[Source: ABC15.com, Mike Pelton] – State parks across Arizona could face a financial nightmare if a senate budget proposal passes, members of the state parks board said Wednesday. The Arizona Senate passed a budget proposal for next year and, in an attempt to balance the budget, proposed transferring money from state parks to the general fund.
“State parks is not only an enterprise agency but an economic engine,” said Tracey Westerhausen, chairman of the state parks board. Westerhausen said the senate’s budget proposal would transfer more than $3 million that state parks generate from the public, and transfer it to the general fund for other uses. “It’s hard for us to run like a business when the money we generate would be taken away,” she said. Westerhausen cited the importance of state parks for the economy. Parks often draw tourists out to rural areas around the state, bringing money with them.
“The Lost Dutchman state park is very important, not just to this business but the entire community,” said Mark LeReshe, who owns Superstition Harley Davidson in Apache Junction, just miles from the Lost Dutchman park.
ABC15 contacted members of the state senate, who refused to comment on the issue. State parks is only one area the senate budget proposal suggests gathering additional funds from. Other industries would be affected as well, such as the department of health services. Business owners, such as LeReshe, said they will continue to help keep the parks open as best they can. LeReshe has helped raise thousands of dollars for Lost Dutchman. “We’re going to fight,” he said. “We’re going to fight to keep that park open.”
The state parks have faced financial trouble in recent years. Currently, 28 of the state’s 30 state parks are open. The senate’s budget proposal still has to go through the House, where it could face changes, before it heads to Governor Brewer’s desk.