Group debates the future of state parks in Arizona

[Source: John Hutchinson, Verde Independent] – A powerhouse panel of political players combined with a standing room-only crowd of State Parks supporters and conservationists gathered to help strategize the long-term sustainable operation of the State Parks system Thursday. Supported by a documentary film, “Postcards from the Parks,” which tells the story of Arizona’s State Parks long-running financial crisis, the panel took five aspects of the issue and fielded questions.

Birgit Lowenstein, who helped organize the Benefactors of the Red Rocks, said, “we have taken State Parks for granted.” There were also representatives from Cottonwood, Jerome, and Yavapai County, plus a flood of volunteers of the Parks system. “We have created a financial band-aid, but it is not sustainable. We must find a long-term solution,” urged Lowenstein.”

Chief among the messages of the documentary film: “A closed park doesn’t make any money.” The closure of the parks would save the government $8 million, but cost $260 million in economic decline to the surrounding communities from the parks’ closure. The documentary film quotes Director Renee Bahl, “We don’t have to chose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. We can have both.” [to read the full article click here].

Funding proposal for state parks hits roadblock: 1 legislator

[Source: Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services, 3-8-2010] — A single legislator is blocking a plan to ask voters to permanently fund the state parks system with a surcharge on vehicle license fees.  Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, refuses to schedule a hearing on HCR 2040 in the Appropriations Committee, which he chairs, and will not agree to have the measure withdrawn from his committee.  That effectively keeps the plan from going to the full House, where Rep. Russ Jones, R-Yuma, said he has the votes for approval.

The parks system is being stymied on two fronts in its efforts to minimize closures.  A second bill, HB 2060, would provide a $40 million loan over the next two years to the parks.  But it is stalled because it needs a supermajority — 45 of 60 House votes and 23 of 30 Senate votes — because the money would come from the Growing Smarter fund, approved by voters more than a decade ago to buy or lease state trust land for open space. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Help save Arizona State Parks. Contact your legislators NOW!

Arizona’s State Parks — natural areas, historic places, archaeological sites, cultural resources, and much more — are in trouble.  Parks funding from the Arizona State Legislature has decreased significantly over the last eight years, and a number of parks are closing.  To protect our parks for future generations, legislators should do two things:

FIRST, they should restore the enhancement fund (parks fee dollars we all pay) and the Heritage Fund so State Parks can continue to operate in the short term.

SECOND, they should support HCR2040, which refers to the ballot a measure to allow free day use of our parks for a fee on vehicle registrations.  The vote is scheduled for 2 p.m., Thursday, February 25!

While you’re certainly welcome to show up in person, YOU CAN CLICK HERE NOW to send a message to your legislators asking them to vote YES on HCR2040.

If passed by the Legislature, this measure will be referred to the ballot.  If Arizona’s voters approve, the fees will be voter protected, meaning that the Legislature could not divert them for other purposes.  This is a crucial step toward saving our state park system!

Thank you for your support of our state parks and Arizona’s heritage!

Arizona Heritage Alliance Board of Directors (and 175 other organizations listed here)

Support growing to save Arizona’s state parks

[Source: Verde Independent, Steve Ayers 2-2-2010] — About 40 supporters from the Verde Valley, joined by at least 150 more from around the state, converged on the state capitol Monday urging lawmakers to find a way to keep the Arizona State Park system operating. It was just one of many campaigns organized recently to get the Legislature’s attention and voice opposition to their repeated raids on the agency’s budget.

Not all that long ago the park system had a $30 million budget that funded operations, maintenance and capital improvements to a system of 30 parks and conservation areas.  But after two huge cuts by the Legislature, the budget has been cut to $9 million, forcing the closure of all but nine parks by the end of this fiscal year.  The citizen-initiated campaigns, however, are beginning to have an effect. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]