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Saving measures help Az parks avoid closures

PHOENIX – Arizona state parks apparently can avoid more park closures in the last three months of the current fiscal year, thanks to cost-cutting and suspensions of grants for recreation and cultural projects to partly offset midyear budget cuts, the system’s director said Friday.

And more closures could be avoided through the next fiscal year but only if legislators don’t divert more money to help close the state’s big budget shortfall, Director Ken Travous told the Parks Board. “If they want to take all of our money, then they have to have consequences too,” Travous said.

Three state parks with falling-down buildings have been closed temporarily, partly because of the budget crunch, and parks officials resorted to suspending numerous grants to local communities and cultural groups in order to divert the money to help keep remaining parks open.

“We are doing everything possible” to keep parks open and keep providing grants, said board Chairman Reese Woodling. “We are feeling terrible about the grant situation but we have nowhere else to go.”

In new responses to the midyear budget cuts made by lawmakers in January, the Parks Board authorized park officials to close individual parks up to two days a week and endorsed controversial legislation pending at the Legislature. Those parks, which would close a day or two a week, likely would be day-use ones, not those with camping, Assistant Director Jay Ream.

The legislation would provide the parks system with $20 million from a land conservation fund and restore that fund’s money several years from now.

The bill is stalled at the Legislature. It has drawn opposition because of the diversion from the conservation fund and because it would set a precedent for diverting money from a voter-mandated program for a use arguably not its intended purpose. The three closed parks are Jerome, McFarland Historic in Florence and Tonto Natural Bridge near Payson. Officials have warned budget cuts could force closure of additional parks, including ones in or near Flagstaff, Oracle, Sedona, Winslow and Yuma.


Closure targets

Parks being considered for closure:

• Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde

• Jerome State Historic Park in Jerome

• Homolovi Ruins State Park in Winslow

• Lyman Lake State Park in Springerville

• McFarland State Historic Park in Florence

• Oracle State Park

• Red Rock State Park in Sedona

• Riordan Mansion State Historic Park in Flagstaff

• Tonto Natural Bridge State Park near Payson

• Tubac Presidio State Historic Park

• Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park

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