Bill seeks off-highway vehicle fee to fund restoration

An illegal trail created by off-highway vehicles scars the Desert Wells Multi-Use Area near Florence Junction in fall 2007. Officials say a trail blazed by one rider invariably attracts more riders, eventually compacting the soil and destroying plant life. A bipartisan group of lawmakers backed by a diverse coalition including conservationists and riders groups is advocating for a bill that would make owners of off-highway vehicles pay a registration fee that would be used for cleanup, education and enforcement. The bill also would clarify and toughen the definition of illegal off-highway vehicle use. Photo by Jonathan Cooper, Tucson Citizen.[Source: Daniel J. Quigley, Cronkite News Service] — Owners of off-highway vehicles would pay an annual $20-$25 registration fee under a bill that supporters say would help repair damaged landscapes, promote responsible riding, and cut down on dust.  It’s the second straight year Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale, has introduced a bill calling for an off-highway vehicle fee.  Last year’s failed by one vote in the Senate.

Weiers said this session’s version, HB 2573, stands a better chance because it has bipartisan support and the backing of groups representing riders, conservationists, vehicle dealers, and others.  It has nearly 40 sponsors and co-sponsors from both parties.  “Every year we wait damage is being done that’s going to take centuries to repair,” Weiers said.  “And we can’t afford, cannot afford, to keep putting this off.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Saving state parks is business of all (Arizona Republic letter to the editor)

[Source: Suzanne Pfister, Phoenix] — Kudos to The Arizona Republic for highlighting the plight of our wonderful state parks (“State-park cash crunch threatens links to past,” Sunday).  As a former Arizona State Parks Board member, I was lucky enough to see the parks firsthand and meet the wonderful staff and volunteers who keep our state treasures alive and protected.  But all their hard work and their generous spirit cannot make up for the years of limited state support.  We are at risk of seeing these places crumble — such as the Tombstone Courthouse and the Douglas Mansion in Jerome — and some of our special areas for conservation put at risk.

I would encourage everyone who cares about our open spaces and our terrific state parks to visit the Arizona State Parks Foundation website and sign up to get more information about the state budget.  You can lend your voice and your support to make sure we get the kind of financial support from the state that we need.  Even in times of fiscal constraint, it is important to maintain our historical places and protect the natural areas we hold so dear.  Your input can make a difference, but it is up to all of us to act.

State-park cash crunch threatens links to past

[Source: John Stanley, Arizona Republic] — The Arizona State Parks system is suffering a midlife crisis.  The 50-year-old system is showing the signs of age that only money can fix.  Budget shortfalls have meant that funds designated for repairs have gone instead to operating costs.

Jack A. Brown“We’ve bled ’em down,” said Rep. Jack Brown, D-St. Johns, speaking of the Arizona Legislature’s appropriations for parks.  “We’ve said, ‘Wait till next year.’  We need to do better by our parks, build them up instead of trying to close them.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

National Trust issues “Action Alert!” on State Parks funding cuts

Funding cuts will affect the repair and upkeep of park sites such as the historic lodge at Tonto Natural Bridge.  Photo courtesy of AZ State Parks FoundationAct now to save Arizona’s state parks and historic treasures from funding cuts!

The Arizona Legislature has proposed a list of parks-fund cuts totaling $38.3 million in the current fiscal year to help offset the projected $1 billion budget deficit in Arizona. The affected funds support critically-needed capital projects in state parks as well as essential grant programs to counties and municipalities for parks, historic resources, and open space. This plan will leave the parks department with no resources to stop the steady deterioration of Arizona’s parks and historic resources.

Arizona parks suffer from disastrous consequences of deferred maintenance and underfunding.  The Parks Department has identified nearly $44 million in urgent capital needs encompassing 27 of the 30 state parks including the historic lodge at Tonto Natural Bridge, Douglas Mansion in Jerome, and McFarland Courthouse in Florence.  The proposed cuts would leave the parks system unable to pay for critical upkeep and improvements to these and other treasured resources.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Write, e-mail, or call your state senators and state representatives today and urge them to take the state parks system out of their budget cross hairs.  The future of the park system is at stake. Click here to find your state senate and representative contacts.

Talking Points:

  • Arizona parks are facing funding cuts far out of proportion to their tiny impact on the state budget; if painful cuts need to be made, they should be made in a way that spreads the sacrifice fairly.
  • Arizona State Parks contribute far more to the economy than they cost; they are home to some of the state’s most important heritage assets that drive the state’s tourism economy. Parks generate about $126 million annually in tourist revenue for counties and municipalities, according to a 2002 study by Northern Arizona University.
  • The proposed cuts couldn’t come at a worse time: Parks still haven’t recovered from the $40 million hit they took in the 2002-3 budget; the Parks Department has identified nearly $44 million in urgent capital needs encompassing 27 of the 30 state parks.
  • Proposed budget cuts would reduce the overall budget deficit by less than half of 1 percent, while virtually destroying State Parks ability to stabilize and repair deteriorating cultural sites that provide recreational and educational opportunities for millions of Arizonans and visitors to our state.

For additional information:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately funded non-profit organization that provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources to save America’s diverse historic places and revitalize our communities.