Category Archives: Arizona State Parks

Commentary: Our State Parks are in trouble

[Source: Don Farmer, Arizona Heritage Alliance Board] — Our Arizona State Parks are in trouble. It seems the current down economy and resulting state budget meltdown has led our elected legislature to strip out most of the State Parks funding and redirect it to more “important” needs. The direct result of this action is the drastic reduction of the services and programs our State Parks provide us. You do not have to be a State Park visitor to be impacted by this loss. The Arizona State Parks Agency manages 27 parks and natural areas located around the state. They also oversee our State Trails system; manage the Outdoor-Related Grants Program, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the Off-Highway Vehicle Program. The folks at Arizona State Parks have been managing all of these lands and programs in an under-funded condition for years as the legislature chose to sweep one revenue source after another from them. Just one year ago, the situation at State Parks was dire; now with the current loss of funding, the entire agency is threatened with catastrophic collapse. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

AZ grants lost due to state budget cuts

[Source: Sedona.biz] — The Arizona State Parks department received 12 grant applications this spring requesting approximately $6.5 million from the State Lake Improvement Fund (SLIF). Unfortunately, because of legislative budget sweeps, those monies must be released to the legislature by August 15, 2008, so the Arizona State Parks Board reluctantly had to release those monies back to the General Fund.

According to Bill Scalzo, Chair of the Arizona State Parks Board, “The State Lake Improvement Fund bill was passed so that tax monies from boat fuel could be used for safety improvements on the lakes, for better law enforcement and boating access. These safety improvements now cannot be made and we are forced to move the money to the General Fund for other uses.” “We had no choice but to cancel these grants as the funds were swept from the accounts by the legislature,” he said. “The State Parks department has struggled since the last round of sweeps in 2002. At that time the agency was forced to use its capital improvement funds from SLIF ($2.3 million) to operate the parks. Now the parks are facing many crises as the historic structures and the infrastructures at the parks are deteriorating and we can’t make any improvements.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Arizona tourism groups promote Grand Canyon state parks and trails

[Source: Lynn Ducey, Phoenix Business Journal] — The Arizona Office of Tourism, Arizona State Parks and the Arizona Trail Association are joining forces to promote parks and trails across the Grand Canyon state. Called the Arizona Passages, the campaign uses the theme Just Feet Away to show that residents and tourists don’t have to travel far to have fun. The campaign is designed to showcase outdoor recreation opportunities and highlight outings that focus on nature, history and culture available to people regardless of their fitness levels.

The program touts activities at 27 state parks and along the 800-mile Arizona Trail. The campaign also features a strong web component with interactive content and information about off-the-beaten path spots across the state. In addition, Web visitors can register for prizes and giveaways including a houseboat adventure on Lake Powell. The site incorporates third-party content from sites like TripAdvisor, Google Maps, MeetUp and Flickr, and allows visitors to submit their own travel stories and experiences. For more information, click here.

Tucson Expo begins monthlong archaeology festivities

[Source: John Stanley, Arizona Republic] — March is Arizona Archaeology and Heritage Awareness Month. Can you dig it? The month kicks off with an Archaeology Expo this weekend at the Arizona State Museum in Tucson and continues with open houses, interpretive hikes and programs for kids. Nearly three dozen Native American, archaeological and historical organizations, as well as several state and federal agencies, will have booths and displays at the Archaeology Expo, sponsored by the State Historic Preservation Office, Arizona State Parks and the Governor’s Archaeology Advisory Commission.

Programs at the two-day expo will demonstrate the techniques prehistoric Native Americans used to thrive in the harsh environment of the desert Southwest. Between demonstrations, visitors can enjoy Native American entertainers, tour prehistoric and historic sites, watch living-history re-enactors, play games, take part in interactive activities and sample ethnic foods. Visitors receive free raffle tickets for archaeology-related prizes. The free expo is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 1013 E. University Blvd., Tucson. Click here for more information, or call 520-621-6302. For a list of more Archaeology and Heritage Awareness Month events, click here.

