Viewpoint: Long-term fix needed for Arizona State Parks

[Source: Editorial Board, Arizona Republic, 9-22-2009] — Funding will flow to pay state park rangers and stalled projects will start again — if a state budget committee gives the go-ahead today.  Arizona State Parks plans to backfill some of its crippling budget cuts this year by tapping cash in the Heritage Fund: $6.5 million for staffing and $6.1 million to restore grants that were suspended.  This is a short-term fix, a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul strategy.  It’s not a solution but a sign of the dire plight of our parks. Still, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee should endorse the proposal.

Recreational and preservation projects around Arizona screeched to a halt in February when the State Parks Board suspended funding on Heritage Fund grants in a desperate bid to keep parks open.  Soccer fields under construction, half-finished repairs to historic buildings, trails that were under way, partly built parks — some of the projects were 90 percent complete when the funding abruptly stopped.  Those that had raised matching funds were in danger of losing their money.

These are projects that went through tough competition and must meet rigorous reporting requirements.  From the Great Arizona Puppet Theater to petroglyph sites, they are part of Arizona’s character.  A wall-stabilization job was under way at the historic Sullivan Hotel in Jerome, a former house of ill repute that is now shops.  With the 1903 structure on the verge of collapse, owners Mary Wills and Sally Dryer borrowed money to get the work done.  If the JLBC approves, they’ll finally be able to pay off the debt and the contractors who were willing to wait.

Relieving part of this year’s crisis with the Heritage Fund means that money won’t be available next year.  And some already approved projects — restoring the iconic San Xavier del Bac Mission is a particularly appalling case — are not eligible for the backfill because they were not under way or had not yet submitted bills.  Meanwhile, the state park system is starving for dollars.

The Legislature cut off all general-fund support for State Parks.  It then raided funds earmarked for operating expenses.  The parks’ operating budget has fallen from $26 million to $19 million.  Arizona State Parks is seeking public comments on a wide range of proposed fee hikes (go to

Gov. Jan Brewer appointed a task force to recommend ways to provide a sustainable stream of funding for the parks.  That’s not just operations: Maintenance is at the crisis point.  The report, due in October, should have a creative, practical, doable strategy.  Our cultural and recreational treasures are at risk.  In this tourist-oriented state, it would be truly foolish to lose them.

Open letter to Arizona’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee

Dear Chairman Kavanagh and members of the JLBC:

The Arizona Heritage Alliance’s mission is to protect and educate about the Heritage Fund, its purposes, potential, and accomplishments, and to ensure that the Fund’s money is spent as it was established by initiative statute concieved for and by the people in 1990.

With that mission in mind, we respectfully request that you review favorably the Arizona State Parks Board’s budget transfer request which includes the return of Heritage Fund grant money to its rightful grantees from the 2009 grant cycle.  That grant money already awarded and in process of going on the ground was “frozen” by the Board in February 2009 following deep cuts made by the Legislature to the Arizona State Parks Budget.  The Legislature then permitted the Parks Board to use “other funds” (including Heritage Funds) to make up for the sweeps.  Heritage Fund grant awards were therefore “frozen” in February 2009 by the Parks Board.  This action caused great hardship to the grantees, their projects which included many historic monuments, and to their communities.  At the August Parks Board meeting, its members voted to “unfreeze” that grant money pending a positive review of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

The Arizona Heritage Alliance is hereby adding its voice to that of the Arizona State Parks Board in requesting that you permit them now to restore that funding so that they can release it to the awarded grantees at long last.

We appreciate this opportunity to share our concerns with you with the hope that the Arizona State Parks Board will be able to honor its commitments to those many grantees.


Elizabeth T. Woodin
Arizona Heritage Alliance

Action Alert! Call/write JBLC before Tuesday 2:30 p.m., September 22

For Arizona State Parks to reinstate and refund the Heritage Fund grants that were de-obligated (i.e., reneged) in February 2009 (1%-95% completed), the JLBC (Joint Legislative Budget Committee) has to approve the Arizona State Parks fund transfers.

JLBC will meet on Tuesday, September 22 at 2:30 p.m. in House Hearing Room.  However, there is no call to the public. Heritage Fund advocates must relay this message to the Committee prior to Tuesday afternoon.

Below is the list of JLBC Committee Members with their e-mails and phone numbers.  If any of the Committee Members are your senator or representative, please call and say that you are a constituent.  If none represent your district, please e-mail all and explain why this matter is important to you as an Arizona citizen.

Here is the suggested message: “Please give a favorable review to the Arizona State Parks Board request to transfer monies between its own funds to backfill sweeps and transfer that were enacted as part of the FY2010 Budget.”

If you have any questions, please contact Janice Miano, Director of Administration, Arizona Heritage Alliance: or 602-528-7500 (office). Thank you!

Senate Member (The Honorable…)

  • Paula Aboud,, 602-926-5262
  • Amanda Aguirre,, 602-926-4139
  • Chuck Gray,, 602-926-5288
  • Jack Harper,, 602-926-4178
  • Russell Pearce,, 602-926-5760
  • Steve Pierce,, 602-926-5584
  • Rebecca Rios,, 602-926-5685
  • Jim Waring,, 602-926-4916

House Member (The Honorable…)

  • Andy Biggs,, 602-926-4371
  • Olivia Cajero Bedford,, 602-926-5835
  • Cloves C. Campbell Jr.,, 602-926-3042
  • Dr. Matt Heinz,, 602-926-3424
  • John Kavanagh, Chair,, 602-926-5170
  • John McComish,, 602-926-5898
  • Rick Murphy,, 602-926-3255
  • Vic Williams,, 602-926-5839