ASU students chosen as State Park Youth Ambassadors

[Source: Dana Berchman, ASU News]

Students Kelly Alvidrez, Victor Vizcaino and Benjamin Watts (far right) with Renee Bahl, executive director of Arizona State Parks (second from right).

Three Arizona State University students have been selected by Arizona State Parks as State Park Youth Ambassadors.  All three students, Victor Vizcaino, Kelly Alvidrez and Benjamin Watts, are currently enrolled in the Parks & Recreation Management program at ASU.

Victor Vizcaino recently conducted field surveys in Kaibab National Forest on a research project with the City of Phoenix Parks Program.  “It is an honor to have been selected as a Youth Ambassador for Arizona State Parks because I get to represent my state, my university and the pride we share for the beauty of Arizona,” says Vizcaino.

Kelly Alvidrez is interested in environmental education and wants to teach others about the outdoors and how to use it in a sustainable manner.  “Through this appointment I hope to get young people excited about the parks and outdoor recreation. Also, I would like them to understand why we need to be stewards of our natural resources and how we can use them appropriately,” says Alvidrez.

Benjamin Watts enjoys exploring Arizona and its diverse assortment of natural resources. He believes getting people, especially youth, involved in the outdoor community is a crucial step in recognizing that we are a small part of a larger picture.  “Being selected has really reaffirmed my decision to change my major and get involved with the Parks and Recreation Management Program. I took a chance and it has changed my life,” says Watts.

Kathy Andereck, Director of the School of Community Resources and Development in the College of Public Programs, says she is thrilled that these students have been chosen.  “The students are reflective of the excellent education and mentoring provided by our faculty and the abundant opportunities available to Parks and Recreation Management majors. It also highlights the School’s philosophy and commitment toward community engagement and development of partnerships,” says Andereck.

The Youth Ambassador project is a cooperative effort between America’s State Parks and the Outdoor Foundation’s Outdoor Nation that encourages young adults to share their experiences with outdoor recreation. Each Youth Ambassador receives an Olympus camera and a 1-year Annual Pass to Arizona State Parks. They will document and share their experiences to the public using video, photos and blog entries that will posted on

“The Outdoor Foundation is pleased to partner with America’s State Parks to launch a nationwide Youth Ambassador program,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. “Outdoor Nation is a growing youth-led outdoor movement where young leaders are championing change in communities and on campuses across the country. Protecting America’s State Parks is one of the most important things our ‘Outsider’ community can do.”


Local PBS station airs segment on plight of Arizona State Parks

[Source: Horizon, KAET, Ted Simons, 9-30-2009] — As PBS and Ken Burns examine the rich scenic and cultural values of our national parks, KAET’s Horizon focuses its lens on Arizona State Parks.  We’ll preview an upcoming report from ASU’s Morrison Institute that considers the role and future of Arizona’s 30 State Parks.  Guests include State Parks Director, Renee Bahl; State Parks Board member, Bill Scalzo; and Morrison Institute’s Grady Gammage, Jr. who also serves on the Sustainable State Parks Task Force.  [Note: to watch the segment, click here.]

Viewpoint: Decision on Arizona state park closures in need of alternatives

[Source: Dave D. White, associate professor of parks & recreation management, ASU School of Community Resources & Development, Arizona Republic] — Arizona has long been a land of opportunity and renewal.  This is a place where most people come from somewhere else.  We flock to Arizona to work; start a family; retire; enjoy the warm climate; and explore the beautiful deserts, forests, rivers and canyons.  In short, people value Arizona for the high quality of life that exists because of the foresight of those who fought to conserve our natural and cultural heritage by protecting special places such as Arizona State Parks.  These parks benefit all residents by providing recreation opportunities, conserving natural areas, spurring economic development, and preserving our history.

Now, massive budget cuts enacted by the state Legislature and governor threaten to force the permanent closure of almost one-third of all state parks.  The agency simply would have to lock the gates and walk away.  These cuts also would slash grants to local communities and end programs to teach our children about nature and history.

In a recent emergency meeting, the State Parks Board agreed to make these difficult choices during its regular meeting on Feb. 20.  This is a temporary pardon of the death penalty for up to eight state parks, and residents will have one last opportunity to speak up.  The proposed closures would disproportionately affect historic and cultural parks.  These places tell the stories of our pioneer past, our military history, tales of our founding families, and tales of our Native American ancestors.  These parks provide a link from the past to the present and teach us who we are and how we came to be here.

Some say the closures are justified by low visitation rates, poor fee receipts and crumbling infrastructure at these parks.  Certainly, we need to take a careful and thorough look at the state park system, including how the agency is funded, how much is charged to enter a park and what alternatives exist.  Some closures may be necessary.  However, this should be a deliberate and careful choice, not a knee-jerk decision forced upon us by Draconian midyear budget cuts.  Other possibilities — staff furloughs, seasonal closings, a hiring freeze, and limiting hours open to the public — are available to give the agency time to make more informed decisions about permanent closures.  Let’s show future generations that we measure quality-of-life results not only in economic terms, but also in social and environmental dimensions.

Arizona state parks move to lure, keep volunteers as economy worsens

[Source: Andrew J. Shainker, Cronkite News Service] — Jack Edwards gives visitors to Red Rock State Park a handshake and hello along with a pamphlet on the park’s history.  Louise Appleton leads visitors on moonlight walks.  Those who sneak onto park grounds after hours will get a lecture from Don Swanson, who stays overnight in his trailer.  This nature preserve, set beneath the spectacular cliffs overlooking Sedona, has several employees, but the three aren’t among them.  The retirees are part of a crew of about 80 volunteers that keeps the park running.  [Note: to read the full article click here.]