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VIDEO – Ariz. State Parks Director Camps Out

September 20, 2013 by · Comments Off on VIDEO – Ariz. State Parks Director Camps Out 

Bryan Martyn, Arizona State Parks director. Photo courtesy of AZCentral.com

Today’s video is courtesy of AZcentral. com.

Arizona State Parks Director Bryan Martyn wants to hear directly from customers and his employees about what’s good — or bad — at state park sites during a three-month barnstorming tour that began this week.

The retired 20-year military veteran who became parks director in May 2012 plans to sleep in a tent at 19 different locations in state parks through Dec. 7.

“In the old days, I would have just slept on the ground, but my back won’t let me do that anymore,” Martyn said with a laugh. “I’ve lived in a tent in the middle of Afghanistan. This is not that hard. I will go out and camp. This is what I like to do.”

Martyn plans to fish, hike and explore various state campgrounds, holding 3:30 p.m. meet-and-greet sessions and 6 p.m. campfire chats daily.

“There is some fun involved, I won’t deny that,” Martyn said. “But my job is to go out and manage the employees, and talk to the people who visit the parks to see what we are doing and what we can do better.”

Martyn said in a telephone interview that his first event Wednesday at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood was “great.” He spoke Thursday as he traveled on to Red Rock State Park in Sedona for the next leg of his tour.

Wednesday’s activities included cutting cattails (wetland plants with unique flowering spikes), taking a run and visiting with park volunteers in Cottonwood.

“I just listened to their ideas and issues they thought were important,” Martyn said. “They are the lifeblood of keeping things going.”

Martyn said he came up with the idea to visit the parks after attending a national meeting of state parks directors a few weeks ago.

In addition to visiting with customers and staff, Martyn said he wants to see firsthand the conditions of bathrooms and trails.

“I have a chance to take notes. The best part of my job is, I can fix the majority of the problems,” he said. “It’s unfiltered. In any company, the stuff that gets to the boss sometimes gets filtered … People can speak their minds, and I want to hear what’s going on in the parks.”

State Parks Board member Walter Armer said it was a good idea for Martyn to leave his Phoenix office and get around the state to its various parks.

“There is no better way for him to connect,” Armer said. “It’s hard to beat when you have someone there in person.”

Armer said the Parks Department largely relies on survey responses from customers about their experiences and how staff members are performing. He said Martyn’s trip will give him a first-hand look at everything.

Martyn’s tour will include nights in Safford, Winslow, Tucson and Apache Junction. His longest stretch will occur in October, when he will visit at least eight sites.

“I plan on sitting around the campfire, and I brought the s’mores,” Martyn said. “And I’ll be doing my cooking, of course.”

Where He’s Camping

Arizona State Parks Director Bryan Martyn is traveling the state to meet those who use Arizona’s parks. He began his trip Wednesday at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood. Here are the other state parks he plans to visit.

Oct. 2: Patagonia Lake (Patagonia); Oct. 3: Dankworth Pond unit at Roper Lake (Safford); Oct. 4: Roper Lake (Safford); Oct. 5: Kartchner Caverns (Benson); Oct. 9: Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area (Show Low); Oct. 10: Lyman Lake (St. Johns); Oct. 11: Homolovi (Winslow); Oct. 18: Tonto Natural Bridge (Payson); Nov. 2: Alamo Lake (Wenden); Nov. 13: Picacho Peak (Picacho); Nov. 14: Catalina (Tucson); Nov. 15: Oracle (Oracle); Nov. 23: Lost Dutchman (Apache Junction; )Dec. 4: Buckskin Mountain (Parker); Dec. 5: River Island (Parker); Dec. 6: Cattail Cove (Lake Havasu); and Dec. 7: Lake Havasu (Lake Havasu).

 

 

Ariz. Parks Resume Family Campout Program

September 19, 2013 by · Comments Off on Ariz. Parks Resume Family Campout Program 

After the success of the debut dates in the spring, Arizona State Parks’ Arizona Family Campout Program has announced fall dates. The program is designed for families who have little or no experience camping. It will introduce them to outdoor experiences over one weekend at a State Park and inspire them to continue to explore Arizona, trivalleycentral.com, Casa Grande, reported.

