Local Opinion: A sensible way to take are of our Parks

William Thornton Special to the Arizona Daily Star – March 14, 2024

As a resident of Southern Arizona, I am speaking up to emphasize the importance of supporting Senate Concurrent Resolution 1038**, which aims to place an initiative on the November 2024 ballot to restore full funding for the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund. This initiative would allocate $10 million annually from the Arizona Lottery to support our local, regional, and state parks, historic preservation, non-motorized trails and outdoor education.

Our fondest childhood memories often involve neighborhood parks and exploring Arizona’s natural wonders. These outdoor spaces not only offer recreational opportunities but also serve as economic engines for host communities. Park visitors buy gas and groceries, they dine in local restaurants and stay overnight in local motels/hotels.

A study commissioned by the city of Show Low revealed that each camper at nearby Fool Hollow State Park contributed on average $100 per day to the city’s economy.

More than three decades ago, Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of the State Parks Heritage Fund, recognizing the need to safeguard our state’s natural and historic heritage. But in recent years funding has been inconsistent. Due to budget shortfalls, Parks Heritage Funds have been “swept” into the general fund, hindering our ability to adequately maintain and enhance our parks and historic sites.

Past legislative efforts have made strides toward restoring funding to the State Parks Heritage Fund, but it is clear that a sustainable long-term solution is needed. By placing SCR 1038 on the ballot voters will have the opportunity to ensure a dedicated funding source for our parks, trails, historic and cultural sites for years to come.

With the 2024 legislative session underway and the Arizona Lottery encumbrances resolved, it is imperative that we take decisive action to reinstate full funding for our state parks through a ballot initiative. The Arizona Heritage Alliance, along with numerous environmental and conservation-oriented organizations as well as concerned citizens are advocating for this comprehensive approach to ensure the long-term sustainability of our parks and cultural resources.

As we confront challenges such as urban sprawl and wildfires that threaten our open spaces and historic sites, investing in our State Parks Heritage Fund is not just a matter of preserving the past but also safeguarding our future. We urge fellow Arizonans to support SCR 1038 and vote in favor of reinstating funding for the State Parks Heritage Fund in the upcoming November 2024 election. Let us reaffirm our commitment to preserving Arizona’s natural beauty and cultural legacy for generations to come.

Parks Heritage Funds are not an expense; they are an investment that provides affordable outdoor recreational opportunities for Arizonans and visitors to our state.

William Thornton is a second-generation Arizona native, lifelong conservationist and outdoor enthusiast.

**Update on SCR1038 – Unfortunately on 3/7/2024 the Senate failed to pass SCR1038 (15-13-2). The  Arizona Heritage Alliance is regrouping and will continue to work towards restoring the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund back in the Lottery.

Restore Full Funding for the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund in 2023!

Arizona’s local, regional, and state parks and recreation facilities are economic development generators that encourage the spending of tourist dollars, attract businesses whose workforce choose jobs in locations with quality of life benefits, strengthen community cohesion, and increase property values. Historic preservation initiatives in our rural communities and urban areas promote economic development by creating jobs, revitalizing historic areas, increasing property values, and promoting heritage tourism.

The Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund served Arizona well from 1991 to 2008 and again, starting in 2021, with its support for parks, historic preservation, non-motorized trails, and outdoor and environmental education. It is the goal of the Arizona Heritage Alliance to encourage state officials to restore full funding for the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund in 2023. During the fiscal year 2021 and 2022 grant cycles, the demand has exceeded expectations, so full funding is essential.

Help us achieve our goal!

* CHICK HERE  to add your name to the list of Arizonans who care deeply about our state’s natural, cultural, and historic resources and encourage full funding for the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund through its original funding source, the Arizona Lottery.

* CONTACT your newly-elected legislators asking them to support the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund in the next legislative session. Since the election results are still coming in (as of 11-13-22), contact information for new legislators has yet to be finalized. To find your legislator, visit: https://www.azleg.gov/findmylegislator/

* FOLLOW the Alliance’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/azheritage

* INVITE the Alliance to make a presentation at an organization you represent. Drop us a note at mail@azheritage.org 

With graditude, thank you for your continuing support.

