Oracle State Park could reopen part time

[Source: Doug Kreutz, Arizona Daily Star] – Oracle State Park – closed for nearly two years by budget cuts – will reopen part-time next year if a new funding plan works out. “It’s not final yet, but I’m confident we’ll make this work,” said Renée Bahl, executive director of Arizona State Parks.”We’ve been working very closely with the Friends of Oracle State Park, which is a fantastic advocacy group, on a plan” to reopen the park near the town of Oracle, Bahl said.

The tentative plan would open the park three days a week to environmental education programs for students and on Saturdays to the public. Students and park visitors would have access to the park’s high-desert landscapes, hiking trails and the historic Kannally Ranch House.

Those sites have been off limits since the park was closed in October 2009 along with some other state parks. Oracle is the only one that remains closed. The key element in the reopening plan, Bahl said, is a fundraising effort by the Friends of Oracle State Park. “Right now, we’re looking at $20,000 to $25,000, and I have confidence that they will be able to raise the money,” Bahl said. If the money can be raised, the reopening plans would go into effect next spring or fall. Bahl said the timing depends on coordinating plans with school districts that would send students to the park.

Cindy Krupicka, president of the Friends group, called the planned reopening “a great start.” “We’re excited, and we hope to make this work,” Krupicka said. “In addition to raising money, we’ll also have to get volunteers to run the educational programs.” Bahl said State Parks expenditures for a reopening would be about $40,000. “We would move one ranger to the park to help put together the curriculum and help train the volunteers,” she said.

Historic San Xavier mission lacks funds to complete repairs; tough economic times clip White Dove’s wings

The upper reaches of the east bell tower of Mission San Xavier del Bac shows its age next to the restored west tower. (Photo: Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star)

[Source: Doug Kreutz,  Arizona Daily Star 3-28-2010] — A prominent feature of Mission San Xavier del Bac, which has graced the desert southwest of Tucson for two centuries, faces unchecked decay now that critical funding has been cut.  Work to repair and restore the mission’s deteriorated east bell tower was supposed to be under way this spring, but not a dab of new mortar has been applied.

A previously approved $150,000 grant from the Arizona Heritage Fund to kick-start the project was abruptly canceled last year.  Persistent efforts to get the funding restored have failed, so the bell tower will languish for the foreseeable future — making eventual restoration ever more costly, said Vern Lamplot, executive director of the Patronato San Xavier.  The group oversees fundraising and restoration for the mission, which attracts 200,000 visitors annually.

Restoration of the tower was to be the last major step in more than two decades of work that has included repair of walls, renovation of the west tower and meticulous cleaning of religious art inside the mission.  [Note: To read the full story, click here.]

Havens of nature, Arizona’s history fall to cuts

[Source: Arizona Daily Star, Doug Kreutz, 1-24-2010] — Wildflower lovers might want to plan a farewell visit to Picacho Peak State Park this spring — even if it’s not a banner year for blooms.  The park, a mecca for fans of wildflower color, is scheduled to close June 3 — and officials don’t know.  “Voting to close these parks was one of the hardest moments of my life,” said Reese Woodling, a Tucson resident and chairman of the Arizona State Parks Board.  “I love Arizona and I love our parks.  To see this happening just makes me sick to my stomach.”  When, or if, it will reopen.

Picacho Peak, about 40 miles northwest of Tucson, is one of 13 state parks slated for closure in a phased sequence from Feb. 22 to June 3.  Other Southern Arizona parks closing their gates are Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, Roper Lake State Park, and Lost Dutchman State Park.  The reason: a budget shortfall of $8.6 million.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Mariposa Trail is worth drive to Oracle, AZ

[Source: Doug Kreutz, Arizona Daily Star] — Golden winter grasses carpet gently rolling hills and hidden hollows along the Mariposa Trail at Oracle State Park.  A trek on the trail is kind of like slipping into the park through the back door.  Beginning at its own trailhead northwest of the park’s main trail system and the historic Kannally Ranch House, the 1.2-mile route offers a “walk-in” alternative to driving into the park.

The Mariposa Trail dips into a hollow near the starting point and then climbs gradually to a grassy hilltop affording good views of the Catalina Mountains to the south and the rugged Galiuro range to the east.  It works its way down another hillside and then meanders southeastward to connect with a network of trails and the park’s main entrance road.  Hikers coming in on the Mariposa might choose to visit the ranch house or link with other trails for a longer hike.  By connecting with the Granite Overlook Trail Loop, the Windy Ridge Trail Loop or the Nature Trail Loop, it’s possible to fashion a round-trip trek of several miles.  [Note: to read the full article, click here.]