In January of this year, the inhabitants of Arizona were met with the unpleasant news that the State would be closing thirteen of its parks, “due to six different State Parks funds being swept of $8.6 million.” THIRTEEN closures, only keeping nine open. Park closures began on February 22nd and will continue through June 3rd of this year. Here is the link to one of the many news articles, as Arizonans reacted to the news.
It all comes down to money, of course. The State is leaving open the nine parks that generate the most revenue. Which is logical, I suppose, but it’s tragic to make unavailable the charms and benefits of the other parks due to a glorified popularity contest. I get it, things are tough all over, but just when people are searching out opportunities for “stay-cations” and budget friendly activities close to home, the State takes away many of those options.
The State Park closures impact the local economies of those towns effected, and also eliminate jobs. Residents of Arizona are really questioning the shuffling of funds and whether or not these park closures are just “easy targets” for a Governor’s office and budgetary committee that is too lazy or indifferent to find other solutions. Consider just a small part of the impact that such funds removal is causing (from this press release:
“$2,302,100 in reductions and sweeps to the Enhancement Fund (gate fees), which is the agency’s principle operating budget, will force staff reductions. The resulting loss in revenue will result in a zero balance to begin the next fiscal year (July 2010).
$1,915,800 in reductions and sweeps to the State Lake Improvement Fund. These cuts would make it impossible to operate the parks along the Colorado River. The Enhancement Fund and SLIF reductions equate to the loss of at least 75 employees, certainly leading to many park closures.
$3,909,400 in reductions and sweeps to the Arizona Heritage Fund will imperil funding for critical State Parks capital projects (including a water line for fire suppression at Lake Havasu State Park and the extension of Benson water line necessary for the long-term health of Kartchner Caverns), and the grants that have been awarded out to Arizona’s communities for historic preservation and city/county parks.”
Because of these budgetary cuts and park closures, the preservation of our heritage through historic sites and landmarks is also being threatened. The management of our State lakes will suffer, and the long-term health of the wonders of Kartchner Caverns is also a concern. Fire protection methods are being impacted, and sites along the Colorado River will be terminated. Most folks following this situation agree that an eight-point-six million dollar cut in funding causes an IMMENSE impact to the infrastructure of the State Park program, while only offering a drop in the bucket of resolving the state’s $1.5 BILLION dollar deficit.
Following are a list of parks that are closing – and this list doesn’t even include the four parks that have already been closed prior to this for continued budgetary concerns. Please take the opportunity to visit those that are still open, because who knows when they’ll be re-opened again, if ever. I will personally mourn the closure of the Tonto National Bridge State Park, Lost Dutchman State Park, and Red Rock State Park.
Parks closing on March 29, 2010 – Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde, Roper Lake State Park in Safford, Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, and Riordan Mansion State Historic Park in Flagstaff.
Parks closing on June 3, 2010 – Tonto Natural Bridge State Park near Payson, Alamo Lake State Park in Wenden, Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, Picacho Peak State Park and Red Rock State Park in Sedona.
Following is a list of parks that will remain open:
Buckskin Mountain State Park in Parker, Catalina State Park near Tucson, Cattail Cove State Park in Lake Havasu City, Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area in Show Low, Kartchner Caverns State Park in Benson, Lake Havasu State Park, Patagonia Lake State Park and Slide Rock State Park in Sedona.
Photo Credits (in order of appearance):
- “Picacho Peak” by Kevin Dooley on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Tonto Natural Bridge” by BP Nelson on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Sedona’s Red Rock” by Laszlo on Flickr Creative Commons.