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.

Citizens speak out on behalf of Arizona State Parks, Jan. 15, at packed Phoenix Zoo meeting

Clip #1: Ken Travous, former Director, Arizona State Parks; Cindy Sherman, Volunteer at Riordan Mansion State Historic Park; and Susan Culp.

Clip #2: Cristie Statler, Arizona State Parks Foundation Director; Claudine Mahoney, Benefactors of Red Rock State Park; and Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter Executive Director.

Clip #3: Bill Roe, former Arizona State Parks Board Member; Charles Adams, University of Arizona; and Charles Eatherly, former Arizona State Parks Deputy Director.

Clip #4: Joni Bosh, former Arizona State Parks Board Member; Cindy Krupika, Friends of Oracle State Park President; Bob Burnside, Camp Verde Mayor; and Chris Strohm, Volunteer Sonoita Creek State Natural Area.

Community rallies to keep Oracle State Park open

State Sen. Al Melvin (seated at left) listens as docent Mary Bast gives a tour of Oracle State Park's Kannally Ranch House (Photo: Ty Bowers, The Explorer)

[Source: Ty Bowers, The Explorer] — Given the nearly $22 million in immediate budget cuts the Arizona Legislature has proposed for the state park system, keeping Oracle State Park open could prove difficult, Sen. Al Melvin (R-26) told a handful of park supporters Saturday.  “Time is of the essence here,” Melvin said after a tour of the Kannally Ranch House at the park.  On Friday, Feb. 20, the Arizona State Parks Board will vote on whether to close up to eight state parks, the 4,000-acre park in Oracle among them.

A letter-writing campaign could work, especially one featuring a detailed proposal for how the park’s support group, the Friends of Oracle State Park, could help defray operating costs, Melvin strategized.  He would write the parks board, too, the senator said.  “I promise you I will do everything I can … to keep it up and running,” Melvin told a small cadre of some of the park’s most loyal volunteers, many of whom live near Melvin in SaddleBrooke.

Two days earlier, on Feb. 5, more than 100 people had packed the Oracle Community Center to discuss the park’s potential closure.  At that meeting, the Friends of Oracle State Park proposed spending some of $40,000 they had in the bank to keep the park open for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.  It would cost about $1,500 a month to run the park with a shoestring staff — hardly a long-term solution, many volunteers said.

In fiscal 2008, it cost $278,398 to operate the park in Oracle, according to state officials.  The 9,898 recorded visitors to the park brought in $14,492.  When contemplating which parks it might close, the state looked at how much it cost per visitor to operate each park.  It costs $26/visitor to operate Oracle State Park — second highest only to McFarland State Park in Florence.  Numerous people attending the meeting in Oracle last Thursday questioned using cost per visitor as the only metric for deciding which parks to close. “Is that the best way to value a park?” asked Jim Walsh, the Pinal County attorney.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]