Bring back the state parks Heritage Fund

[Source: William C Thornton, Arizona Republic Opinion] – As negotiations continue between Gov. Jan Brewer and legislative leaders, questions remain about what will or will not be included in the new budget. One thing is certain. The budget will not contain a dime of new funding for State Parks nor will it restore the parks Heritage Fund.

The people of Arizona are the big losers.

Enacted by voters in 1990, the Heritage Fund directed $20 million in Lottery money to be divided equally each year between State Parks and the Department of Game and Fish. The $10 million for parks often served as seed money for matching grants. The total yearly impact was typically $20 million or more.

Heritage Fund grants developed new parks, and built and improved trails, campgrounds, picnic facilities, boat docks and ramps. Historic restoration grants helped preserve important parts of our rich cultural heritage such as the Riordan Mansion in Flagstaff, the Tombstone Courthouse, Mission San Xavier del Bac in Tucson and the historic Yuma Crossing.

If you hunt, fish, hike, camp, boat, picnic or share my love of Arizona history, the parks Heritage Fund benefited you.

Even if you’ve never visited a state park or historic site. you’ve benefited from the Heritage Fund-fueled economic engine that brings dollars and supports jobs. A 2007 study estimated that 224 jobs were directly supported by parks Heritage Fund grants.

State parks and historic sites attract more than 2 million visitors, about half from out of state, who add $266 million to our state’s economy each year. These visitors support an additional 3,000 jobs, mostly in rural areas heavily impacted by the economic downturn.

In response to the economic downturn and a decline in tax revenue, the Legislature swept the state parks allocation into the general fund in 2010 and, inexplicably, eliminated the fund in July 2010.

Thanks to former Rep. Russ Jones and Rep. Ethan Orr, bills to restore the parks Heritage Fund were introduced in three consecutive legislative sessions. In each case the bill was voted out of committee with unanimous bipartisan support only to die in the House Appropriations Committee.

If Arizona legislators and business leaders are serious about attracting companies such as Tesla Motors, they may want to think about the message we send when we fail to invest in our parks. Low taxes aren’t the only consideration when companies decide where to locate a new facility. Outdoor recreational opportunities consistently rank near the top of quality of life issues that attract high-paying jobs, and our parks play a major role.

As the legislative session winds down, House Speaker Andy Tobin’s proposed monument to the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire seems certain to pass. It should.

The question of how to pay the estimated $500,000 cost must be addressed. A restored parks Heritage Fund could have been the solution. Let’s bring it back.

William C. Thornton is a second-generation Arizonan and member of the Arizona Heritage Alliance Board.

Story Highlights

  • The Heritage Fund provided $10 million to state parks until the Legislature eliminated the program
  • The fund supports the sort of quality of life that helps attract high-paying jobs
  • The Legislature should restore the fund

State parks: Arizonans love them, lawmakers don’t

[Source: Arizona Republic Editorial Board] – Hollywood made dozens of movies about Tombstone. “None of them are accurate,” says Tombstone City Councilman Don Taylor.

Tombstone’s 1882 courthouse remembers the Wild West reality those movies can’t portray. Sheriff’s office, gallows, creaking wooden floors. But Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park can’t tell the full story, either. Not without all the guns.

When recession-era cuts closed parks statewide, Tombstone and its Chamber of Commerce entered an agreement with the state to keep the courthouse open.

“We had to take some of the artifacts out when they took over,” says Jay Ream, deputy director of Arizona State Parks. Some Wyatt Earp-era guns were put in the vault because of security concerns. Territorial records that had been available to history buffs were also locked away, for security concerns of a different type. “They are doing an outstanding job,” Ream says of the local folks managing the courthouse. “Is it the best it can be? I’d say no. We’re better equipped to manage a museum.”

But the state can’t afford to take back the courthouse. It can’t afford to create modern, interactive exhibits to tell the stories that shaped Arizona. Parks around the state can’t afford to offer ranger-led hikes or interpretive tours much anymore, either.

We may think we know Tombstone. The gunfights. The violence. The dust. But Hollywood doesn’t get everything right. A look at the many facets (some more historically accurate than others) of the Town Too Tough to Die.

