[Source: Tammy Gray-Searles, AZJournal.com] — Homolovi and Lyman Lake State Parks got a reprieve last Friday as the State Parks and Recreation Board decided not to close any additional state parks until at least the next fiscal year, which begins in July. The board met April 3 to discuss ways to balance the 2008-09 fiscal year budget, which was subject to significant cuts by the state. The board determined that, at least for now, parks on the potential closure list could remain open. Other cuts to balance the budget have been and will continue to be made, however, including halting capital projects, a number of grant contracts and personnel reductions. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — The fate of eight state parks will be up for discussion Friday when the Arizona State Parks Board meets to discuss cost-cutting moves. Like most state agencies, the parks board has seen its budget cut dramatically over the past 12 months. The agency must close a $3 million budget deficit by the end of June.
Three state parks already have closed indefinitely to allow for repairs and to save money. Eight more state parks could shut down depending on the board’s vote Friday: Homolovi Ruins, Oracle, Yuma Quartermaster Depot, Tubac Presidio, Fort Verde, Lyman Lake, Riordan Mansion, and Red Rock.
Alternatives to closing the parks indefinitely include seasonal closings, reduced days or hours of operation and layoffs. “Anything can happen,” parks spokeswoman Ellen Bilbrey said.
The board meets at 11:30 a.m., Friday, April 3 at the Carnegie Center, 1101 W. Washington St., Phoenix.
[Source: Karen Warnick, The White Mountain Independent] — Once more Lyman Lake State Park, located near St. Johns, escaped closure by the State Parks Board, but it still remains on the chopping block along with seven other parks. The board met Friday, Feb. 20, to decide the fate of more than a third of Arizona’s 27 parks. The meeting took place at the Peoria City Council chamber room due to the large number of people expected to attend. The meeting started at 9 a.m. and lasted until 3 p.m. with a 30-minute lunch break.
Residents from around the state showed up to support keeping the parks open. County and city law enforcement officials, members of non-profit and grassroots organizations, and private citizens spoke before the board during the call to the public. Several individuals representing Apache and Navajo counties, including Apache County Sheriff Joseph Dedmon and Navajo County Supervisor Jesse Thompson, were at the meeting. Penny Pew, representing a community group from the White Mountains, spoke to the board. Pew presented the board with letters from Apache County Supervisor R. John Lee, the mayors of Pinetop-Lakeside, Eagar and St. Johns, the chambers of St. Johns and Springerville-Eagar, St. Johns Unified School District Superintendent Larry Heap, and over 100 students from St. Johns.
In his letter, Lee said, “On behalf of the citizens of Apache County, this letter is an expression of Apache County’s support for continued operation of Lyman Lake State Park, which is vital to its residents and nonresidents in providing recreation and economic benefits.” Eagar Mayor Kim Holaway said, “Apache County is one of the poorest counties in the state and is considered entirely rural. Rural communities have fewer resources to draw upon than the larger cities in our state.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Tucson Citizen/Associated Press] — Taking a path that critics said would put lawmakers on legally shaky ground, the Arizona House of Representatives on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a plan to keep threatened state parks open by diverting money from a voter-mandated program for land conservation for open space. The measure aims to reverse recent state budget cuts that have put numerous state parks at risk of closure. It has backing from parks advocates but is opposed by the Sierra Club, a lobbying group for environmentalists. Because it would modify a voter-approved law, the Arizona Constitution requires that the measure both be approved by three-quarters of each legislative chamber and further the intent of the voter-approved law.
The land conservation fund, which provides grants for land purchases by local governments, was authorized under a growth-planning law approved by voters in 1998. With Thursday’s voice vote, the Republican-backed measure faces an expected formal House vote next week. Passage would send it to the Senate. However, passage by the 60-member House is not assured as Democratic leaders criticized the measure during debate Thursday. Even if all 35 majority Republican representatives vote for the bill (HB2088), a three-quarters vote would require backing from at least 10 of the 25 Democrats.
The legislation would return the $20 million to the land conservation fund in 2012, and supporters of the bill said the state money won’t be missed in the meantime because current economic hard times mean local governments can’t afford their shares of the cost of land purchases. “We have a great opportunity, instead of putting money aside in a fund that we cannot use,” said Rep. Andy Tobin, R-Paulden.
Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said he supports keeping parks open but not by tampering with a voter-approved law. “We see this bill as being illegal and not furthering the intent of the voters,” Campbell said.
The Parks Department has already closed three parks — McFarland Historic, Jerome Historic and Tonto Natural Bridge — but eight others are also listed as candidates for temporary closure because of the funding cuts made to close a big shortfall in the current state budget. The eight are Fort Verde, Homolovi, Lyman Lake, Oracle, Red Rock, Riordan Mansion, Tubac Presidio, Yuma Quartermaster Depot. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]