Don’t shortchange State Parks (Arizona Daily Star guest opinion)

[Source: Bill Roe, Arizona State Parks Foundation] — Across the state, communities from Tucson to Flagstaff, Parker to Pinetop, and dozens of places in between derive millions of dollars annually from activities associated with Arizona State Parks.  Yet to look at the state Legislature’s latest budget-cutting plans, you would think the economic, recreational, scenic, and historic values of State Parks count for naught.

For the second time in five years, the Legislature is poised to take State Parks funds in an ill-conceived bid to balance the state budget on the back of an agency that actually helps make money for the state.  Making the point, an economic study done for State Parks by Northern Arizona University in 2002 showed that the state’s 27 parks and conservation areas generated more than $126 million for local economies in that year.  But this seems lost on Legislators who fail to appreciate the business-like workings of the State Parks Department.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Open-space planning must start early, state parks director says

Ken Travous, Arizona State Parks[Source: Sonu Munshi, Cronkite News Service] — Leaders and citizens are failing to consider spaces that should be preserved at all cost as Arizona grows, and there’s no way to replace what’s being lost, the executive director of Arizona State Parks says.  “Planning in the West is a four-letter word; it’s a curse word.  ‘You’re getting in the way of people’s rights to do what they want,'” Ken Travous said in an interview with Cronkite News Service.  “Well yeah, you are.  At some point in time, let’s get over it and talk about what’s good for our neighbors also.”

Travous said a combination of factors keeps Arizona from planning for open space ahead of growth, including a shortage of public funding for land acquisition and newcomers who lack a sense of Arizona’s history and long-term needs.  “There has to be some kind of a recognition that the cost of growth needs to be addressed in the early stage so it’s healthy growth, so it’s not malignant growth,” Travous said.  “It doesn’t all need to be saved,” he said.  “But let’s take a couple years, and let’s take a couple million dollars, and let’s get some good minds together and determine what is worth saving at all costs.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Put a price on priceless (Arizona Republic editorial)

[Source: Arizona Republic] — The stalactites at Kartchner Caverns and the quail at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge have something in common.  Inadequate budgets are threatening them.  Two of Arizona’s premier systems of recreation and preservation are at risk.

Our Arizona State Parks agency has developed a huge maintenance backlog, because budget cuts have forced it to use up capital funds for everyday operating expenses.  Our eight federal wildlife refuges are losing 16 percent of their staff.  It’s part of a national cutback by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to make up for shortfalls in funding.  In both cases, we risk long-term damage from shortsighted penny pinching.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Arizona’s parks are too valuable to let fall apart (Arizona Republic editorial)

[Source: Kathleen Ingley, Arizona Republic] — If you’ve slipped and bumped down the shoot of water at Slide Rock near Sedona.  If you’ve watched troops dressed in Civil War uniforms re-create the skirmish at Picacho Peak.  If you’ve climbed around Tonto Natural Bridge north of Payson.  If you’ve seen the glistening formations at Kartchner Caverns.  Then you’ve got a reason to celebrate.

Happy birthday, state parks!  Exactly 50 years ago today, Gov. Ernest McFarland signed legislation creating the framework for the parks system.  You’ve also got a lot of reasons to feel outraged.  Our parks are suffering from a shameful lack of maintenance and capital spending.  The budget was gutted five years ago, when the state was in a financial crunch, and funding is just being restored, leaving a huge backlog of repairs.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]