The state parks that are participating this fall are: Lost Dutchman in Apache Junction (Sept. 28-29 and Oct. 12-13), Kartchner Caverns in Benson (Oct. 5-6 and Oct. 19-20), Patagonia Lake in Patagonia (Oct. 26-27) and Catalina State Park near Tucson (Oct. 26-27 and Nov. 2-3).

The activities families will experience may include (depending on the park): mountain biking, hiking, fishing, archery, geocaching, animal demos, campfire stories, birding, and more.

Families should bring sleeping bags or any bedding, pillows, clothing, sturdy shoes and personal items including toothpaste, towels, soap, etc. However, the following will be provided: tents, sleeping mats, chairs, lanterns, flashlights, GPS units, and all activity equipment.

Plus water, lemonade, coffee and all food including one lunch, one dinner, one breakfast, snacks and campfire treats.

The registration fee is $85 for a family of four and any additional family member is $5 for each person. Children 5 years and younger and pets cannot attend this program. The registration is limited.

The Arizona Family Campout Program is made possible by an AmeriCorps grant through the Arizona Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism. AmeriCorps is a National Service initiative, promoted and supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The program is also supported by a generous donation of equipment by Lower Gear Backpacking Center.

Click here to learn more about this program and to watch a video.

One Concessionaire for Arizona State Parks?

April 10, 2013 by · Comments Off on One Concessionaire for Arizona State Parks? 

Arizona State Parks has hired a consultant to explore whether a single concessionaire for all 30 state parks would save money, offsetting several years of deep budget reductions, the Cronkite News reported.

CHM Government Services, which was hired April 5, will spend the next three months analyzing legal and business aspects of Arizona’s state parks to determine if a massive contract with one concessionaire is possible and feasible.

State parks Executive Director Bryan Martyn said no other state has a sole concessions contract and if it can work in Arizona it might become a model for other states.

“We could change the way parks are run in the country and, theoretically, we could change the way parks are run around the world,” Martyn said.

He said there are currently concessionaires operating in seven of the state’s parks. They typically run gift shops, rental businesses, restaurants and other services that the parks do not have the expertise, staff or funds to operate.

Martyn said revenue reductions from the state in recent years have made it imperative that parks start to look at such options.

The orange stars mark the location of state parks in Arizona.

The Arizona Office of the Auditor General reported in September that the parks had $25.7 million in revenues in fiscal 2012, down from $54.7 million in fiscal 2008.

The report recommended that parks assess and, if necessary, modify how they bring in revenue. It also said they should continue and expand partnerships with private and local government organizations.

CHM Government Services will look into the feasibility of exactly that.

Margaret Bailey, a senior vice president at CHM, said the firm will spend the next three months figuring out the current state of Arizona parks, including analyses of finances, investments and real estate.

She said CHM will then determine the best path forward, whether that is single concessionaire or a different arrangement.

“It’s all about making sure the state of Arizona gets a fair return” for opportunities it can provide to concessionaires, she said.

Any deal would have to meet various legal and business requirements, she said.

If everything falls into place, Martyn said Arizona State Parks could request bids in as little as six months from the handful of concessionaires in the country who could handle working with all the parks.

“Within a year, we will have a completely different parks system in Arizona,” he said, although he added he is not tied to that timeframe.

Bailey said getting a fully operating plan in place in a year might be “optimistic,” but her company is hoping to provide Arizona State Parks with enough information to make some important decisions within a year.

“Our job is to take the info that is publically available … and do any evaluation of what is possible and what may not be possible,” Bailey said.

Martyn concedes that it has yet to be determined if a single-concessionaire model would be a net financial gain for the state, but he said initial indications are that it would.

And, because Arizona would be the first to try such a system, Martyn said the state would get a “smoking deal” from bidders. That’s important because the state simply cannot continue to fund state parks at past levels.

 

Current RV Parks and Campgrounds Briefs

March 12, 2013 by · Comments Off on Current RV Parks and Campgrounds Briefs 

Hiding a geocache in a Georgia state park.

GEORGIA

From geocaching.com:

Georgia State Parks has hidden 46 geocaches in 43 state parks, from Cloudland Canyon’s cool mountain trails to Skidaway Island’s sunny historic coast, and everywhere in between.

ILLINOIS

From a news release:

Effective March 7,  John Los has been appointed senior vice president and chief accounting officer of Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc.  and will assume the role of principal accounting officer. Los replaces Thomas Novosel, who tendered his resignation effective March 6.

