Arizona parks rescued by communities and non-profits

[Source; Megan Neighbor, The Arizona Republic] –  In the depths of the recession, state budget cuts made it seem almost certain that the gates to manyArizonaparks would remain padlocked. But local communities and non-profit organizations have banded together to keep 14 of the state’s most financially vulnerable parks open by providing more than $820,000 to the cash-strapped Arizona State Parks agency.

For example, the Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and the towns of Payson and StarValleyare helping provide $35,000 in funding to the namesake park inGilaCounty. Through a contract with Santa Cruz County, the Tubac Historical Society is helping keepTubacPresidioStateHistoricPark’s doors open by providing both funding and operational support.RedRockState Parkin Sedona is being aided byYavapai Countyand the Benefactors of Red Rock State Park. All but one of the state’s other 13 parks remain open, albeit seasonally in some cases, because they take in enough revenue to stay in the black and fund their own operations.

Local authorities and non-profits say they decided to cast a financial lifeline to the more vulnerable parks because they recognize their value – their rich history, intense beauty and, perhaps most importantly, their economic impact. Today, less than two years after major closures seemed certain, 26 of Arizona’s 27 parks are open, although many have abbreviated schedules [to read the full article click here].

Fight to reopen Arizona’s Tonto Natural Bridge State Park continues

Tonto Natural Bridge (Photo: Payson Roundup)

[Source: Pete Aleshire, Payson Roundup] — Residents of the Rim Country continue to fight to keep the state from making Tonto Natural Bridge another casualty of the budget crisis.  Rim Country officials hope they can win a commitment to reopen Tonto Natural Bridge State Park as early as June at an April 3 Arizona State Parks Board meeting in the Valley.

In addition, local leaders hope that a recently appointed task force studying the long-term future of the state’s battered system of 28 parks will explore creative ways to bolster the region’s best-known tourist draw.  That task force will consider public-private partnerships and joint operating agreements as a way to keep parks open.  “I’m optimistic, but we’ve got to keep the pressure on them,” said Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce Manager John Stanton, following two meetings involving top state park officials, Rim Country leaders and local state lawmakers.   [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Rim chamber rallies support for Arizona’s Tonto state park

Gov. Jan Brewer

[Source: Pete Aleshire, Payson Roundup] — Seeking to avert an “economic disaster” stemming from the closure of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce Manager John Stanton asked the region’s state representatives and Gov. Jan Brewer to attend a town hall meeting in Payson. 

Stanton and other advocates for the nearly self-supporting park that generates $3.6 million annually in economic benefits reacted with anger Monday, when a supposed closure for repairs turned into an indefinite shutdown to shift staff to other parks.  “Tourism is the Rim Country’s economic engine and the loss of the nearly 100,000 visitors would create an even greater economic hardship than now exists in this area.”

In addition to the town hall meeting, Stanton urged the lawmakers to support House Bill 2088, which would avert park closures by letting the state parks borrow money from the voter-approved “Growing Smarter” fund, intended to support parks and open space.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]