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Old 01-17-2010, 08:38 AM   #1
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Arizona State Parks Closing

Arizona to close most of its state parks

Los Angeles Times

Wrestling with a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, the state of Arizona decided Friday to close nearly all of its state parks, including the famed Tombstone Courthouse and Yuma Territorial Prison.

The State Parks Board unanimously voted to close 13 parks by June 3. Another eight had already been closed, leaving nine still open - but only if the board can raise $3 million this year.

The action represents the largest closure of state parks in the nation, although several other states are considering similar moves.

"It's a dark day for the Arizona state parks system," said Renee Bahl, the system's executive director. "We have 65,000 acres around the state and the majority of them are closing."

The Arizona parks receive about 2.3 million visitors per year who bring about $266 million into the state, Bahl said.

"It's unfortunate that a short-term recession is having an impact on our future," Bahl said.

Arizona isn't the only state struggling to support its state parks.

In May 2009, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed closing 220 of that state's 278 state parks to help close a multibillion-dollar deficit, but backed off after protests from park activists.

This month, Schwarzenegger proposed to expand oil drilling off the Santa Barbara coast to provide up to $140 million for state parks in place of state funding, said Jerry Emory, the director of communications for the California State Parks Foundation.

Louisiana and Iowa may close parks due to budget problems. Other states have transferred their parks to local control to save money.

In Idaho, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has proposed disbanding the state parks department, saving $10 million by selling the headquarters and shifting management of 30 state parks and recreation programs to another agency, said Jennifer Wernex, spokeswoman for the Idaho Parks and Recreation Department.

Phil McKnelly, the executive director of the National Association of State Parks Directors, lamented that closing parks amid a recession was a bad idea.

"This is the time when people need to be getting out and releasing stress," he said.

The Arizona State Parks' budget has been whittled from $26 million in the 2009 fiscal year to $7.5 million as the legislature has struggled to close its budget gap.

Some local jurisdictions that depend on the flow of tourist dollars have mobilized to protect their parks.

The town of Camp Verde came up with $18,000 of its own money to keep Fort Verde State Historic Park operating.

For Mike Scannell, the Camp Verde town manager, closing the fort - one of the best preserved Army forts from the period of the Indian Wars - simply was not an option for the city of 12,000.

"We clearly had to do something," he said.

Closing the park would deal a "catastrophic" blow to Camp Verde's economy, Scannell said. "It's a real important part of the history of the town," he said.

With the extra funds, the town was able to delay the closing of the park by a month, from Feb. 22 to March 29. The town plans to use the month to come up with a funding plan to keep the fort open permanently.

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Old 01-17-2010, 02:35 PM   #2
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[QUOTE=ChiefJohn;589997Wrestling with a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, the state of Arizona decided Friday to close nearly all of its state parks, including the famed Tombstone Courthouse and Yuma Territorial Prison..[/QUOTE]

Wow, I lived in Yuma for eight years. The prison is a VERY popular attaction--- even when it's 110 degrees, people are there.

If they close them, does that mean that they will not be maintaining them as well? That would be VERY shortsighted as it would cost them a LOT more to get them up to speck later.


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Old 01-18-2010, 10:59 AM   #3
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You can look forward to the privatizing of state parks everywhere. They will be leased out to companies like Thousand Trails. That way the state still gets money from the property but absorbs not costs. This has already happened with some Federal lands. Of course camping costs will go up but the state will not have to take the heat for raising the fees.
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