PHOENIX – With three state parks shuttered due to budget cuts and more closures possible, Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order Wednesday reviving a task force that will recommend ways to preserve parks.
The order asks the Sustainable State Parks Task Force to discuss creative options that would allow the parks system to achieve financial self-sufficiency, including leasing, selling or cooperatively managing parks.
The governor appointed former Arizona Diamondbacks’ president Rich Dozer to chair the group. In a telephone interview, Dozer said everything is on the table, including privatization, because park closures would have considerable economic ramifications for small towns.
“We’re just trying to keep these great jewels operating and help the areas that they’re in,” he said. “A lot of the towns rely on the money from tourism from people that come to visit these parks.”
Dozer said the task force will convene later this month or early April.
Facing $35 million in legislative budget cuts for fiscal 2009, the Arizona State Parks Board has already temporarily closed Tonto National Bridge State Park near Payson, Florence’s McFarland State Historic Park and Jerome State Historic Park.
Park officials said they will consider closing several more at an April 3 board meeting.
Grady Gammage Jr., a Phoenix-area lawyer named to the task force, said because cities, towns or counties benefit economically from park tourism, one solution could be an arrangement whereby the municipalities share administrative duties and costs with the state.
“The idea of cooperative management strikes me as a particularly good idea,” he said. “Some parks are especially valuable to the community in which they sit.”
Former Gov. Janet Napolitano created the Sustainable State Parks Task Force last December before she left office to become Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
In the tumult surrounding Napolitano’s departure and Brewer’s transition, however, the group never met, said Jay Ziemann, assistant director of Arizona State Parks.
While he looks forward to the task force’s recommendations this time, he said selling parks likely wouldn’t be a popular idea.
“I don’t know that the public would be supportive of completely privatizing any park,” Ziemann said.
PARKS TASK FORCE
Gov. Jan Brewer named the first members of the 21-member Sustainable State Parks Task Force:
Rich Dozer, Phoenix, president of GenSpring, an investment company, and former president of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
• Bill Cordasco, Flagstaff, member of the Arizona State Parks Board.
• Diana Freshwater, Tucson, executive director of Arizona Land and Water Trust.
• Glen Kerslake, Tucson, president at Colonianueva Inc., a real estate consulting and project management firm.
• Grady Gammage Jr., Phoenix, lawyer at Gammage and Burnham. Harry Papp, Phoenix, and investment adviser at L. Roy Papp & Associates.
• Jeffery Williamson, Phoenix, president of the Arizona Zoological Society.
• Robert McLendon, Yuma, regent of the Arizona Board of Regents, former House representative.
• Walter Meek, Phoenix, president of the Arizona Utility Investor Association.
• William Roe, Tucson, board member of the Arizona Land and Water Trust and member of the Arizona State Parks Foundation Board.