Saving state parks is business of all (Arizona Republic letter to the editor)

[Source: Suzanne Pfister, Phoenix] — Kudos to The Arizona Republic for highlighting the plight of our wonderful state parks (“State-park cash crunch threatens links to past,” Sunday).  As a former Arizona State Parks Board member, I was lucky enough to see the parks firsthand and meet the wonderful staff and volunteers who keep our state treasures alive and protected.  But all their hard work and their generous spirit cannot make up for the years of limited state support.  We are at risk of seeing these places crumble — such as the Tombstone Courthouse and the Douglas Mansion in Jerome — and some of our special areas for conservation put at risk.

I would encourage everyone who cares about our open spaces and our terrific state parks to visit the Arizona State Parks Foundation website and sign up to get more information about the state budget.  You can lend your voice and your support to make sure we get the kind of financial support from the state that we need.  Even in times of fiscal constraint, it is important to maintain our historical places and protect the natural areas we hold so dear.  Your input can make a difference, but it is up to all of us to act.

State-park cash crunch threatens links to past

[Source: John Stanley, Arizona Republic] — The Arizona State Parks system is suffering a midlife crisis.  The 50-year-old system is showing the signs of age that only money can fix.  Budget shortfalls have meant that funds designated for repairs have gone instead to operating costs.

Jack A. Brown“We’ve bled ’em down,” said Rep. Jack Brown, D-St. Johns, speaking of the Arizona Legislature’s appropriations for parks.  “We’ve said, ‘Wait till next year.’  We need to do better by our parks, build them up instead of trying to close them.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Legislative cost-cutting threatens Arizona parks (Tucson Citizen guest opinion)

[Source: Bill Meek, Arizona State Parks Foundation] — Arizona’s state parks system is crumbling, and the Legislature is threatening to apply a sledgehammer to the problem.  Our 30 state park sites preserve some scenic gems, such as Catalina near Tucson, the world-famous Kartchner Caverns near Benson, and Red Rock State Park in Sedona.  State parks also protect historic treasures such as Homolovi Ruins near Winslow and the Yuma Territorial Prison.  And a bevy of wildly popular water-oriented parks are at lakes and rivers across the state.  Arizona’s state parks welcomed 2.3 million visitors last year.

In exchange for meager state funding, the parks generate about $126 million annually in tourist revenue for their neighboring counties and municipalities, shows a 2002 study by Northern Arizona University.  The Legislature appropriates only $8.2 million to the Parks department from the general fund.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Don’t shortchange State Parks (Arizona Daily Star guest opinion)

[Source: Bill Roe, Arizona State Parks Foundation] — Across the state, communities from Tucson to Flagstaff, Parker to Pinetop, and dozens of places in between derive millions of dollars annually from activities associated with Arizona State Parks.  Yet to look at the state Legislature’s latest budget-cutting plans, you would think the economic, recreational, scenic, and historic values of State Parks count for naught.

For the second time in five years, the Legislature is poised to take State Parks funds in an ill-conceived bid to balance the state budget on the back of an agency that actually helps make money for the state.  Making the point, an economic study done for State Parks by Northern Arizona University in 2002 showed that the state’s 27 parks and conservation areas generated more than $126 million for local economies in that year.  But this seems lost on Legislators who fail to appreciate the business-like workings of the State Parks Department.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]