People love the parks. Politicians don’t.

The state parks system was stripped of resources during the recession. Efforts to restore or replace funding have been rejected at the Legislature and by Gov. Jan Brewer.

A State Auditor General’s report in 2012 said the parks system faces “risks to its financial sustainability because of a decrease in annual revenues from approximately $54.7 million in fiscal year 2008 to approximately $25.7 million in 2012.”

It’s gotten worse.

In fiscal 2014, the operating budget was $22.5 million. That’s about $20 million less than what Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy said was needed to operate and maintain the system in 2009.

The parks also have $80 million in capital needs, according to Parks Director Bryan Martyn, a Republican whose hiring was approved by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer.

That includes more than $15 million in upgrades just to comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Among those needs: a new main waterline to Kartchner Caverns ($3.75 million), a wastewater treatment plant for Boyce Thompson Arboretum ($1.2 million), a potable water line for Homolovi ($5.5 million), as well as assorted septic systems, dump stations and water storage facilities.

These are not frills. They are vital to protecting public health.

Other top priority needs at parks include stabilizing historic and prehistoric structures so they don’t fall down, maintaining trails and roads, fixing leaky roofs and upgrading restrooms, docks and fish cleaning stations. Also needed are basics such as pavement striping, campground electrification, picnic table armadas and dam repairs.

State parks have received no money from the general fund since 2009. During the recession, the Legislature swept away parks’ funding from a variety of sources, including $10 million from the Heritage Fund.

That’s a relatively small amount of money in a $9 billion-plus budget state budget, but it’s nearly half of what the parks are operating on today.

The Heritage Fund was created by voters in a 1990 initiative to support state parks. But legislators are deaf to the people’s voice. An attempt to restore the money was ignored by lawmakers last year, and two Heritage restoration bills this year appear doomed.

Another bill this session would have redirected money the parks get from the State Lake Improvement Fund. Martyn says it would be “very, very challenging” for state parks to operate without the $6.5 million or so the fund provides. Thankfully, that bill also appears dead. But it demonstrates some legislators’ continued bad attitude toward state parks.

Brewer does little better. Her budget acknowledged “a cumulative list of all capital projects requested by State Parks totaling over $200 million.” But she only recommended spending $3 million over two years from an existing fund. She also proposed eliminating $1 million the parks received this year from interest on the rainy day fund.

Arizona’s parks represent irreplaceable natural and historic treasures. They help rural economies by providing world-class tourist attractions. They reflect our heritage and the bigger-than-life landscapes that shaped Arizona’s spirit.

They have huge needs and scarce resources.

Similarly in need and just as scarce are elected leaders with the foresight to make Arizona State Parks a priority and a cause.

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WHAT YOU CAN DO

Arizona State Parks are a resource for today and a promise for tomorrow. But short-sighted funding decisions imperil their future. You can help change that.

  • VISIT. Arizona’s state parks offer dazzling natural wonders, family recreational activities and authentic windows into Arizona’s history and prehistory. azstateparks.com
  • BE A CHAMPION. There’s an election coming up. Ask candidates for state office how they plan to support Arizona’s parks and let them know you want this to be a priority issue.
  • GET INVOLVED. More than a dozen parks have volunteer “friends” groups that provide fund-raising and other services for their chosen park. For information on joining or starting one: azstateparks.com/volunteer/v_foundation.html

Arizona State Parks Foundation is a non-profit that engages in advocacy, fund-raising and other support: arizonastateparksfoundation.org

The Arizona Heritage Alliance is a non-profit that promotes and protects the Heritage Fund and its goals: azheritage.org

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ABOUT THIS SERIES

Arizona State Parks are a valuable resource in great peril. Stripped of funding during the recession, they struggle without state money and stagger under deferred maintenance. Yet they offer open spaces and outdoor recreation for a growing urban population and an economic engine for rural communities. Popular with the public, but lacking political support, funding solutions can help the parks deliver on their remarkable potential.

