Hopi Tribal Council approves resolution to reopen Homolovi Ruins State Historical Park

[Source: White Mountain Independent]

The Hopi Tribal Council approved a resolution that will keep the Homolovi Ruins State Historic Park open, allowing safeguards and protection of the cultural and religious site.

Resolution No. H-068-2010, sponsored by Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa and endorsed by Norman Honanie, was passed by the Council on Oct. 19 with a vote of 12-0. With the approved resolution, the Tribe entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona State Parks Board in an effort to assist with the operation and maintenance of the park -a move that will help preserve it.

The negotiated agreement allows the park to remain open thanks to the Hopi Tribe’s contribution, which will be used to employ park rangers and others working at the park. Funding for the park was designated by the Land Team in accordance with the agreement for the remainder of 2010 and is funded for Fiscal Year 2011. Funding for future years will be subject to the Council’s appropriations of additional funds.

According to the agreement, the park would be open and operated by State Parks for 12 months. There is an option to renew the agreement for two additional one-year periods. The tribe will provide $175,000 to subsidize the park operations and the State Parks will retain fees. The park will be subject to quarterly reviews of its operation by the State Parks and the Hopi Tribe.

Cedric Kuwaninvaya (Sipaulovi), Hopi Council Representative and member of the Hopi Land Team, is thankful for the agreement.

“I am glad the park will reopen and it will be safeguarded and protected,” Kuwaninvaya said. “It is because of the budget deficit, the Homolovi State Park was closed by the state. Hopi became worried that once again, the pot hunters could start desecrating our ancient homelands. Hopi began discussions with state park representatives, the City of Winslow and others to formulate a plan to keep the park open. Thus an agreement was developed and approved. As a result, we will protect and preserve our ancient homelands and share our cultural heritage.”

Earlier this year, the state’s budget deficit threatened funding for 19 of the state’s 28 parks, including Homolovi Ruins State Historic Park. Various entities and municipalities throughout the state began efforts to help fund the operations of state parks across the state. It is estimated that the budget for the state parks was drastically reduced from $28 million a few years ago to $18 million, this was an effort by state lawmakers to tackle the budget deficit.

The re-opening day of the Homolovi Park has not been determined yet, according to Ellen Bilbrey with Arizona State Parks. Bilbrey said some parks are still closed, some are managed by others and some operated in conjunction from others to stay open.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Tombstone refuses to let state park die

[Source: Maria Polletta, Cronkite News Service. via Tucson Sentinel]

Maria Polletta/Cronkite News Service

It’s around 90 degrees outside and Mary Evans is buttoned up in a long-sleeved, high-collared white blouse that’s fastened at the neck with a black cameo. A black wool skirt, worn over bloomers, skims the top of her black boots.

It looks uncomfortable, but Evans doesn’t seem to mind.

After six years of volunteer work at the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, Evans says she still gets caught up every time she browses the cases of wedding dresses, children’s shoes, dolls and toys.

“Everything in the courthouse is special,” Evans said.

Evans couldn’t imagine losing the iconic building when budget cuts threatened funding for 19 of the state’s 28 parks, including the courthouse, earlier this year.

Neither could leaders of this former silver-mining town, which draws tourists from all over the world with attractions like the OK Corral and Boothill Graveyard.

Under an arrangement with Arizona State Parks, the city of Tombstone took over the courthouse April 1. A professional service agreement allows the Tombstone Chamber of Commerce to oversee park operations for at least three years, with two more two-year terms possible.

Since the courthouse changed hands, park hours have been extended from five to seven days a week, and volunteers have traded in state parks uniforms for period wear, said Patricia Moreno, the park’s manager. Staff and volunteers have also been working to create “living history,” such as trial re-enactments in the courthouse’s upstairs courtroom.

The number of visitors was 20 percent higher in April, May and June this year than in the same period last year, Moreno said.

Jay Ream, assistant director of Arizona State Parks, said things seem to be going well at the other four state parks now entirely operated by cities or other entities as well as the eight parks that receive funding from partners but are still operated by state parks staff.