Los, 47, has served in various financial reporting and accounting positions with real estate companies and with Ernst & Young LLP. Before joining the company, Los provided accounting and financial reporting consulting services to the company and was CFO of American Manufactured Communities REIT Inc. during a portion of 2012.

Los served in various positions at General Growth Properties from 2006 to 2012, including vice president of financial reporting. From 2004 to 2006, he served as corporate controller and vice president of Corporate Accounting at Prime Group Realty Trust. From 2000 to 2004, he served as manager of mergers and acquisitions and as regional controller at R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. Before 2000, he worked as an auditor at Ernst & Young LLP and is a Certified Public Accountant.

KENTUCKY

From WYMT-TV, Hazard:

Camping enthusiasts can take advantage of a discount being offered by Kentucky State Parks for most of the month of April.

The parks are offering a 20% discount on camping reservations made for April 1 through 25.

And during Camper Appreciation Weekend on April 26 and 27, two nights’ camping is offered for the price of one. Special events will also be held for campers during that weekend at some parks.

There are 31 state park campgrounds in Kentucky, all with sites with water and electric hookups. Campsites for horse camping are available at Carter Caves, Pennyrile Forest, Dale Hollow, Taylorsville Lake and Greenbo Lake. And Wi-Fi is offered for a fee at about a dozen campgrounds.

PENNSYLVANIA

From the York Daily Record:

Attendance at this year’s York RV Show was up about 14% from a year ago, reported Beverly Gruber, executive director of the Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association (PCOA).

The 35th annual show boasted a total of 80 vendors and featured an estimated 200 recreational vehicles in a variety of styles.

According to Gruber, helping to educate the public about campgrounds, dealers and vendors is hardly a job.

She has owned an RV since 1966, and together with family, has, in addition to local trips, crossed the country to California three times.

“People should really consider them for traveling. They’re a great way for family to spend time with each other,” Gruber said.

NORTH DAKOTA

From KFYR-TV, Bismarck:

As oil activity in western North Dakota expands, some people are raising concerns about drilling in state and national parks, such as Theodore Roosevelt and the Badlands. That`s why State Senators are looking at a concurrent resolution to study how oil activity should take place in the state`s most precious areas.

Several people spoke in favor of the resolution, because the parks attract tourists and provide wildlife habitat.

“This is home. And it`s going fast. You can`t be in that park without being impacted by lights and the sound of pumpers outside its boundaries,” said Jane Swenson with the Badlands Conservation Alliance.

The Senate Natural Resources Committee will review the resolution before making a recommendation on the senate floor.

ARIZONA

From KJZZ, Phoenix

Gov. Jan Brewer’s budget proposal includes $2 million in restored funding for Arizona State Parks, but some advocates hope lawmakers don’t use the money for other programs.

Arizona’s 31 state parks have suffered cuts totaling more than $80 million in recent years and currently the state provides no money for the parks from the general fund.

But, in her new budget Gov. Brewer has proposed spending $2 million for parks maintenance and operations.

Arizona State Parks Foundation Director Cristie Statler said the parks have about $200 million dollars in deferred needs but any amount of funding for the state park system is welcome.

“Two million dollars is not nearly enough to begin to address these issues but it beats nothing. It is a goodwill gesture and we hope to see that grow,” Statler said.

With so many other state departments suffering deep cuts, Statler said she’s worried state parks won’t get all of the $2 million the governor has proposed.

 

Capital Needs Targeted for Arizona State Parks

March 5, 2013 by · Comments Off on Capital Needs Targeted for Arizona State Parks 

Tonto Natural Bridge is a natural arch in Arizona that is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world.

As manager of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park near Payson, Ariz., Steve Jakubowski envisions a day when visitors will be to stay overnight at the 1920s-era lodge that houses the visitor center.

Doing so could boost park revenues and fund other improvements like new trees and cabins for Tonto, which became a state park in 1990, the Havasu News, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., reported.

But first the original knob and tube wiring must be replaced, a flammable, sugar cane-based compound used in the ceilings must be addressed and modern bathrooms must be added, along with an expanded system for managing sewage.

As it is, the lodge – and the entire park, for that matter – has just one flush toilet available to visitors. The other option is using one of many port-a-potties placed throughout the grounds.

