Saving Arizona’s State Parks

[Source: Preservation Magazine]

Tubac Presidio State Historic Park

When Arizona, faced with a massive budget crisis, announced plans in January to close 13 state parks, Shaw Kinsley learned that the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park was included on the list.

“The park was conceived to boost tourism in our little artist town,” says Kinsley, the president of the Tubac Historical Society. “It would have been devastating” to lose it.

Tubac, located 45 minutes south of Tucson, relies on income from cultural tourism to keep the economy strong, Kinsley says. “We had to come up with a plan.”

Renee Bahl, the executive director of Arizona State Parks, facilitated a solution, organizing an unprecedented public-private partnership between the state, county, and Tubac Historical Society. The agreement gives the society the authority to operate the 11-acre park for one year, with an annual renewal option. The arrangement has a “silver lining,” Bahl says. “Now we have a strong partnership with preservation communities that will never go away.”

Since the agreement, Tubac’s shops and art galleries have donated $15,000 of their profits towards park operations, and an additional $20,000 have come from individuals and other non-profit organizations. Volunteers have worked to keep the site open five days every week. Visitor rates are up slightly, too, Kinsley says. This summer, traditionally the slow season, tourists from 26 different states have come. More volunteers are still needed, however, to create rotating exhibits and lead gallery tours.

“Now that we have the park open, we need to pump up our marketing to get the word out,” Kinsley says. “We need to give people a reason to keep coming back.”

By negotiating such agreements between the state and local governments and communities, Bahl has managed to keep 23 of the 28 parks open.

“You may not see any park ranger,” at sites like Tubac, Bahl says, “but there are others that are ensuring the parks are preserved and protected.”

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Our Opinion: Downtown Tucson’s Fox Theatre is worth the investment

[Source: Tucson Citizen, Letters to the Editor] – – The Fox Theatre is going through challenging financial times – hardly surprising when the same can be said for most nonprofits, and for General Motors, Citigroup, the state of Arizona, and federal government.  But there is no reason to give up on the Fox – a 1930 movie palace that has been restored into a sparking icon of downtown Tucson.

There will be difficult times ahead for the Fox. The cost to restore it ballooned from the $5 million to $7 million range to about $13 million before it reopened Dec. 31, 2005. The Fox Tucson Theatre Foundation had to borrow $5.6 million from the city, and the loan must be repaid starting in 2011.  But it also is important to look at the successful side of the Fox.  Since it has reopened, the Fox has averaged 152 events per year – about three per week. In 2007, the entertainment options at the Fox represented about 31 percent of all downtown events. [Note: to read the full article click here.]

Cultural sites at U.S. forests threatened

[Source: Arizona Daily Sun, Associated Press] — The U.S. Forest Service lacks a clear legal mandate and the financial ability to protect thousands of historic sites and buildings on national forest lands from development, vandalism and other threats, a prominent preservation group says.  The nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation released a report Thursday saying only 1,936 of 325,000 Forest Service sites identified as historically or culturally significant are on the National Register of Historic Places.  “We think that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  We think there could be as many as 2 million sites,” trust president Richard Moe said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

At-risk treasures include American Indian pueblos and sacred sites, petroglyphs, Revolutionary and Civil War battlegrounds, trails used by the Lewis and Clark expedition and Forest Service lookout towers.  About 80 percent of the 193 million acres the agency manages in 44 states and Puerto Rico haven’t been surveyed for such sites, according to the Washington, D.C.-based trust.  The National Forest System: Cultural Resources at Risk says the Forest Service, unlike other federal land management agencies, has no statute that specifically mandates historic or archaeological preservation as part of its mission.

Another issue is funding.  Less than 1 percent of the Forest Service’s $4.4 billion budget goes to heritage resource programs, according to the report.  Nearly half its budget is spent on fires, including fire suppression and decreasing wildfire risk.  Threats to historic and cultural sites include off-road vehicle use, oil and gas development in the West, livestock grazing, logging and a resurgence in uranium, gold and other hard-rock mining, Moe said.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]