Viewpoint: Good ideas, responsible cuts needed at Arizona State Parks

Red Rock State Park Sedona Arizona
Red Rock State Park, Sedona

[Source: Camp Verde Bugle] — The Arizona State Parks Board meets again today to discuss shutting down or providing limited use of several parks.  With Parks Director Ken Travous’ latest suggestions for the closure list, there is a sense of machination or at least gamesmanship.  There has been enough waving of red flags.

The formula for shifting Red Rock State Park into the top five parks listed for closure (by considering only the percentage of visitors who are Arizona residents) is highly questionable.  The Sedona area is what it is — a very popular tourist destination for people all over the world.  It naturally follows that RRSP will be pulling in a majority of out-of-state visitors.  To wave the threat of closure at Red Rock is a great way to get Sedonans riled up and protesting the stinginess of the state Legislature.  It is certainly not responsible.  There are eight other state parks on the list that are harder on the State Parks budget than Red Rock is.

The suggested closure of Jerome State Historic Park and Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is only a good idea if it is temporary during repair work.  If “repair” closure is just a step toward permanent closure, that will only start a firestorm.

At its previous meeting, the State Parks Board had asked Travous to come up with more ideas other than shutting down parks.  If simply adding three more to the possible-closures list is all the director’s office came up with, the board needs to look in another direction.

Most residents of Arizona understand the current constraints on the state budget and the likelihood of more deficits and more cutting in the future.  State Parks will not avoid this.  Completely closing down some parks — especially those that are expensive to run and receive few visitors — is an understandable option if it is done responsibly.  Today, we hope the State Parks administration can look through the politicking and red flags and provide ideas of its own.

More Arizona state parks eyed for closure

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park added to closure list.

[Source: Associated Press] — Three more state parks are being considered for closure because of state budget cuts, bringing to 11 the number that could be shuttered in coming weeks.  Parks Director Ken Travous told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he is adding the three additional parks to a list of eight others previously identified as being considered for closure.

Travous identified the three as Red Rock State Park in Sedona, Jerome State Historic Park in Jerome, and Tonto National Bridge State Park near Payson.  Jerome State Historic Park centers on the Douglas Mansion, a landmark built in the former mining community that overlooks the Verde Valley.  Red Rock State Park, originally part of a ranch, is a 286-acre nature preserve and environmental education center.  Tonto Bridge is a natural geological feature located in a valley in pine country below the Mogollon Rim.

The state Parks Board will meet Friday in Peoria to consider cost-cutting measures that include park closures, seasonal closures and reduced hours of operations.  Other options include grant cancellations, shifting expenses to other accounts, and layoffs and unpaid time off for employees.  The board on Feb. 3 declined to take immediate action on park closures but voted to have Travous’ department proceed with planning possible economy moves, including alternatives to closures.

Travous said he has already effectively laid off approximately 65 seasonal employees, including some who had been slated to go on the payroll but now will not.  Parks previously identified as being considered for closure were: Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde, Homolovi Ruins State Park in Winslow, Lyman Lake State Park in Springerville, McFarland State Historic Park in Florence, Oracle State Park in Oracle, Riordan Mansion State Historic Park in Flagstaff, Tubac Presidio State Historic Park in Tubac, and Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park.  Travous said those were chosen for possible closure because of low visitation rates.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]