No matter state budget outcome, some Arizona State Parks likely to close

[Source: Tammy Gray-Searles, Navajo County Publishers] — The early shutdown of campgrounds at Arizona State Parks is likely a foreshadowing of things to come for several parks across the state, including Lyman Lake and Homolovi state parks.  Regardless of the final outcome of the state budget, which was still not finalized as of press time Wednesday, the Arizona State Parks Board will be forced to make painful budget cuts.  Reducing costs by closing at least eight state parks is still at the top of the list, and was scheduled to be the topic of a July 2 work session.

According to state parks spokesman Ellen Bilbrey, board members were not expected to take action at the work session, but instead were to determine exactly how to proceed when they hold their next regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 3.

The July 2 agenda called for the board to meet in executive session “for legal advice regarding strategies necessary to balance the budget including, but not limited to, spending reductions, staff layoffs or reductions in force, transferring expenses to alternative funding sources, suspending grant payments, suspending FY2010 grant cycle, park closures, reduction of hours/days of operations, deferring parks capital projects, furloughs, salary reductions, spending reductions…”  Public discussion was scheduled following the executive session.

Parks on the potential chopping block besides Lyman Lake and Homolovi include Riordan Mansion, Fort Verde State Historic Park, Yuma Quartermaster Depot, Oracle State Park, Tubac Presidio, and McFarland State Historic Park. [Note: Read the full article at No matter state budget outcome, some Arizona State Parks likely to close]

Arizona state parks open after hours-long closure

[Source: Arizona Daily Sun, Associated Press] — State parks reopened Wednesday morning after concerns about the lack of a state budget prompted an overnight closure.  A state budget passed early Wednesday averted a government shutdown, even though Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed portions of the multi-bill package.  Parks had been ordered closed on Tuesday afternoon, but the passage ensured they would reopen for the upcoming July 4 holiday.

An estimated 55,000 people are expected to visit the 30 sites within the parks system over the weekend, said State Parks Director Renee Bahl.  Rangers removed signs Wednesday morning that advised visitors of the closure.  “Nobody is happier than we are to welcome guests back into the parks and to get ready for our biggest week of the year,” Bahl said.

The midnight deadline to pass a budget under the state constitution passed Tuesday with little immediate effect to agencies other than parks.  Most state agencies were closed, and Brewer already had told public safety agencies to maintain normal operations.  Fred Solop, chairman of Northern Arizona University’s Department of Politics and International Affairs, said the delay put the state parks system in a difficult situation.  “Clearly the parks felt they had to do something given the big weekend that was coming,” he said.  “It was prudent for them to shut down early. It would be much more difficult to tell people they had to leave a campsite Fourth of July weekend.” [Note: To read the full article: Arizona state parks open after hours-long closure]