Heritage Alliance Elects New Board & Officers

At its December 5, 2014 board meeting at the Flinn Foundation office in Phoenix, the Arizona Heritage Alliance board of directors elected a new slate of board members and officers. Returning to the board for three-year terms are:

  • Bonnie Bariola, Florence
  • Margaret Bohannan, Scottsdale
  • The Honorable Sam Campana, Scottsdale
  • Peter Culp, Sedona
  • Don Farmer, Scottsdale
  • James Holway, Phoenix
  • Jennifer Martin​,​ Phoenix
  • Kathleen Roediger, Phoenix
  • William Thornton, Tucson
  • Elizabeth Woodin, Tucson
  • Tom Woods, Phoenix

Larry Weigel of Tucson was elected as a new board member. David C. Bartlett of Tucson chose to leave the board after five terms​. Beth Woodin, on behalf of the full board, thanked David for his 15 years of service on the board.

The board then elected the following officers for 2015:

  • President – Elizabeth Woodin, Tucson
  • Vice President – Jim McPherson, Phoenix
  • Secretary – Bonnie Bariola, Florence
  • Treasurer – William Thornton, Tucson

Board members also thanked Janice Miano for her work on behalf of the board.

Commentary: Our State Parks are in trouble

[Commentary by Don Farmer, Scottsdale, President, Arizona Heritage Alliance Board] – – Our Arizona State Parks are in trouble. It seems the current down economy and resulting state budget meltdown has led our elected legislature to strip out most of the State Parks funding and redirect it to more “important” needs. The direct result of this action is the drastic reduction of the services and programs our State Parks provide us. You do not have to be a State Park visitor to be impacted by this loss. The Arizona State Parks Agency manages 27 parks and natural areas located around the state. They also oversee our State Trails system; manage the Outdoor-Related Grants Program, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the Off-Highway Vehicle Program. The folks at Arizona State Parks have been managing all of these lands and programs in an under-funded condition for years as the legislature chose to sweep one revenue source after another from them. Just one year ago, the situation at State Parks was dire; now with the current loss of funding, the entire agency is threatened with catastrophic collapse.

For whatever the reasons, state budget shortfalls, re-allocation of State Park funding, ignorance towards State Park values or other funding prioritization, it is indefensible that the legislature is strangling the growth and maintenance of assets within the State Parks system. What is next? Are we going to start selling off agency assets to satisfy the state budget needs? The selling of State Park assets certainly is an outrageous notion but is it any less so than the un-funded agency shell that has been left in the wake of the last legislative session’s budget process. What about next year’s budget? From most all accounts, the next few budget years will not show much improvement and the existing funding streams for State Parks will remain mostly empty or undependable.

The Arizona State Parks agency has a solid record of operating-on-a-shoestring a statewide park system, funding for local community historic preservation efforts, and providing assistance to counties, tribal communities, cities and towns towards their own parks and recreation systems. Indeed, Arizona State Parks is the “granting” agency that allows all citizens to enjoy a higher quality of life in Arizona’s communities.

The funding mechanism for Arizona State Parks is broken and we need to implement immediate changes that will ensure an adequate, dependable and increasing funding stream that provides a robust and well maintained State Parks system.

Recently, the Arizona State Parks Board, the citizen commission overseers of the State Parks agency, recommended to Governor Napolitano the formation of a Blue Ribbon Committee, “whose charge would be to determine the present and future needs of the State Park System and explore new revenue sources”. This Committee would recommend new funding strategies and a re-positioning of the agency that will secure a healthy future for the Arizona State Parks.

As individuals, organizations, businesses, counties, cities, towns or tribal entities, we support and use State Park facilities and programs in our community or elsewhere around the state. As such, we should applaud Governor Napolitano for her implementation of this Blue Ribbon Committee. This citizen/governmental task force will provide answers and options to the tough policy and financial questions that currently have our State Parks agency hamstrung and without many options for a healthy future.

Arizona has been blessed with natural beauty and abundant natural resources and we have the luxury to visit and enjoy our State Parks most anytime we choose. If we wish to maintain this lifestyle, a new leadership vision is needed; one that will preserve the best of our natural treasures, plan for open spaces, enhance recreational opportunities and even protect our water and air quality while planning for our future. This new idea seems a worthy goal for our State Parks system, a goal that cannot be achieved by removing that agency’s acquisition and operational funding.

We all share this vision of balancing smart growth with natural and cultural resource protection. The Arizona State Park system, properly funded, is the appropriate agency to connect the various facets of this worthy goal.

President’s Message, May 2008

We have been so fortunate the past few years.  Arizona’s economy has been robust without any budget shortfalls.  That has made the State Legislature much less difficult to deal with regards to fully funded Heritage Fund projects.  The Morrison Institute, in a 2007 study of ideas and public policies for livability and competitiveness, said, “The Heritage Fund stands out in part because of the diversity of programs it supports.  Funds have been used to maintain trails, acquire and maintain habitat for endangered species, preserve historic and archeological sites, create and improve community and state parks, and provide environmental education.”

The Arizona Heritage Alliance Board has been busy with the visionary project of a more protected and additive funding concept for both Arizona State Parks and Arizona Game and Fish.  We have engaged a public dialogue, with the goal of a consensus among the parties.  While the public working group recently postponed any voter initiative effort during the 2008 election cycle, we at the Arizona Heritage Alliance are committed to remain the center to conversations within the conservation, preservation, and recreation communities about what will work for the future.  It seems at present all parties agree a number of threats exist to our quality of life, but no clear path to address these concerns has developed.  All agree, however, that continued and frequent discourse with all parties needs to happen.

This same working group designed a simple pledge for our state lawmakers.  Check and see who has signed on.  This signed pledge on behalf of the Heritage Fund is an investment in safe playground equipment for our children; new parks and trails; the reintroduction of endangered species into Arizona; the restoration of historic buildings; and the conservation of wild and open spaces and critical habitat for wildlife.

If your legislators have not signed our pledge, ask them to do so.  If they have signed on, thank them for helping preserve Arizona’s natural, cultural, and recreational resources.  These are the things which make Arizona such a wonderful place to live, work, and play.

Best wishes to all,

Don Farmer