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Arizona state parks in jeopardy

Arizona may close 13 of its 27 state park because of an $8.6 million reduction in the state parks' operating budget. The Arizona State Parks Board will meet Jan 15 to consider the proposed closures and ways to keep parks open.

Renée Bahl, executive director of the Arizona State Parks Board, said staff recommendations include a phased closing of state parks. Closings would be based on costs to operate and how much revenue a state park can generate back into the parks operating revolving funds.

"We have a financial crisis both in cash flow and revenue and need to solve these financial issues immediately," Bahl said. "Our gate fee funds, conservation funds and donations were so severely swept that now we have an imminent cash flow crisis and a downward spiral in the very revenues that we desperately need to keep the system operating."

The primary goal, according to Parks Board staff recommendations, is to rebuild the State Parks Enhancement Fund and reopen parks in the future. The Enhancement Fund consists of revenue generated at the parks, including entrance fees, camping fees, tour fees, event fees, cabin and yurt rentals and concession revenue. This fund is expected to be depleted by the end of the fiscal year (June 30).

The current proposal calls for these parks to close on Feb. 22, 2010:

  • Fort Verde State Historic Park
  • Homolovi Ruins State Park
  • Lyman Lake State Park
  • Riordan Mansion State Historic Park

These parks would close on March 29:

  • Roper Lake State Park
  • Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
  • Tubac Presidio State Historic Park
  • Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park

These parks would close on June 3:

  • Alamo Lake State Park
  • Lost Dutchman State Park
  • Picacho Peak State Park
  • Red Rock State Park
  • Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Parks Board staff recommend to keep these parks open if a near term $300,000 cash flow solution is secured:

  • Buckskin Mountain State Park
  • Catalina State Park
  • Cattail Cove State Park
  • Dead Horse Ranch State Park
  • Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area
  • Kartchner Caverns State Park
  • Lake Havasu State Park
  • Patagonia Lake State Park
  • Slide Rock State Park

Dismantling the parks sytem would result in a $266 million crisis for rural communities, according to the Parks Board.

"State and national parks are the tourism draws for visitors from around the world," said Reese Woodling, Parks Board chair. "Any interruption in service causes dramatic impacts on the leisure economies, including impacting more than 3,000 leisure jobs in rural Arizona."