“We’re glad they stepped up,” Ream said. “There have been minimal problems with these transitions. It’s gone very smoothly, and it’s been done very well.”

The state parks operations budget was reduced from about $28 million two years ago to about $18 million as lawmakers addressed the budget deficit.

“If not for our partners, many of our parks would have been closed,” Ream said.

Tombstone Mayor Dustin Escapule said he didn’t hesitate to step in when he got word of the decision to close down the courthouse.

“Really in one meeting (with state and local officials), we decided, ‘OK, this is how it can work, and this is what will happen,'” Escapule said.

He said feedback since the transition has been “positive, positive, positive,” not only from the citizens of Tombstone but from the state.

“Tombstone has really stepped up and claimed ownership of the courthouse,” said Patrick Greene, executive director of the Tombstone Chamber of Commerce.

Greene said the park is currently making a profit, which is used to improve the park.

“Based on our success, I would think that state parks would most likely allow us to continue, but it depends on the elected people in office and the philosophy at the state level,” Greene said.

Ream said that even if the state does assume control of the parks again, it may not be under the old model.

“Will we be able to manage (the parks) the same way? Possibly not,” he said. “We might be doing it through private partnerships or even sponsorships.

“But the goal of the Arizona State Parks Board is to keep the parks open to the public, whatever that takes.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

Group debates the future of state parks in Arizona

[Source: Jon Hutchinson, Verde Independant]

Photo Credit: verdenews.com

A powerhouse panel of political players combined with a standing room-only crowd of State Parks supporters and conservationists gathered to help strategize the long-term sustainable operation of the State Parks system Thursday.

Supported by a documentary film, “Postcards from the Parks,” which tells the story of Arizona’s State Parks long-running financial crisis, the panel took five aspects of the issue and fielded questions.

Birgit Lowenstein, who helped organize the Benefactors of the Red Rocks, said, “we have taken State Parks for granted.”

There were also representatives from Cottonwood, Jerome, and Yavapai County, plus a flood of volunteers of the Parks system.

“We have created a financial band-aid, but it is not sustainable. We must find a long-term solution,” urged Lowenstein.”

Chief among the messages of the documentary film: “A closed park doesn’t make any money.”

The closure of the parks would save the government $8 million, but cost $260 million in economic decline to the surrounding communities from the parks’ closure.

The documentary film quotes Director Renee Bahl, “We don’t have to chose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. We can have both.”

The first panel member was the Chairman of the Arizona State Parks Board Reese Woodling. He recalled the meeting of Jan. 15, 2010, made him “sick to his stomach.” That was the day the state board had to announce that 13 State Parks would have to be closed after the legislature gutted the budget of the parks system.

He says, now the “hot issue will be privatization,” but he had a warning: “It’s OK to operate a store or horse facility. We support the National Park Service model of enhanced concessions, but still, the Parks Board needs to be in control of its operations.”

Former District 1 State Senator Tom O’Halleran told the gathering the decline in funding for the state Parks system is not new and since 1980 has been decreasing. Arizona has one of the best State Parks systems in the country, but it has been dead last in funding it and the parks are in decline.

“The State Parks hold Arizona’s cultural and historic perspective. Do we want a concessionaire to say, ‘We will take care of your history for you?'”

O’Halleran says most Arizonans and visitors prefer a formal park and campground. Most people are not trained for wilderness recreation.

He applauded the turnout of more than 125 citizens for the meeting.

“We don’t see this kind of crowd in the legislature and that is probably the reason why the legislature doesn’t believe it is an issue,” said O’Halleran.

“The Verde Valley has more State Parks than anywhere else in the State. We also have more National Monuments,” Chip Davis reminded the crowd. “They are very important to our economy and to our tourism and it is an economic engine for us. But more than that it is part of our character and who we are. And that is why it is such a passionate issue to us.”

Davis speculates that the few number of legislators from rural Arizona — 15 of 90 — account for the small support for the parks system.