Starving our parks

[Source: Arizona Republic] — Watch out! Falling plaster! Arizona’s state parks are literally crumbling. Chunks of plaster are coming off the walls at Douglas Mansion in Jerome. Parts of the sidewalk around the historic building are closed off to protect the public. The Legislature slashed park spending and raided the capital funds in the budget crisis of 2002. The money wasn’t restored when revenues were rolling in. Arizona State Parks, with jewels that range from the underground wonders of Kartchner Caverns to the scenic and recreational pleasures of Picacho Peak (pictured), has an operating budget of $26 million – about $4 per Arizonan. Now, with the state facing a massive shortfall, the legislative budget proposal would slash park spending further. On top of that, there’s a breathtakingly illogical proposal to cut park fees. Senate Bill 1458 would shrink the cost of an annual pass by 20 percent for Arizona residents. It passed the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Rural Affairs on a 4-3 vote.

The standard annual pass is $50, and it covers up to four adults in the same vehicle. It’s good for any state park any day, except for the Colorado River parks on weekends and holidays. The premium pass, $125, is valid everywhere at anytime. It’s a price signal that any economist would embrace, encouraging use of the mobbed river parks on weekdays. And compared with the cost of other types of recreation, the park pass is a smoking deal. Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, says he introduced the bill because his constituents complain that they already support state parks through taxes. Except they don’t. Lawmakers haven’t raised the operating budget for parks in six years. The price of gasoline and utilities has gone up so much that state parks sought supplemental funding of $500,000 to pay the bills. The department has been forced to tap the State Lake Improvement Fund, which gets the share of gas tax attributable to boating, to pay for $3.1 million in expenses. Senate Bill 1110 would strip that authority.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Ron Niebrugge.]

Bill would lower cost of annual state-park passes

[Source: Mike Rich, Arizona Republic] — A bill that would require the Arizona State Parks Board to charge residents 20 percent less than non-residents for their annual state-park passes is working its way through the Legislature. The Arizona Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Rural Affairs passed the bill by a vote of 4-3 and sent it to the Rules Committee. “Residents of the state already pay into the park system through taxes, so they should have to pay less,” said Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, author of the bill. Gould said he introduced the bill because his constituents have complained about the growing cost of the passes. The State Parks Board raised its prices on annual passes in January. The price for a standard pass – for residents or non-residents – went from $45 to $50 and the premium pass went from $100 to $125. “My constituents don’t think it’s fair to pay these high prices when they are already paying into the park system,” Gould said. Gould added that if there is in-state and out-of-state tuition at the state’s universities, “there is no reason why the same concept should not be applied to state parks.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

City to prioritize Lake Havasu improvements; State cuts may eliminate some projects

[Source: John Rudolf, Havasu News] — Hundreds of thousands of boaters visit Lake Havasu every year, making the lake the busiest waterway in Arizona. All those boating hours also add up to a whole lot of gasoline sales — and gas taxes for the state. To give some of those funds back, the state created a special funding program for lake improvements, that provides cash for public safety, recreation and other needs. Funding is on a project-by-project basis, and varies from year-to-year, but Lake Havasu is typically the state’s largest recipient of the monies. Yet with a state budget crunch threatening to cut into state parks funding for projects on Lake Havasu, Gov. Napolitano and leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees have indicated that they would cut those funds to make up for the current budget deficit.

With that grim prospect on the horizon, the City Council will weigh at their next meeting the priority level of four lake improvement projects, with the possibility that funding may not exist for all four. Once priority is established, the council will vote to advance the proposals to the Arizona State Parks board. The first of the projects is to dredge the shoreline adjacent to Rotary Park and the Bridgewater Channel. City staff said the project is important because erosion and silting are creating navigation hazards. Another application would ask for an additional $1.4 million to build infrastructure at the proposed mainland boat launch ramp at Contact Point. The city previously secured about $420,000 for the project in 2005. Two other projects would provide funds for fire and rescue functions, and police enforcement in the Channel area.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Go-Arizona.com.]

Quechans funded to finish Yuma nature park

[Source: Darin Fenger, Yuma Sun] — With the recent receipt of a $600,000 grant, work is expected to begin soon on the Quechan Nature Park that will transform 10 acres of rough and overgrown land into a well-developed addition to the Yuma East Wetlands. Arizona State Parks issued the grant, which joins an existing $600,000 in the kitty to fund the project. Those original funds come from the city of Yuma and the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area. The park will be on tribal land, starting just east of the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge and following the Colorado River. Brian Golding Sr., director of the Quechan Indian Tribe’s Economic Development Administration, stressed how the park will be good for people on both sides of the river. “It’s really going to be an exciting opportunity for both the tribal and Yuma communities in developing addition recreational opportunities along the river, a place we’re trying to mutually re-establish and focus upon for recreational, environmental and economic development needs.”

