Payson’s Tonto state park aid cited in USA Today article

[Source: Emily Bazer, USA Today] — In communities where budget cuts have shuttered public pools, closed parks and canceled Fourth of July fireworks, some residents and businesses are giving time and money to save their favorite summer activities…

Businesses, residents and the town of Payson, Ariz., are giving time and money to keep nearby Tonto Natural Bridge State Park open some weekends.  Each year, more than 80,000 people visit the park and spend as much as $3 million in the area, according to Arizona State Parks. The state agency shut it down in February to help close a budget gap, said assistant parks director Jay Ream. Businesses and the city have pledged to pay as much as $5,000 to reopen the park on weekends, from Memorial Day through at least June.  Residents will volunteer at the park to reduce the need for paid staff, said Mayor Kenny Evans.  “We’re seeing a renaissance of people taking personal responsibility for the communities they love,” he said. “I really see it as a silver lining.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

State budget crisis force Arizona State Parks to reduce days/hours

[Source: KPHO Television, Phoenix] — The Arizona State Parks board meeting on Friday, April 3, resulted in operational changes for some parks in the Arizona State Parks system.  At this meeting, the seven-member volunteer Parks Board passed a motion to allow the agency to reduce the days and hours of operation for the parks.  This will ease the stress of trying to keep parks open seven days a week while dealing with a 26% reduction in ranger staff.  Some of the consequences to a $34.5 million sweep in funds from various conservation-funded accounts and agency gate fees, include: suspending community grants, reduced park hours/days of operation, reduced supply purchasing, less vehicles, layoffs, and canceling special projects and programs statewide.

“In order to keep the parks as accessible to the public as possible with this reduction in force, we will begin shortening weeks starting April 14-15 in Yuma,” said Jay Ream, Assistant Director.  “Both Yuma Territorial Prison and Yuma Quartermaster Depot will be open Thursday through Monday and closed Tuesday and Wednesdays with daily hours of 9am-5pm.”

“Tubac Presidio State Historic Park and Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park will have the same Thursday-Monday schedule with April 21-22 being the first days closed,” Ream said.  “Fort Verde State Historic Park will switch to this schedule starting on May 5-6.  Oracle State Park will begin its Thursday-Monday schedule starting on May 9-10.  All of the daily park hours will be 9am-5pm.”

“We have already lost much of the workforce and I need to move the experienced rangers to the parks that need the help right away,” said Ream.  “The danger we are facing is losing some of our experienced and highly trained rangers who would be almost impossible to replace.  Unlike one skill other organizations would hire for, the State Parks are required to be run by people with a multitude of high level skills.  These hybrid job descriptions include trained and certified as law enforcement officers, emergency medical training, wildland firefighters, crowd control, search and rescue, interpretation, natural resources, water and wastewater treatment certification, all of the skills in construction and maintenance, trail construction, research, and artifact management.  These rangers must also have specific training for dangerous situations in wild country.  These are not easy people to replace.  They are the best of the best in these fields and highly recruited because of their multiple talents.

“Some of our “super rangers” are actually trained and skilled in every category I’ve mentioned,” said Ream.  “They are committed to State Parks despite demanding training requirements and relatively low pay.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

For more information about Arizona State Parks, call 602-542-4174 (outside of the Phoenix metro area call toll-free 800-285-3703 or visit their website.

Six Arizona state parks move to 5-day schedules as state budget crisis continues

[Source: Associated Press] — The Arizona State Parks board on Friday announced reduced days and hours of operations at six parks as part of a cost-cutting plan.  Assistant Director Jay Ream says Yuma Territorial Prison park and Yuma Quartermaster Depot park will be open Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting April 14.  Ream says Tubac Presidio State Historic Park and Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park will have the same Thursday-Monday schedule from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. starting April 21 with Fort Verde State Historic Park switching to that shortened schedule on May 5 and Oracle State Park doing the same on May 9.

After state lawmakers made budget cuts in January, the Parks Board authorized park officials to close individual parks up to two days a week.  Ream says the parks also are dealing with a 26 percent reduction in ranger staff.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

McFarland repairs proceed despite closure, state says

1878 Territorial Courthouse, McFarland State Historic Park, Florence (Photo: Arizona Republic)

[Source: Casa Grande Valley Newspapers] — Although McFarland State Historic Park has been closed, the state is proceeding with plans to repair it, the Arizona State Parks agency announced Tuesday.  “Tonto Natural Bridge and McFarland State Historic Park have been slated for years for these repairs and both projects are ‘hammer ready’ jobs that small construction firms will be able to bid on soon,” Assistant Parks Director Jay Ream said in a prepared statement.

McFarland Park in Florence was closed Feb. 6 because the adobe walls are crumbling and the foundation of the building is washing away underneath the walls.  Handmade adobe bricks will have to be made to replace the older foundation.  That project is out for bid now and bids are due March 19, according to Arizona State Parks.

The State Parks Board voted Friday to temporarily close two parks for repairs and to move rangers to other parks that have lost many professional and seasonal personnel due to a $34.6 million sweep from state parks funds.  Tonto Natural Bridge has severe roof leaks and structural problems and Jerome State Historic Park has a wall that is collapsing.  Both of those parks will close at 5 p.m. today.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]