Lawmaker: Funding state parks improvements now saves costs later

[Source: Donyelle Kesler, Cronkite News] – Delaying capital improvements needed after years of deep budget cuts to Arizona State Parks will only exacerbate the problems and increase future costs, a state lawmaker said Wednesday. “If you don’t take care of your infrastructure, it’s like not taking care of your house and if you let that little $2 item go and don’t fix it, you end up with a $100 repair bill,” said Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott.

Fann, whose district includes five state parks, said Arizona has been doing roughly the same thing with its parks for too long. “Not only are we behind the curve on fixing what should have been fixed years ago, but now we have additional problems on top of them,” she said. Bryan Martyn, director of Arizona State Parks, is requesting $15.5 million in Gov. Jan Brewer’s budget for capital improvements. Arizona State Parks hasn’t received money from the state’s general fund since 2009 and currently works off a $19.5 million budget. Officials say state parks have about $200 million in capital needs.

Fann, who pushed successfully last year to allow Arizona State Parks to keep all gate and concession fees, said that parks are vital to the state’s economy. “It is responsible for over 3,000 direct jobs, it is responsible for over $2 million worth of revenue, and so state parks is really something we need to keep open,” Fann said. “This isn’t a feel-good item, this is about our economy. The feel-good and the beauty and all that stuff, that’s just the icing on the cake.”

Cuts to the Arizona State Parks budget led to agreements allowing some communities to take over operations and keep parks operating. Arizona State Parks Board Chairman Tracy Westerhausen said the $15.5 million would be an investment. “It serves the people who come from outside of Arizona to see our parks and enriches the lives of the people who are here already,” she said. Westerhausen said the projects include improving water-treatment systems and electrification of campsites. “We’re under a state mandate to provide clean water to people who come to our parks, and one of the things we can’t do is improve our water structure in the parks,” she said.

Matthew Benson, a spokesman for the governor, said Brewer has taken Martyn’s request into account along with all of the proposals from other state agencies. “Of course state parks are a priority, but so is public safety, classroom education, road and transportation systems, Child Protective Services – all of these issues are important,” Benson said.

Grady Gammage Jr., who as a senior research fellow for Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy co-wrote a 2009 report on ways to fund state parks said the facilities are assets to both the state’s economy and residents. Image

“Part of reason people want to live in Arizona is because of the open space and natural resources of parks and it can have a lot to do with what makes the state attractive to businesses and people moving here,” Gammage said. “If you don’t support that, you risk a lot more than just damaging the parks, you risk damaging this economic engine that drives Arizona.”

Study outlines options for state park funding

[Source: Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services 10-22-2009] – The state park system needs an infusion of outside cash, possibly from a surcharge on vehicle license taxes, to keep it from collapsing, according to a new report.  The study, done for the Arizona Parks Foundation by the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University concludes that the revenues collected from users is insufficient to properly maintain and operate the parks, much less acquire new properties. And the supplement the system used to get in state tax dollars from the Legislature has all but dried up as lawmakers divert the dollars for other priorities.

So the report suggests a host of other ways to raise the $40 million a year that Parks Director Renee Bahl said is probably necessary not just to keep the gates open at the existing parks but to also catch up on overdue maintenance and put some money aside for future purchases [to read this full article click here].

Arizona’s state parks are in ‘imminent crisis’

[Source: Arizona Rural Headlines Examiner.com, 10-23-2009] – Arizona’s 31 state parks are in “imminent crisis” and face closure and irreparable deterioration unless new and sustainable funding is established, parks officials and supporters warned at a news conference Thursday to release a special report, “The Price of Stewardship: The Future of Arizona State Parks.”

The 46-page report was prepared by Morrison Institute for Public Policy, an independent, non-partisan center for public policy research, analysis and public outreach. Morrison Institute is part of the Arizona State University College of Public Programs.

“State parks are hard assets that we as a state own, and they are deteriorating rapidly,” said Grady Gammage Jr., senior research fellow at Morrison Institute and member of Governor’s Sustainable State Parks Task Force. “There’s about $200 million in deferred maintenance and really so very desperate needs. There are walls collapsing. There are sewage systems in the parks that are not compliant with legal requirements. Those kind of things are not being taken care of,” Gammage said, noting that Arizona’s state parks budget has been cut to literally nothing. [to read the full article click here].

Local PBS station airs segment on plight of Arizona State Parks

[Source: Horizon, KAET, Ted Simons, 9-30-2009] — As PBS and Ken Burns examine the rich scenic and cultural values of our national parks, KAET’s Horizon focuses its lens on Arizona State Parks.  We’ll preview an upcoming report from ASU’s Morrison Institute that considers the role and future of Arizona’s 30 State Parks.  Guests include State Parks Director, Renee Bahl; State Parks Board member, Bill Scalzo; and Morrison Institute’s Grady Gammage, Jr. who also serves on the Sustainable State Parks Task Force.  [Note: to watch the segment, click here.]