“Modern flush restrooms have been put off for way too many years,” Jakubowski said. “We do have decent restrooms and we take pride in keeping them clean and sanitary for our visitors, but people really prefer a nice comfortable restroom to use.”

That would require money for repairs and upgrades, something that’s been in short supply at Arizona State Parks in recent years.

The agency has seen deep cuts in recent years as lawmakers addressed the budget deficit. It has received no general fund money since 2009, leaving it to operate primarily on gate fees.

Tonto, for example, is now open five days a week thanks to financial help from Payson, Star Valley and Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, a group dedicated to preserving the park and raising awareness.

This year, Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposed budget includes $2 million of Arizona Lottery proceeds to help Arizona State Parks address capital improvements.

Bryan Martyn, executive director of Arizona State Parks, has made capital needs a priority, saying state parks are forced to rely on outdated systems to keep revenue flowing.

“We’ve got water treatment plants that are older than me, even though the lifespan of a water treatment plant is only 40 years,” he said. “If the water treatment or the sewage treatment goes down, the park goes down.”

Challenges Across the State

Jay Ream, deputy director of the Parks Division at Arizona State Parks, said the water treatment problems at Tonto are indicative of the challenges all state parks face.

“Let’s face it, we have port-a-potties, but people don’t really like using them because they smell more in the summer and they’re basically a glorified outhouse,” he said. “The ones at Tonto are brand new, but they’re not the solution for hosting people at a permanent recreation place.”

At Patagonia Lake State Park, he noted, the facilities date to the 1970s and the most recent bill to keep them operating was $60,000.

“We have some talented rangers at Patagonia keeping it going, but it’s out of date, out of compliance and really needs to be replaced,” he said. “Deferred maintenance will only get us so far until something needs to be completely replaced.”

Ream said a sewage plant upgrade at Slide Rock State Park cost $1.5 million. At Alamo Lake State Park, replacing the pump that sends the waste to the treatment plant cost $5,000 and had to be installed the same day a problem was discovered.

“But because we’re living paycheck to paycheck, closing something down and bringing it up to working order is really not an option for us,” he said. “It’s almost like putting new tires on an old car: You won’t get a flat, but something else will eventually go wrong.”

Ream said the well at Kartchner Caverns State Park uses the same water that runs through the cave. Unless an offsite water source is developed, the cave water will continue to be depleted. Ream said that project could cost anywhere from $2 million to $3 million.

At Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, bathrooms are the first of many things Jakubowski would like to see addressed.

With about 175 parking spots available, Jakubowski said it’s difficult to find room for everyone during the busier summer months, when upwards of 2,000 people visit each day.

“When the parking lot is maxed out, we have to hold up traffic coming into the park until spots clear out when people leave,” he said.

The historic lodge, which Jakubowski hopes to see opened to the public for weekend reservations by spring 2014, has been a work in progress since 1991. Some of the ceilings still contain Celotex, which is made of sugar cane and is highly flammable. The lodge finally replaced its old, leaky roof in 2009.

The outdated wiring was never designed to carry the electrical current of modern appliances, and when the wires get hot from increases in the electrical load they become potential fire hazards.

Martyn said the Arizona State Parks Board has even bigger plans for Tonto, including new shade and fruit trees and hiring a landscape architect to fix the incline of the lawn outside the lodge to make it more suitable for weddings.

In addition to renovating the lodge, Arizona State Parks wants to add cabins, which means adding more bathrooms. But doing that would mean developing a sewage treatment plant to dispose of the waste, Martyn said.

“This is where parks are going during some of the most challenging times in the history of state parks: trying to figure out how to enhance the resource and make some revenue while continuing to be an economic driver for the adjacent communities,” he said.

 

Arizona Holding Camping 101 at 5 State Parks

March 4, 2013 by · Comments Off on Arizona Holding Camping 101 at 5 State Parks 

Rolling out a sleeping bag, pitching a tent and cooking food over a campfire. If anything to do with camping makes you anxious, Arizona State Parks is here to help.

The park service is hosting a Family Campout Program at five state parks during the next two months, the East Valley Tribune, Tempe, reported. At Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, families can attend a session March 9-10 or April 13-14. Participants can expect to spend the weekend with rangers and nine other families learning the basics of camping.

