Arizona Forward supports parks and open space, as do most state residents

[Source: Bonnie Bariola, Special to the Florence Reminder] – Arizona Forward was formed for the purpose of enhancing the state’s environmental quality. The initial step in this process was to develop a parks and open space primer entitled Why Parks and Open Space Matter – The Economics of Arizona’s Natural Assets. This document provides unbiased facts, background information, and answers to frequently asked questions on this topic.

With a mission to promote cooperative efforts to improve the livability, sustainability, and economic vitality of cities and towns throughout the state, Arizona Forward was recently formed by Valley Forward, a 42-year old nonprofit public interest organization. Arizona Forward’s organizing members include Freeport McMoran /Copper and Gold, National Bank of Arizona, Sundt Construction, The Nature Conservancy, Fennemore Craig, Gammage and Burnham, Arizona Public Service Co., and the Arizona Heritage Alliance.

Surveys for the parks and open space primer revealed the fact that Arizonans overwhelmingly support state parks and open spaces and believe such areas contribute to a region’s economic health, but few people understand how the state pays for its parks. This lack of knowledge could imperil a parks system already weakened by budget cuts if lawmakers don’t hear from enough voters who want open spaces protected. Voters are encouraged to tell their state legislators to stop raiding the park system’s budget and support a dedicated and secure funding source for parks and wildlife protection.

To download a copy of the parks and open space primer go to Research to prepare the primer revealed nearly 5.5 million Arizonans participate in active outdoor recreation, generating approximately $350 million in annual state tax revenue, producing nearly $5 billion in retail services and supports 83,000 jobs. Designed to enhance awareness of and interest in solving Arizona’s park’s issues, the primer is among Arizona Forward’s first projects toward its mission to promote cooperative efforts to improve the livability, sustainability, and economic vitality of cities and towns across Arizona. The user-friendly reference guide is described as “parks and open space 101.”

The primer covers not only facts about state parks but includes information about federal parks and lands, county and municipal parks, and other forms of trails and open space.

One section in the primer summarizes the Heritage Fund which was approved by Arizona’s voters in 1990 to protect our natural and cultural heritage. This initiative allocated $10 million per year from the state lottery monies to the Arizona Game and Fish Department and another $10 million to Arizona State Parks, both of which would provide grants to protect natural and cultural resources.

In 2010 the $10 million Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund was swept by the Arizona Legislature and completely eliminated with Budget Reconciliation Bill HB 2012 that repealed distributions to the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund and redirected the money to the state General Fund.

The members of Arizona Forward believe that to move Arizona forward, everyone must find common ground rather than faulting our differences. We must also work together to protect Arizona’s natural assets and ensure our state’s long-term economic prosperity. Everyone is encouraged to contact their legislators to let them know you want them to support and fund parks, open space and the Heritage Fund.

Viewpoint: Where Does The Money Go Now?

[Source: Janice Miano, Director of Administration, Arizona Heritage Alliance] — In 1990, the voters of Arizona, through a voter-initiative, created the Heritage Fund to protect and conserve our state’s wildlife, natural, and historic resources.  The vision of children playing on new swings in new parks; the reintroduction of endangered species into our state; historic buildings restored to their former glory and new uses; the acquisition of open space and critical environmental habitat; all of these programs and more have become a reality because of the creation of the Heritage Fund.

Since the beginning over $338.5 million have been directed towards the saving and expanding of Arizona’s environmental, cultural, and historical resources.  In addition, millions of dollars in matching grant money and the re-investment in our natural and cultural resources have brought economic and environmental benefits into almost every community in our state.

Money for the Heritage Fund comes from the Arizona Lottery — up to $20 million in annual lottery revenue is divided evenly between the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Arizona State Parks.

This legislative session was going well with the Lottery reauthorized via Senate Bill 1004 and signed into law by Governor Brewer on February 9.  This bill stated that the Arizona Lottery would be reauthorized with all its beneficiaries intact.

You have all seen those warm and fuzzy commercials on TV and in the newspaper telling us of all the wonderful projects the Arizona Lottery supports?  It’s called How The Money Helps on the Arizona Lottery’s website.  However, how does the money help now?  Well, it doesn’t help anymore.  The Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund is DEAD, FINI, KAPUT – killed by Governor Brewer’s stroke of her pen on March 18 with Budget Reconciliation Bill HB2012.

Where dose the money go now? HB2012 makes temporary and permanent law changes relating to state revenues in order to implement the FY 2010-11 state budget.  And for FY 2009-10, redirects state lottery distributions to the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund after February 1, 2010 through the end of the fiscal year to the state’s General Fund.  The bill also REPEALS the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund and REVERTS any monies remaining in the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund on June 30, 2011 to the state’s General Fund.

Do you still want to buy Lottery tickets? Remember the Heritage Fund was created by the voters of Arizona and the original statute (ARS 41-502 and ARS 17-297) said, “In no event shall any monies in the fund revert to the state general fund…”

Along with Governor Brewer, please remember these names.

  • Senators voting to eliminate the State Parks Heritage Fund were: Sylvia Allen; David Braswell; Chuck Gray; Jack Harper; Barbara Leff; Al Melvin; Russell Pearce; Ed Bunch; Linda Gray; John Huppenthal; Steve Pierce; Thayer Verschoor; Frank Antenori; Ron Gould; John Nelson; and Senate President Bob Burns.
  • House Members voting to kill the State Parks Heritage Fund were: Ray Barnes; Tom Boone; Judy Burges; Rich Crandall; Doris Goodale; Laurin Hendrix; Bill Konopnicki; Rick Murphy; Michele Reagan; Carl Seel; Andrew Tobin; Jim Weiers, Steven Yarbrough; Nancy Barto; David Gowan; Russ Jones; Debbie Lesko; Lucy Mason; Nancy McLain; Warde Nichols; Frank Pratt; Amanda Reeve; Jerry Weiers; Cecil Ash; Andy Biggs; Steve Court; Adam Driggs; John Kavanagh; John McComish; Steve Montenegro; Doug Quelland; David Stevens; Vic Williams; and Speaker of the House, Kirk Adams.

In 2007, the Morrison Institute said, “The Heritage Fund stands out in part because of the diversity of programs it supports.”  The Arizona Heritage Fund has supplied valuable programs and resources for the residents of Arizona and those who visit the state.  The economic, environmental, education, tourism, and quality of life benefits that result from the Heritage Fund are too important to the citizens of Arizona to be lost!

The Arizona Game & Fish Heritage Fund is still intact but for how long?