1891 Pinal County courthouse recognized for excellence in preservation

[Source: Bonnie Bariola, TriValleyCentral.com] – The 1891 Second Pinal County Courthouse Rehabilitation collected another honor Saturday as it received the Crescordia Award for Buildings and Structures/Historic Preservation. “We are so pleased to receive this recognition from Arizona Forward and from Governor Brewer,” Pinal County Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Steve Miller said. “Not only is it a functional county office building, it’s also a tourist attraction. Practically every business day we have tourists and history buffs stop in to see the building. They all remark about how wonderful it is to see this significant landmark restored and in use.”

The 33rd Annual Environmental Excellence Awards were presented Saturday at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale. Arizona Forward’s membership is diverse and includes Arizona’s most prominent large corporations and small businesses, municipalities and other government agencies, educators, nonprofits, and a host of concerned citizens. A professional panel of judges identified a maximum of two Awards of Merit and one coveted First-Place Crescordia winner in each category.

Arizona Forward’s members focus on a balance between environmental quality and economic vitality, helping to ensure that decisions about how residents will live tomorrow are made with foresight and imagination today. The courthouse was built in 1891 and is a remarkable example of the American-Victorian style of 19th-century construction technology on the Southwestern frontier. The courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered one of Arizona’s most irreplaceable historic properties. It is believed to be Arizona’s oldest government building in use today.

To rehabilitate it to serve as a modern office building for the Pinal County Board of Supervisors was no small task. Extensive planning and creative design were paramount to the sensitive integration of sustainable materials and high efficiency mechanical, plumbing, electrical and life-safety systems. Some of the key environmentally-friendly features include reused and recycled bricks, flooring, doors and windows; retrofitted original window frames with insulated low-emissivity glass; filtered roller shades to maximize daylight; strategically placed trees to maximize natural ventilation; low-water-use plumbing fixtures; and high-efficiency water heaters and lighting features, as well as a programmable lighting system. The 1891 courthouse is a physical reminder of the early development and maturation of Pinal County and is a symbol of pride to county residents and Florence. The courthouse attracts thousands of visitors each year, significantly benefiting local businesses.

Governor Jan Brewer awarded the renovation of the Historic 1891 Courthouse the grand prize at the Governor’s 2013 Historic Preservation Conference in June. Brewer and the Arizona Historic Advisory Commission had selected the courthouse renovation as a Centennial Legacy Project to celebrate Arizona’s statehood centennial in 2012.

Pinal County has compiled extensive documentation on the courthouse project and the history and lore of the building. To find out more about one of Arizona’s most distinctive historic public buildings, visit http://goo.gl/b9PRX.

Heritage Fund creates jobs in rural areas: Arizona Heritage Alliance makes presentation to the Natural Resources Review Council

[Source: Bonnie Bariola, Florence Reminder] – The purpose of the Arizona Natural Resources Review Council (NRRC) is to protect state interests related to wildlife, land, water, and natural resources by actively engaging and countering federal encroachment on state authorities tasked with managing Arizona’s natural resources. It was established by Executive Order by Governor Jan Brewer on January 14, 2013.

The Executive Order stated the Council was to develop land and natural resource management strategies for Arizona and coordinate with state natural resource agencies and their existing management plans. Members of the Council include the directors of the following state departments: Game and Fish, Land, Environmental Quality, Water Resources, State Forester, Geological Survey, State Parks, and Agriculture. The chair is designated by the Governor and is currently Larry Voyles, director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The Council was directed to prepare a comprehensive report and plan for the Governor for long-term land and natural resource management. The report should include and address multiple use and sustained yield approaches, public access issues, and sustainable economic development. In addition, the Council is to develop a coordinated and centralized Geographic Information System database model that identifies current and future management priorities for designated land and natural resource areas.

An additional request is for the Council to identify and prioritize legal, legislative, and incentive-based needs that protect and maintain state interests related to wildlife, land, water, and other natural resources. The governor also directed the Council to provide her with recommendations on a statewide approach to mitigation and conservation banking that includes state government, local governments, and the private sector in order to meet long-term natural resource conservation objectives.

