Arizona State Parks board puts off decision on closing parks

Rick Fernau, mayor of Show Low, attended the Parks Board meeting to protest the cancellation of a grant that was to be used to create a park (Photo: Daniel Newhauser)

[Source: Daniel Newhauser, Cronkite News Service] — With one round of legislative budget cuts behind him and more looming, Arizona State Parks Executive Director Ken Travous said Friday that heart-wrenching decisions eventually will need to made about closing parks.  “Right now, were having to decide which of our children we’re going to feed,” he told members of the Arizona State Parks Board. “And they’re all my children.”

Board members decided Friday to wait on adding to three parks already shuttered until the Legislature determines how much it plans to cut from the Arizona State Parks’ budget for the fiscal year beginning in July.  However, the board granted the agency authority to limit park hours by up to two full days per week if necessary. After trimming operations and cutting grants for parks, trails and historic preservation, the agency has enough money to operate remaining parks if lawmakers don’t cut anything, Travous said.  But it would be a pipe dream to think they won’t, he added.  Travous said he expects cuts of up to $12 million for fiscal 2010 against a total budget of around $23 million.

Meanwhile, the board unanimously agreed to support HB 2088, sponsored by Rep. Warde Nichols, R-Chandler, which would help prevent park closures by temporarily reallocating money from the Growing Smarter Fund voters created in 1998 to conserve land.  That legislation, which would require a three-quarters vote from both chambers, was awaiting a final vote in the House.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Arizona State Parks Board backs bill to borrow money

[Source: KSWT/Associated Press] — With three state parks already closed temporarily, the Parks Board is endorsing controversial legislation in hopes of heading off more closures and cancellations of numerous grants to local communities around the state.  Board members voted unanimously Friday to urge the State Legislature to offset budget cuts by providing the parks system with $20 million from a land conservation fund and restoring that fund’s money several years from now.

The bill is stalled at the Legislature.  It has drawn opposition because of the diversion from the conservation fund and because it would set a precedent for diverting money from a voter-mandated purpose.

The board also authorized park officials to close individual parks up to two days a week to save money.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]