Arizona State Parks: Big Money Problems

[Source: Tucson Weekly, Jim Nintzel] – Here’s the good news from the State Parks Board meeting this week in Tucson: Despite more sweeps of the parks’ funds by the Arizona Legislature, all of the state parks that are now open will remain open next fiscal year. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee agreed earlier this month to allow the State Parks Department to shift some funds around so the agency would have enough funds to handle payroll and other other expenses.

Here’s the bad news: The parks are continuing to run on a shoestring and the current path is a road to disaster. “We can’t go on every year like this and try to sustain a statewide park system,” said board member William Scalzo.

The GOP-led Legislature has whittled away at the parks’ funds for years now. The parks used to get $10 million a year in lottery dollars, but that has been redirected by the Legislature. And in the upcoming budget year, lawmakers swiped a portion of the gate fees from the parks, as well as some of the money from the parks State Lake Improvement Fund.

At this point, the department has no money for any capital improvements—new campgrounds, improved sewer systems, historic renovation. The parks had $150 million in unmet capital needs in 2007; State Parks Director Renée Bahl says that number is even higher today, but the department doesn’t have enough money to even survey the needs.

Several parks are open because local governments, business leaders and non-profits have stepped up to help. The partners have been “fantastic,” says Bahl, but the arrangement “was a bridge, and there’s only so long a bridge can go.” Several board members talked about the dangers of “partnership fatigue” and the likelihood that local governments, with their own financial pressures, would not be able to keep helping out over the long term.

That, in turn, is bad news for rural economies. There’s reason that local governments and businesses want the parks to remain open: They are a big boost to tourism—and outside tax dollars—for rural communities. But board members also acknowledged the reality that lawmakers weren’t likely to either dramatically increase funding for parks or put a proposition on the ballot to create a dedicated funding stream—such as a small fee on license plates, which was floated as an idea last year.

Board members and parks staff ended the meeting yesterday talking about the possibility of a ballot initiative that would dedicate dollars for the parks system. There are several conservation-oriented ballot drives being formulated around the state and park supporters are looking into whether they can join forces with one of the efforts. “We want a sustainable, non-sweep-able revenue source,” said board member Larry Landry.

Arizona State Parks restores funding to Heritage Fund grant projects

[Source:, 9-30-2009] — On Tuesday, September 22, 2009, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) gave a favorable review to the Agency’s request to backfill cuts made to its operating budget.  With the Committee’s favorable review, the Parks Board unsuspended Heritage Fund grants that had been frozen in February 2009.  “We are extremely happy to release funding for these very worthy trails, historic preservation, and park projects,” said Renée Bahl, Executive Director.

In order deal with a 26% reduction in the in the department’s ongoing operating budget compared to July 2008, Arizona State Parks will be reducing parks operations and hours. [Note: To read the full story, click here.]

Open letter to Arizona’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee

Dear Chairman Kavanagh and members of the JLBC:

The Arizona Heritage Alliance’s mission is to protect and educate about the Heritage Fund, its purposes, potential, and accomplishments, and to ensure that the Fund’s money is spent as it was established by initiative statute concieved for and by the people in 1990.

With that mission in mind, we respectfully request that you review favorably the Arizona State Parks Board’s budget transfer request which includes the return of Heritage Fund grant money to its rightful grantees from the 2009 grant cycle.  That grant money already awarded and in process of going on the ground was “frozen” by the Board in February 2009 following deep cuts made by the Legislature to the Arizona State Parks Budget.  The Legislature then permitted the Parks Board to use “other funds” (including Heritage Funds) to make up for the sweeps.  Heritage Fund grant awards were therefore “frozen” in February 2009 by the Parks Board.  This action caused great hardship to the grantees, their projects which included many historic monuments, and to their communities.  At the August Parks Board meeting, its members voted to “unfreeze” that grant money pending a positive review of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

The Arizona Heritage Alliance is hereby adding its voice to that of the Arizona State Parks Board in requesting that you permit them now to restore that funding so that they can release it to the awarded grantees at long last.

We appreciate this opportunity to share our concerns with you with the hope that the Arizona State Parks Board will be able to honor its commitments to those many grantees.


Elizabeth T. Woodin
Arizona Heritage Alliance

Action Alert! Call/write JBLC before Tuesday 2:30 p.m., September 22

For Arizona State Parks to reinstate and refund the Heritage Fund grants that were de-obligated (i.e., reneged) in February 2009 (1%-95% completed), the JLBC (Joint Legislative Budget Committee) has to approve the Arizona State Parks fund transfers.

JLBC will meet on Tuesday, September 22 at 2:30 p.m. in House Hearing Room.  However, there is no call to the public. Heritage Fund advocates must relay this message to the Committee prior to Tuesday afternoon.

Below is the list of JLBC Committee Members with their e-mails and phone numbers.  If any of the Committee Members are your senator or representative, please call and say that you are a constituent.  If none represent your district, please e-mail all and explain why this matter is important to you as an Arizona citizen.

Here is the suggested message: “Please give a favorable review to the Arizona State Parks Board request to transfer monies between its own funds to backfill sweeps and transfer that were enacted as part of the FY2010 Budget.”

If you have any questions, please contact Janice Miano, Director of Administration, Arizona Heritage Alliance: or 602-528-7500 (office). Thank you!

Senate Member (The Honorable…)

  • Paula Aboud,, 602-926-5262
  • Amanda Aguirre,, 602-926-4139
  • Chuck Gray,, 602-926-5288
  • Jack Harper,, 602-926-4178
  • Russell Pearce,, 602-926-5760
  • Steve Pierce,, 602-926-5584
  • Rebecca Rios,, 602-926-5685
  • Jim Waring,, 602-926-4916

House Member (The Honorable…)

  • Andy Biggs,, 602-926-4371
  • Olivia Cajero Bedford,, 602-926-5835
  • Cloves C. Campbell Jr.,, 602-926-3042
  • Dr. Matt Heinz,, 602-926-3424
  • John Kavanagh, Chair,, 602-926-5170
  • John McComish,, 602-926-5898
  • Rick Murphy,, 602-926-3255
  • Vic Williams,, 602-926-5839