The chair of the Council appointed a subcommittee to research and prepare results for each of the above directives. Prior to the Call to the Public at which time the Arizona Heritage Alliance was to make their presentation, each subcommittee chair gave a report on the status of their particular directive. It was amazing how much research the subcommittees have accomplished in six months. Chairman Voyles stated he wanted them to continue being aggressive with their research so they could have a final report to the governor as soon as possible.

Heritage Fund

The Heritage Fund presentation was made by Beth Woodin, the Arizona Heritage Alliance board president and Russ Jones, board member and former state representative. In 1990 the citizens of Arizona approved Proposition 200 with 62 percent support for the formation of the Heritage Fund in an amount of up to $20 million from the Arizona lottery with $10 million to be administered by Arizona State Parks and $10 million to be administered by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The distribution of the Arizona State Parks portion was:

·        35% – Local, Regional, and State parks

·        17% – Historic Preservation

·        17% – Acquisition and Development

·        17% – Natural Areas Acquisition

·        04% – Natural Areas Operation and Maintenance

·        05% – Environmental Education

·        05% – Trails

These monies supported: critical and endangered species and habitat, environmental education, historic preservation, non-motorized trails, and parks and recreation acquisition and improvements.

The Arizona Game and Fish monies were not touched by the Legislature and are used to:  

  • Conserve wildlife and maintain its habitat in areas surrounding cities;
  • Carry out wildlife research, surveys, and management of habitat for sensitive species;
  • Ensure access to public lands for outdoor recreation, sometimes by creating roads or trails;
  • Develop and maintain wildlife habitat projects at schools or adjacent areas for wildlife education;
  • Enhance or develop conservation/environmental school education programs;
  • Acquire habitat.

    The Arizona State Parks monies were used for:

  • Historic Preservation projects;
  • Hiking trails;
  • Picnic ramadas and park landscaping;
  • Ballfield lighting and improvements;
  • Playground equipment;
  •  Acquisitions and capital needs.

Heritage Fund for parks eliminated

In 2009 the Legislature swept the state parks portion of the Heritage Fund resulting in Arizona State Parks rescinding $6 million in Heritage Fund grants already awarded, leaving grantees with projects that were incomplete. Then, in 2010 the Legislature completely eliminated the State Parks Heritage Fund language from state statutes. As the result of the Arizona Heritage Alliance working with the Legislature, in February 2011, 2012, and 2013 the House Agriculture and Water Committee initiated and passed unanimously bills to reinstate the Arizona State Parks portion of the Heritage Fund. Unfortunately House Appropriations Chairman Kavanagh refused to hear these Heritage Fund Reinstatement Bills in his committee. which killed the bills.

In 2011, the Arizona Heritage Alliance and Arizona State Parks commissioned an Economic Impact Statement through the Arizona Hospitality Research and Resource Center at Northern Arizona University. Their study showed, among other benefits to Arizona, that direct expenditures from the State Parks Heritage Fund resulted in 125 direct jobs, 33 indirect jobs, and 66 induced jobs, for a total of 224 jobs per year, mostly occurring in rural areas of Arizona. This portion of the Heritage Fund created a tremendous economic impact to the state by promoting economic development, creating more jobs and heritage tourism, revitalizing historic sites and areas, and increasing property values.

The Arizona Natural Resources Review Council was then asked to recommend to Governor Brewer to reinstate the State Parks Heritage Fund, especially the grant program which supplied valuable programs and resources for both Arizona residents and visitors. The Council was also told the Heritage Fund provided economic, environmental, education, tourism and quality of life benefits that are too important to be lost.

Their presentation concluded with the following statement:  “If you hike, boat, ride, hunt, fish, watch wildlife, visit a park, or tour historic sites, then Arizona’s Heritage Fund affects your life.  We need to protect the Heritage Fund and improve it — not eliminate it!”

The Arizona Natural Resources Review Council’s meetings are open to the public. The meetings are usually held at the State Capitol Building but the June 25 meeting was held at the Arizona Game and Fish Department complex located on Carefree Highway in northwest Phoenix.