February 2009

Arizona State Parks Closing ?

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Arizona State Parks Closing ?
8 Arizona state park closures recommended – Closures are first consequence of State Parks budget cuts

According to Associated Press

Eight state parks are being recommended for closure either immediately or imminently because of budget cuts that put the entire park system in danger of closing by summer, parks officials said Monday.

Director Ken Travous said he will recommend to the Parks Board on Tuesday that five parks be closed immediately. Three more also likely would need to be closed very soon, Travous said. " It's a grim, grim time."

The parks recommended for closure are: Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde, Homolovi Ruins State Park in Winslow, Lyman Lake State Park in Springerville, McFarland State Historic Park in Florence, Oracle State Park in Oracle, Riordan Mansion State Historic Park in Flagstaff, Tubac Presidio State Historic Park in Tubac and Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park.

Travous said Fort Verde, Riordan and Lyman Lake were not recommended for immediate closure but are " on the cusp" of being closed. " I have little doubt that they will close also," he said.

The budget changes approved Friday night and Saturday morning by the Legislature closed a $1.6 billion shortfall in the state's current $9.9 billion budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Legislative budget analysts have estimated that there could be a $3 billion shortfall in the next budget.

Even with the recommended parks closures, " we know we're not going to make it through the end of this fiscal year" unless the parks system gets more funding, Travous said. " I don't know many ways that we're going to get out of this."

Another parks official has said closing the parks means laying off employees and locking gates.

Travous said he recommended the eight parks for closure because of their low visitation rates and higher per-visitor costs among the 27 state parks. " I'm trying to be as cold-blooded about this as I can."

In the 2007-2008, for example, 4,945 visitations were reported for McFarland and 9,989 for Oracle. Those numbers are well below the parks with the highest number of visitors: Slide Rock with 249,759 and Lake Havasu with 248,851. The eight parks accounted for 6 percent of total visitation.

Chambers of commerce in communities near the targeted parks said their areas would be hit hard by closures.

" We're very disappointed that they're considering closing this park," said Carol Cullen, executive director of the Tubac chamber.

She said the park was the first state park designated in Arizona; it opened in 1959.

" It's steeped in culture and history that we depend on for attracting tourists," she said. " It will have a devastating effect on the area if it closes."

She added that as soon as the 50th Annual Tubac Festival of the Arts ends Sunday, she will focus her attention on convincing state officials why they should not close the park.

Ken Rosevear, executive director of the Yuma chamber, said the economy there would take a significant blow if the Quartermaster Depot State Park were to close.

" It's one of our major attractions in Yuma County, and I think that would be a real negative as far as a destination location in Yuma for visitors from all over the West," Rosevear said.

" I know there's people in Yuma who are employed there, and we have a really great park inventory here in Yuma, and that's one of our premier locations," he said. " I think it would be a real negative on the local economy."

Sen. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, said the park closures could economically damage the rural communities where the parks are located.

" When you make cuts there is a ripple effect," she said. " The communities are going to have to find another way to draw visitors."

For more information on this please read
Budget Process Still Drawing Fire
Critics: Lack of transparency persists By Mary Jo Pitzl, The Arizona Republic—Feb. 2, 2009

Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2009 3:03 PM
For Immediate Release

Managing and conserving Arizona's natural, cultural and recreational resources for the benefit of the people, both in our Parks and through our Partnerships.

(602) 542-1996 or (602) 228-8518, or email pio@azstateparks.gov


PHOENIX, AZ - Feb 3, 2009 - 2:17 pm) - Today the Arizona State Parks Board voted not to close eight State Parks as proposed by staff. That was a possible solution to massive sweeps from the funds State Parks uses to operate. The millions of dollars in diversions from the tiny agency back to the General Fund by the State Legislature has created a cash flow issue for the agency as it operates on the cash it generates from gate fees. By the end of June the agency is looking at a deficit of $647,000 and cash flowing into the system is sluggish.

The State Parks Board voted today to review all the options it has before going to full closures of eight State Parks. Those solutions will be discussed at a regular February 20 Board meeting. Also under review are the timing and methods for disbursement of funds for community projects. Many of those projects are already under construction, but funds for projects will be swept out of agency accounts by February 28.

"We understand the budget crisis the State is facing, and we have contributed millions of dollars into the General Fund that come from conservation user fees, but our job is to protect Arizona's natural, cultural and recreational resources," said Executive Director, Ken Travous. "For the next two weeks we will be exploring every possible option so we can present solutions to the State Parks Board. These options include park closures as well as employees going on Leave Without Pay, not filling 27 critical vacancies, possible furloughs, seasonal closings, shorter days open to the public, and many others."

"We were pleased that so many people testified at our emergency meeting today, sent letters and offered support for these parks and programs. The public's continued involvement in this State Park budget process is critical to protect both parks and programs. At the February 20th meeting we will have a much bigger room so the public can participate in the hardest decisions our Board will have to make," said Reese Woodling, the State Parks Board Chair.

For more information about Arizona State Parks call (602) 542-4174 (outside of the Phoenix metro area call toll-free (800) 285-3703) or visit www.azstateparks.com