Strong civic spirit saves our state parks

[Source: Arizona Republic Editorial] –  A cavalry of volunteers, local communities and non-profit groups rode to the rescue when more than half of the state park system was on the verge of shutting down. They’ve done a heroic job of keeping the doors open at historic sites such as FortVerde, scenic wonders such as PicachoPeak and recreational playgrounds such as Sedona’s Red Rocks. The value of volunteer work alone was an amazing $5.5 million last fiscal year, which ended June 30. Some parks run on reduced schedules, and some close seasonally. But only one of 27, Oracle State Park, is closed (and there’s a move to provide limited access).

We applaud not only the civic spirit but the financial good sense of those rallying behind Arizona State Parks. In a state that depends heavily on tourism, these are valuable assets with long-term potential. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, for instance, had a $3.56 million economic impact in fiscal 2007. It’s so important to the region that the communities of Payson and StarValley, plus a “friends of” group, held fundraisers and chipped in cash and labor to keep it running. The rescue efforts are critical stopgaps. But Arizona State Parks must still become financially solid for the long haul. Maintenance and capital projects cannot continue to be neglected.

Step 1 is for legislators to stop emptying the till. They cut off all state support years ago, and now, they’re sweeping up the dollars earned through admissions and concessions. Thanks to all the help, Arizona State Parks ended last fiscal year with a $1.7 million operating profit, but it was siphoned into the state budget, plus an extra $400,000. Besides stopping the revenue raids, Arizonans need to figure out a steady revenue stream for park maintenance and improvements. The cavalry needs permanent reinforcements

Arizona parks rescued by communities and non-profits

[Source; Megan Neighbor, The Arizona Republic] –  In the depths of the recession, state budget cuts made it seem almost certain that the gates to manyArizonaparks would remain padlocked. But local communities and non-profit organizations have banded together to keep 14 of the state’s most financially vulnerable parks open by providing more than $820,000 to the cash-strapped Arizona State Parks agency.

For example, the Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and the towns of Payson and StarValleyare helping provide $35,000 in funding to the namesake park inGilaCounty. Through a contract with Santa Cruz County, the Tubac Historical Society is helping keepTubacPresidioStateHistoricPark’s doors open by providing both funding and operational support.RedRockState Parkin Sedona is being aided byYavapai Countyand the Benefactors of Red Rock State Park. All but one of the state’s other 13 parks remain open, albeit seasonally in some cases, because they take in enough revenue to stay in the black and fund their own operations.

Local authorities and non-profits say they decided to cast a financial lifeline to the more vulnerable parks because they recognize their value – their rich history, intense beauty and, perhaps most importantly, their economic impact. Today, less than two years after major closures seemed certain, 26 of Arizona’s 27 parks are open, although many have abbreviated schedules [to read the full article click here].

Community involvement keeps threatened Arizona parks open

[Source: Mark Duncan, Enterprise Reporter, the Daily Courier] – A couple of years ago, the Arizona State Parks system found itself in a second-hand crisis, thanks to the general budgeting malaise that affected the whole of state government. With gargantuan deficits looming, the Legislature chose to “sweep” pretty much any and all available money from any and all “non-essential” departments, including the state parks department, which suddenly had some hard choices on its hands.

The directors there cut staffing and programs and looked for every possible way to make ends meet. In the end, though, they had to make a list they never thought they’d make – a list of parks that might have to close because they just couldn’t make ends meet on their own. On that list were Red Rocks State Park, one of four conservation parks statewide, and Fort Verde Historic State Park, one of the nine historic parks in the system.

Well, the folks of Sedona and Camp Verde weren’t going to let that happen in their towns. And it just so happened that Yavapai County Supervisor Chip Davis had stashed away some money from cable television franchise fees – money that was earmarked for parks and recreation activities. With the blessing of the other two supervisors, he pledged $30,000 per year to each of the two parks.

In Sedona, as the staff of state employees was cut in half, the community came alive in support of the park. In addition to the county money, the City of Sedona contributed $15,000 and the Sedona Community Foundation added $10,000, and a group called the Benefactors of Red Rock State Park came up with $145,000 in donations large and small, including $15,000 from a family foundation that paid for a part-time ranger to run the school program [to read the full article click here].

Fort Verde gets a new roof

[Source: Steve Ayers Camp Verde Bugle]

VVN/Steve Ayers

Your typical household roofing job will run in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the size of the house and the material of choice.

But if the roof you are replacing is made of shake shingles and happens to protect a 140-year-old adobe building, the costs can go considerably higher.

Such is the case with the roofing job at Fort Verde. Starting last week and continuing for the next month or so crews are replacing the cedar shingles on the four remaining builds and putting new asphalt shingles on the restrooms.

The cost of the project is $185,000.

“We were very fortunate to receive some of the last of the Heritage Fund money that was not swept by the Legislature,” says Park Manager Sheila Stubler.

The Commanding Officer’s Quarters, the one with the Mansard roof, will be the most expensive, costing about $55,000.

The historic records show that the original cedar shingles came from the Black Hills, south and west of the fort and were made at the Army’s saw mill located in the community of Cherry.

The red cedar shingles were brought in from British Columbia

This time the clear heartwood red cedar shingles had to be brought in from British Columbia.

“The buildings are on the National Historic Register of Historic Places, so any work has to conform to the Department of the Interior guidelines,” says Margy Parisella, a project manager and architect with Arizona State Parks.

That means they have to be the same product, same size and the same spacing.

The final look will be the same but this time the nearly 50,000 shingles will be applied with the latest and greatest methods and materials.

According to Dan Settle with Brown and Sons Roofing, the contractor on the project, they will apply an additional layer of breather material before nailing in the shingles.

“I had never seen the material until about five years ago,” says Settle. “It has become pretty popular back East where they see a lot more moisture. We are putting it on because we believe it will extend the life of the shingles by allowing air to pass beneath them.”

Prior to the roofers showing up, a group of local volunteers led by George Dvorak donated over 650 hours replacing the wood around all the dormers, fixing cracked window panes, painting and rebuilding the old shutters.

According to Stubler, the project should be completed by the end of March, weather permitting.