Parks operations.   State Parks has consequently suspended 71 Heritage Fund grants; five are located in Florence and are worth a total of $617,284.  These grants would have been matched 50/50 by the owners of each of the properties, which would have provided over a $1.2 million investment in Florence.

In 1990 the Arizona Heritage Fund was approved by two-thirds of Arizona voters.  This voter initiative designated $10 million from the Arizona Lottery funds each year to be used for grants administered by Arizona State Parks.  The Arizona Heritage Alliance is a nonprofit organization created in 1992 to protect Arizona’s Heritage Fund and its objectives.  It is guided by a Board of Directors drawn from a broad base of outdoor sports, environmental, conservation, and historic preservation organizations that helped pass the 1990 statewide voter initiative creating the Heritage Fund.

Members of the Heritage Alliance released a statement, “This fund has become a nationally acclaimed quality of life and economic development tool that supports and protects our state’s parks, open space, wildlife habitat, environmental education, trails, historic and cultural sites, and public access to public land.  It was not designated as operating funds for State Parks.  Since 1990, more than $338.5 million of Heritage Funds have been invested in preserving and enhancing an incredible array of natural, cultural, and recreational resources in every Arizona county and legislative district.  The economic multiplier factor brings that number up close to $1 billion.”

A total of 71 Heritage Fund grants totaling $11.4 million had been approved and were from 0 – 91% complete when the State Parks Board unanimously voted to suspend them.  The Heritage Alliance reported, “Many are ‘on the hook’ with signed agreements they cannot keep without the funds, as well as half-restored and roofless historic properties, half-built park structures that are now an eyesore and possible safety hazard, and fragile archaeological artifacts that now are not in compliance with federal standards. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]