Tonto Forest Archaeologist Chosen to Receive AAS Award

[Source: Sonoran] – J. Scott Wood, Tonto National Forest Archaeologist and Heritage Manager was nominated by two chapters of the Arizona Archaeological Society (AAS) and selected to receive their prestigious Professional Archaeologist Award for 2011.  Ron Robinson, outgoing President of the AAS will present Scott with this award at the AAS State Meeting, held October 14-16, in Benson, Arizona at the Cochise Community College-Benson.  The official presentation will be Saturday, October 15th, following a member dinner and silent auction.

An MA archaeology graduate from ASU, Scott has worked at Pueblo Grande Museum and at the ASU Office of Cultural Resource Management. His career with the Forest Service began 35 years ago and he is widely considered an expert on the Tonto National Forest, particularly because of his knowledge in ceramics.  He has authored and co-authored dozens of publications and articles and his book, Checklist of Pottery Types for the Tonto National Forest is referenced all over the world.

Scott is currently an AAS member and professional consultant for both the Desert Foothills Chapter (DFC) in Cave Creek and the Rim Country Chapter (RCC) located in Payson.  Scott has taught AAS workshops, held field schools, lectured at seven state-wide chapters and led hikes to areas of member interest.  He has involved AAS members in various professional projects including a recent partnership with ASU students and Professor David Abbott, where, under Scott’s direction, DFC members gathered Hohokam pottery on Perry Mesa and then sorted the ceramics for further study.  DFC President Paddi Mozilo says, “Our success as a chapter is due to Scott’s ongoing and enthusiastic support and advice; he has given all our members a deeper appreciation and involvement in the field of archaeology.”

In addition to his extensive AAS volunteer schedule and his duties as a Tonto Forest Archaeologist, Scott has many state-wide site interests.   He has trained the vast majority of site stewards in the Site Steward Program, developed by the Arizona State Parks Department.   He is involved in the protection and conservation of many rock art and archaeological sites around the state, recently collaborating with the City of Payson to develop the Goat Ruin Site as a public attraction.   RCC President Evelyn Christian is grateful for the chance to have its members be a part of the survey, stabilization and protection of this site.   She believes that, “without Scott, this site would not have gotten the attention and protection that it merits.  He is leading Payson’s efforts to prepare this site for future public education and enjoyment.”

AAS State President Ron Robinson is pleased to be able to present Scott with this award.  He notes that Scott attends all of the AAS State Meetings and goes out of his way to make himself available to members for questions and discussion.  “Scott’s knowledge and expertise have made him an invaluable contributor to the growth and education of all AAS members.  We hope that this award will demonstrate how much we appreciate him and all he does on our behalf.”

The AAS is an independent and non-profit organization with twelve chapters and over 600 professional and avocational members.  The goals of the AAS are to foster public awareness, interest, research and conservation of Arizona’s rich archaeological heritage, with special emphasis on protecting these scarce resources.  AAS members enjoy lectures, classes, hikes and certification training in different facets of archaeology.  Please check the AAS website at for more information and to find a chapter near you.

League of Arizona Cities & Towns Adopts Parks Resolution

At the 2011 League of Arizona Cities and Towns in Tucson, the Resolutions Committee adopted a State Parks Resolution submitted by: City of Sedona, Town of Payson, Town of Clarkdale, Town of Prescott Valley, City of Kingman, City of Cottonwood, City of Bullhead City, Town of Jerome and Town of Camp Verde.

 The Resolutions are the foundation of the League’s Municipal Policy Statement, which guides the League’s legislative agenda. Go to: Resolution#3.

Visitors on the rise at Tonto Natural Bridge near Payson

[Source: Peter Aleshire, Payson Roundup] – Bouyed by a 12-percent rise in visitation, the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park has returned to a seven-day-a-week schedule as rangers and volunteers brace for a busy holiday weekend.

Managers of the world’s largest natural arch and its historic buildings hope that word will spread among visitors still confused by fire-based forest closures and lingering questions about state parks budget cuts. “I think we’ll be very busy on the Fourth, but I don’t think we’ll be overloaded,” said Ranger Steve Jakublowski, the park manager. “There’s a lot of misconceptions still going on, especially with the fires. People are calling quite a bit wondering whether we’re open.” [to read the full story click here].

Senate budget plan would shutter state parks

[Source:  Pete Aleshire, Payson Roundup]

Like a bystander gunned down in a gang shooting, the Arizona State Parks system will have to virtually shut down if the recently adopted state Senate budget takes effect, according to park officials.

The Senate budget would sweep nearly $3 million in funding from the state park’s budgets, on top of $72 million in cuts over the past three years. In addition, the Senate budget would impose spending and contracting restrictions that would prevent the parks from even contracting with other agencies to run the now-endangered collection of 28 sites.

“Because they’ve got burrs under the saddle, they’re using that as an excuse to rip off the saddle and shoot the horse,” said Payson Mayor Kenny Evans.

That budget proposal could force the closure of every park in the system, including Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Rim Country’s best-known tourist attraction.

“It’ll kill the ability to keep any state parks open,” said Evans, who spent the week in Phoenix lobbying House members to convince them to reject the Senate budget in favor of Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal.

“Not only would (the Senate version) sweep $3 million in funding, but it imposes spending restrictions. So the parks could raise $10 million in gate fees — but could only spend $7.5 million.”

Other provisions in the bill would strangle the backup plan for keeping Tonto Natural Bridge open by making it almost impossible to turn the park over to a private contractor.

Payson and other local supporters have formed an innovative partnership with the state parks system in the past two years to keep the world’s largest natural travertine arch open, mindful that at its peak Tonto Natural Bridge drew more than 90,000 visitors yearly who pumped an estimated $26 million annually into the region’s struggling, tourist-oriented economy.

The state parks system came up with money to repair the rotted roof and shore up the historic lodge so it could perhaps once again house paying guests. Payson has contributed money to keep the park open and the locally-formed Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge has raised money and provided volunteers to compensate for deep staffing cuts.

Earlier this year, the park system indicated it hopes to find a private contractor to help operate Tonto Natural Bridge, by either taking over the entire operation or running certain potentially money-making elements of the park, like a lodge, gift shop or campground. The partnership with Payson, Star Valley the Tonto Apache Tribe and the local support group have provided a model for efforts to save parks statewide.

Evans said the state Senate’s budget, supported by Rim Country representative Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake), goes far beyond balancing the budget to seemingly settle political scores.

“There are multiple agendas here and some (lawmakers) are using the budget to accomplish what they’ve tried to do for years,” he said.

As an example, he cited the provisions in the budget bill that would cripple efforts to bring in private contractors or form partnerships to help operate the parks.

“The Senate bill makes it virtually impossible to do that as well,” Evans concluded.

Assistant State Parks Director Jay Ziemann put out a memo this week detailing the potential impact of the cuts proposed in the Senate budget.

He noted that the parks system has already absorbed some $72 million in cuts in three years, which has left half of the state parks jobs vacant and stripped away most maintenance funds.

The proposed additional cuts include a $2-million reduction in the $10-million enhancement fund, which comes mostly from fees visitors pay when they visit. The language of the bill would make it impossible for the system to raise more money by raising additional fees and negotiating partnerships. Since the state and Payson developed their partnership to keep Tonto Natural Bridge open, the state has developed similar agreements crucial to keeping 16 other parks operating. The Senate budget will likely kill all those partnerships, concluded Ziemann.