Arizona Heritage Alliance Board of Directors

Heritage Fund HALF Full!

Article by Jim McPherson, President of the Arizona Preservation Foundation and Vice-President of the Arizona Heritage Alliance – July 6, 2022.

While the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund appropriations was cut in half from $5 million last fiscal year to $2.5 million this fiscal year, the State Legislature and Governor approved other significant funding for parks, trails, historic preservation, and wildlife conservation. Over and above funding for the staffing and operations of Arizona Game & Fish and Arizona State Parks & Trails (the two state agencies that the Arizona Heritage Alliance advocates for every day), investments were made for the following initiatives:

  • Historic Resources: Arizona Historical Society; Arizona Mining, Mineral & National Resources Museum; Arizona Pioneers’ Home; Fort Whipple Homeless Veterans Housing; Prescott Historical Society; State Capitol Renovations; historic building renovations at Jerome State Historic Park, Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, and Tonto Natural Bridge State Park; Arizona Dude Ranch Registry; and State Archives Born Digital Record Preservation Study.
  • Natural Resources: Arizona Trail; campground, solar shade, smartphone accessibility, and water conservation projects at state parks statewide; specific improvements at Catalina State Park, Dead Horse State Park, and Rockin’ River Ranch State Park; and mitigation of drought conditions affecting wildlife and sportsfish.

In addition, the Alliance has always supported the leveraging of funds from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) with all related grant programs managed by state and local governments. The Alliance applauds the recent announcement by the U.S. Department of the Interior that $5,695,464 from the LWCF will be invested in Arizona for outdoor recreation and conservation efforts, strengthening public lands and waters, building new outdoor spaces, and expanding access to outdoor recreation.

The Alliance thanks the thousands of Arizonans who called, wrote, emailed, texted, and used the Legislature’s Request to Speak service this past legislative session to voice their support of the State Parks Heritage Fund and Arizona’s historic and natural resources overall.

Information for 2022 Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund

Thank you for supporting the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund.  On June 28, 2022, the Governor signed the 2022/2023 Budget which included an one-time appropriation of $2.5 million to fund the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund.  Please feel free to email or call us at 602,738.8381 if you have any questions or need more information.

2021 Heritage Fund Report

2022 Heritage Fund Fact Sheet

Support Flyer – Vote Yes on SB1270

List of 2021/2022 ASP Heritage Fund grant awards (as of 6.29.2022)

2021/2022 Estimated Totals of ASP Heritage Fund and ARAP grant awards (as of 6.29.2022)

Arizona Heritage Alliance Email blast – 2022 Legislative Session is Open

Alert:  SB1270 is on AZ Senate Appropriations Committee 2.1.2022 Agenda 

Live Webinar on Background of the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund.

Letter to the Editor by AHA Board Member Natalya Brown – Phoenix Independent

Letter to the Editor by AHA Board Member Natalya Brown – Daily Independent

Letter to the Editor by AHA Board Member Steve Farley – Tucson Daily Star

Guest Column by AHA President Russ Jones  – Yuma Sun

Letter to the Editor by AHA Board Member Bryan Martyn – Daily Independent

Colorado College released the results from their 2022 Conservation in the West Poll. It’s chalk full of resources that you could incorporate into your discussions with decision-makers and communications materials on the benefits of public lands spaces to Arizonans, Here’s a few resources to highlight:

Alert:  SB1270 is on the AZ House Land, Argiculture and Rural Affairs Committee 3.14.2022 Agenda

February 2022 Poll – Arizona Statewide Issues – Prepared for the State Innovation Exchange by TargetSmart

Alert:  SB1270 Still Needs Your Support to Restore the ASP Heritage Fund in the Lottery

FY 2023 Executive Arizona State Parks Budget Handout