Arizona state park closures will turn away visitors and their money

[Source: Bill Coates, Arizona Capitol Times] — The Civil War has been cancelled, due to lack of funding. The most historic mansion in Jerome can no longer defer its deferred maintenance. It closed to visitors Feb. 27.  And don’t bother walking over — or under — the world’s largest natural travertine bridge. That just closed, too — because of needed repairs to an old lodge that houses the gift shop.  Then there’s the 130-year-old adobe courthouse in Florence.  It’s in bad shape.  The McFarland State Historic Park closed in early February.

Such is the fate of parks and programs operated by Arizona State Parks. More closures are likely in the works, perhaps as many as eight.  All told, about half the state’s 22 parks could turn visitors away.  Blame the budget.  To help close a hole, the Legislature wants the parks department to hand over some $34.6 million through 2010.  It’s called a fund sweep.

The parks offer no critical public services.  They don’t provide medical care to the poor.  They don’t offer a college education.  They’re there just to enjoy and learn from.  And one other thing: They draw people and their money to rural communities.  For visitors, the parks present a smorgasbord of Arizona history, Indian culture and nature.  Some encompass thousands of acres.  Some consist of a few weathered buildings.

The two that closed this week are as different as day and night.  Jerome State Historic Park tells the story of one of Arizona’s most colorful mining towns.  It’s housed in a mansion built by copper-mine baron James Douglas.  The town of Jerome overlooks the sprawling whitewashed building.  Tourists gazing down on it can be heard to ask who lives there.  The Tonto Natural Bridge State Park describes a high geological arch, formed over thousands of years.  Travertine refers to the limestone and weathering process used to make it.  The park closed Feb. 27, pending repairs to the gift shop — and a turnaround in the state’s revenue picture.  [Note: to read the full article, click here.]

Jerome State Historic Park closes

It's quite possible these visitors are pondering the fate of Jerome's state park.

[Philip Wright, Verde Valley News] — Thursday will be the last day to visit Jerome State Historic Park.  “Thursday will be the last day,” said Mike Rollins, park manager.  He said he had “no idea” when the site will re-open.  The State Parks Board voted last Friday to close Jerome State Historic Park.  This Friday, the park will not open.  “Thursday will be the last day,” said Mike Rollins, park manager.  He said he had “no idea” when the site will re-open.

Jerome Mayor Al Palmieri thought the decision came about abruptly, leaving the town no time to offer alternate solutions.  “If they had given some warning, we might have been able to do something,” he said.  Palmieri said he thinks that if one or two park employees remained on site, the town could have put together a volunteer effort to keep it open. “At least on weekends,” he said.

Rollins said he will remain assigned to the park Monday through Fridays from 8 to 5, and his staff will be assigned to Dead Horse Ranch, Slide Rock, and Red Rock state parks.  “I’m still going to be here to manage the project whenever that starts,” Rollins said.  He explained that a renovation project will make some major repairs to the north side of the building.  That is the area where a large section of plaster fell off.  Part of the building was closed following that collapse.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Arizona biologists begin monitoring collared jaguar

Animal determined to be oldest known jaguar in the wild.

[Source: Arizona Game & Fish] — Early data received from the tracking device on the recently captured and collared jaguar in Arizona is already giving biologists a better understanding of the cat’s movement and foraging patterns.  With nearly a week’s worth of data, the Arizona Game and Fish Department noted that the jaguar moved several miles after collaring to a very high and rugged area that the cat has been known to use in southern Arizona.  The animal has stayed in that general vicinity for a few days with apparent patterns of rest and visits to a nearby creek.  During the collaring, the cat appeared to have just fed on prey, which will aid its recovery and allow it to go for a period of time without feeding.

The satellite tracking technology will allow biologists to study diet and feeding patterns to learn more about the ecological requirements of the species in borderland habitats.  Scientists have also confirmed the identification of the collared animal: The cat is Macho B, an older male cat that has been photographed by trail cameras periodically over the past 13 years…

This conservation effort is funded in part by the Heritage Fund and Indian gaming revenue.  Started in 1990, the Heritage Fund was established by Arizona voters to further conservation efforts in the state including protecting endangered species, educating our children about wildlife, helping urban residents to better coexist with wildlife and creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation.  Funding comes from Arizona Lottery ticket sales.  [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.]