The Quechan Nature Park will feature 4.5 acres of heavily developed land, which will offer an amphitheater, park ramadas and irrigated grass. The rest will be restored to a more natural and native state, but then left less disturbed. That latter land will boast a network of paths. Golding said construction will likely start in April or May, pushing toward completion in October or November. He added that the Quechan Nature Park will fit in nicely with restoration and development work already finished or going on along the river. He pointed to nearby Gateway Park as just one example. The land involved in Quechan Nature Park, although part of Yuma East Wetlands, will remain part of the tribe’s reservation and under tribal control. In addition to sharing the land with the restoration vision, the Quechan Indian Tribe also contributed the time and talents of Golding and another staff member. Both he and Allyson Collins, an economic development specialist, have contributed a great deal of time during the planning stages of Quechan Nature Park. [Photo source: Terry Ketron, Yuma Sun.]

2008 Archaeology and Heritage Awareness Month celebration

[Source: Arizona State Parks] — For the entire month of March 2008, the Arizona State Parks State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is coordinating activities throughout the state for its annual celebration of Arizona Archaeology and Heritage Awareness Month. The highlight of Archaeology and Heritage Awareness Month is the Archaeology Expo at the Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona in Tucson on March 1-2, 2008 from 9 a.m. to 4 pm. Both days are open to the public and admission to the Expo is free. The Expo offers many attractions for those interested in archaeology and history. More than 35 special displays and booths by archaeological and historical organizations, museums, Native American tribes, state and federal agencies, and others will allow you to participate as an archaeologist might in their research today, or make crafts that teach how prehistoric Native Americans survived in the Southwest, or play games like the historic settlers did. Living history re-enactors, Native American demonstrators and entertainers, interactive activities, and tours of archaeology laboratories and museum collection areas and exhibits will help make the past come alive! In addition, tours of local prehistoric and historic archaeological sites will be featured.

Free raffles featuring prizes of archaeology-related items will occur throughout both days. Ethnic foods will be available for purchase. The Expo will give visitors new insights into Arizona’s many prehistoric, historic, and contemporary cultures. Arizona State Museum is located on the University of Arizona campus at 1013 E. University Blvd. in Tucson. Click here for directions and parking information. For a detailed listing of all the events for the 2008 Archaeology and Heritage Awareness Month, call (602) 542-4174 or click here. The Archaeology Expo is sponsored by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Arizona State Parks, and the Governor’s Archaeology Advisory Commission. Many other partners will be joining together to present a varied Expo format offering two days of educational, hands-on archaeology programs to the public.

McFarland museum houses Florence’s past

[Source: Scott Craven, Arizona Republic] — Wander to the end of Florence’s quiet downtown and you’ll encounter a modest home that gives few hints about its historic standing. If not for the small sign declaring this McFarland State Historic Park, visitors never might know they are looking at what is likely the town’s most significant structure. When the two-story adobe building was erected in 1878, Florence had grown from a trading post to the Pinal County seat. And it now had its courthouse, consisting of courtroom, judge’s chambers, district attorney’s office and, later, a jail and sheriff’s office.

But as Florence evolved, so did the courthouse. Farmers, ranchers and recent settlers gathered within to do business or share the news of the day. The courtroom also served as a public dance hall – justice may have been blind, but it enjoyed a good time as much as anyone else. In 1891, the courthouse was transformed into the county hospital, and in 1938, it became the welfare and public-health offices. Its many roles are reflected in the exhibits. Floorboards groan underfoot as visitors enter the modest courtroom, where a small judge’s bench sits against the back wall. A wooden, and very uncomfortable-looking, witness chair shares the dais. Two hospital beds occupy the next room. These are not the thickly padded beds of today’s hospital rooms, but thin mattresses laid across metal supports. Medical instruments, with their sharp bits and blades laid bare, from the period are arranged neatly in a nearby display case.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Arizona Republic.]