Arizona towns feel state park closures’ effects on business

[Source: Arizona Daily Star, Associated Press] — Arizona towns that rely on nearby state parks are seeing a big decline in tourism and the dollars that tourists spend.  The state closed Jerome State Historic Park and Tonto Natural Bridge State Park on Feb. 26 after the Legislature cut more than $34 million in park funds to help fill budget gaps.

Art gallery, restaurant and bar owners in Jerome say the nearby state park is a major draw.  Last year, 60,000 people came through Jerome. Researchers at Northern Arizona University say tourists brought $7 million to Yavapai County in 2007.  Payson and other rim communities are coping with the partial closure of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

The park has been open most weekends since Memorial Day, but attendance has plummeted.

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