“Each one of us needs to take some kind of responsibility in writing our legislators and talking to our neighbors about the importance of the state parks. Arizona was the last in the nation to establish a State Parks system in 1957. Let’s not be the first to close it down,” said Davis.

Bob Burnside, Mayor of Camp Verde, was one of the first local government leaders to step up to keep Fort Verde open. “We don’t have a recreational park like Slide Rock. We have a historic park. Ours is our history and culture. We can probably help out next year and the year after, but can’t do it forever.”

“Governor Brewer and the majority of the legislature have mounted an intentional assault on land conservation and the State Parks system,” believes Sandy Bahr of he Arizona Sierra Club. “They removed all the funding for the operations of the State Parks. They have repealed the Heritage Fund that voters approved by a 2/3 vote. Now they have bonded against that money. It was at the Governors suggestion and the legislature approved it.”

“They have not yet taken the Game and Fish portion of the Heritage Fund, since it is an election year. The Parks Department was working with a $26 million dollar budget in 2009. It now has $8million.”

I have always asked, “Who doesn’t like parks, and this year the legislature demonstrated they don’t like parks.”

The legislature shot down one method of funding the state parks. HCR2040 would have added a small levy on the vehicle licenses. But, the Appropriations Committee Chair would not hear it.

“One thing that hurts is that there are no state parks in Maricopa County,” Bahr believes.

She says, “The thing that is important is just showing up. I have seen people change and we have to give more scrutiny to the Privatization and Efficiency study.”

The gathering was urged to flood the legislature with postcards calling for support of state parks.

O’Halleran closed the meeting with the admonition, “You have to leave here know that we can make real change.”

Scottsdale is national leader in land set aside for parks, preserve

[Source: Peter Corbett, The Arizona Republic]

Scottsdale ranks among the nation’s leading cities for parks and preserve land.

The city is fourth in per capita parkland behind Anchorage, Alaska, New Orleans and Virginia Beach, Va., according to a Trust for Public Land report issued earlier this month.

“It’s a very impressive system,” said Peter Harnik, director of the trust’s Center for City Park Excellence, in reference to Scottsdale’s parks and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

The non-profit trust, a San Francisco-based conservation group, lists Scottsdale as having 15,172 acres of park and preserve land for its 235,371 residents.

That amounts to 64.5 acres per 1,000 residents, more than triple the per capita median for other low-density cities.

About 13 percent of the land area of Scottsdale is set aside for parks and preserve. The national median for low-density cities is 5.8 percent.

Phoenix’s 1.5 million residents have 43,609 acres of parkland, or 27.8 acres per 1,000 residents, the report said.

Anchorage has a very large state park within its city limits, and New Orleans and Virginia Beach contain national wildlife refuges that skew their parkland totals, Harnik said.

City parkland well-funded

The trust’s annual report compiled statistics on park acreage, spending and staffing based on data from 2008.

“We won’t see the full effects of current budget cuts until next year’s report,” Harnik said.

This year’s report did show that Scottsdale is also among the cities with the best-funded parks systems.

The city’s operating and capital expenditures in fiscal year 2008 are listed at $50.4 million, or $214 per resident. That ranks Scottsdale third behind Washington, D.C., and Seattle.

Excluding capital expenses, Scottsdale’s operating costs of $23.7 million, or $101 per resident, rank it 16th nationally in the report.

Scottsdale ranks 13th in staffing, with 281 non-seasonal employees, or 11.9 per 10,000 residents, more than double the national median of 5.4.

Preserve to add open space

Scottsdale’s preserve accounts for roughly 94 percent of its parklands, and the preserve is expected to add more acreage next month.

City parks total 941 acres with just less half of that planted with grass, said Don Davis, Scottsdale parks and recreation manager.

The Arizona State Parks Board last week authorized up to $25 million in matching funds for Scottsdale to buy 2,000 acres of state trust land at auction on Oct. 15.

The board also approved $20 million in matching funds for Phoenix and $7 million to Coconino County for preserve lands.

The Scottsdale acreage is north of Dixileta Drive near Troon North.