[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — Two state parks will close indefinitely and eight more will remain on the chopping block as part of budget cuts approved Friday by the Arizona State Parks Board. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and Jerome State Historic Park will close immediately to allow for repairs necessary for visitors’ safety, officials said. McFarland State Park closed earlier this month for the same reason. Combined with layoffs, the suspension of grants for capital projects and other measures, the park closures will help the parks board pay a $27 million bill to the state due next Saturday. That figure represents the funds taken by the Legislature last month as part of a $1.6 billion budget fix for fiscal 2009.
Even after the Friday cuts, which were approved on a 3-1 vote, the parks board still must find an additional $3 million in savings by June 30. That leaves the fate of eight more state parks up in the air: Homolovi Ruins, Oracle, Yuma Quartermaster Depot, Tubac Presidio, Fort Verde, Lyman Lake, Riordan Mansion, and Red Rock. Whether those parks remain open depends largely on whether the Legislature makes further cuts to state parks as part of the fiscal 2010 budget. Arizona faces an estimated $3 billion budget shortfall.
Board members were pessimistic about the prospect of keeping all or even most of the eight parks open. “Don’t leave here today thinking we’re not going to close more parks,” board member Bill Scalzo said after more than five hours of meetings. “We probably will.” [Note: To read the full article, click here. Additional news coverage at Arizona Daily Sun, Cronkite News Service, KNXV Phoenix, KSWT Yuma, KTAR Radio Phoenix, Payson Roundup, Sierra Vista Herald, Tucson Citizen.]