“What we’re targeting with the program is people who would like to get more involved with the outdoors but really don’t have any full-time experience,” says program coordinator Nicole Armstrong-Best.

Best calls this program “Camping 101.” There will be demonstrations that detail how to pitch a tent, how to use a lantern and the right foods to pack. There will also be recreational activities throughout the two days — things like hiking, mountain biking, geocaching, fishing and archery, depending on the park.

“We just want to give the families an idea that when you go to camp, you don’t just sit there and stare at the rocks,” says Best.

Full meals will be provided for the two-day, one night trip. Families will enjoy breakfast burritos, turkey cheeseburgers and fresh grilled corn for their entrees, as well as fruits and nuts to snack on during the day. For dessert, there’s the camping classic of s’mores and hot chocolate.

Hot showers and restrooms will be available. However, families will need to bring their own bedding, clothing, sturdy shoes, and personal items like toothbrushes, soap and towels.

Best says that after this introductory weekend, she hopes that families will have a new outlook on camping.

“(The goal is) that (participants) will be comfortable to go out and camp again, that they will understand what programming state parks offer. So even if they don’t go camping again, they might go in (to a park) for a program or a presentation, or go for a hike.”

The program costs $65 for a family of four, with any additional family members costing $5 each. Registration is required, and you can sign up at AZStateParks.com/family. No pets are allowed.

Other dates and locations are: March 16-17 and March 23-24 at Dead Horse Ranch State Park (Cottonwood), April 6-7 and April 27-28 at Kartchner Caverns State Park (Benson), April 13-14 and April 27-28 at Patagonia Lake State Park (Patagonia) and April 20-21 at Catalina State Park (Tucson)

 

Arizona Seeks Proper Funding for State Parks

February 25, 2013 by · Comments Off on Arizona Seeks Proper Funding for State Parks 

After years of delivering deep cuts, lawmakers this session are discussing ways to give Arizona State Parks some more money and bring back a lottery-funded grant program the agency administered, the Cronkite (Ariz.) News reported.

Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, said there seems to be a core group of representatives who are concerned about funding state parks properly.

“It is a pleasure to come to the Legislature this year and see several bills that are supporting state parks instead of the opposite,” Bahr told a House committee recently.

HB 2621, introduced by Rep. Juan Carlos Escamilla, D-San Luis, would establish a voluntary fee that owners could pay when registering vehicles. The House Agriculture and Water Committee unanimously approved the bill Feb. 19.

“Our state parks are a lot of times our economic tool for small, rural areas,” said Escamilla, whose district includes two state parks.

The fee, which under the bill would be set by the Arizona State Parks Board, would provide 85% of total proceeds to Arizona State Parks and 15% to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Bryan Martyn, executive director of Arizona State Parks, said Escamilla’s bill would help the agency, which operates primarily on gate fees and since 2009 has received no general fund appropriation.

“Make no mistake, Arizona State Parks is a business,” Martyn said. “And we have to search every day to try to figure out how to fund these state resources.”

Orange stars mark the location of state parks in Arizona.

Cristie Statler, executive director of Arizona State Parks Foundation, an advocacy group, said money generated by the fee would help parks with operations and maintenance. However, she said, it doesn’t solve the agency’s need for sustainable long-term funding.

Statler noted that many of the state’s 30 parks currently rely on partnerships with nearby municipalities and nonprofit organizations.

“Cities and towns cannot sustain these partnerships,” Statler said. “Their revenues have been stripped as well. What we’re doing is passing this obligation from the state to these cities and towns.”

Bahr said that in the past the Legislature has seemed to view state parks as an expendable luxury. She said the Legislature should come up with a sustainable revenue stream.

“These are important assets that protect amazing cultural and biological resources as well as help to sustain many rural economies,” Bahr said.

Joseph Garcia, communication director for Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said it’s encouraging to hear discussion about finding a funding mechanism for state parks that are operating on shoestring budgets.

“But if we’re really talking about improving and preserving state parks so they’re more visitor-friendly, then that needs an investment,” Garcia said.

The Morrison Institute published a 2009 study that found Arizona spent less on its park system than nearly any other state when viewed as a percentage of the overall budget.

“It’s sad that with all the money and energy thats been invested in state parks they’ll close or deteriorate or people won’t visit them because they don’t have modern amenities,” Garcia said.

Meanwhile, HB 2594, sponsored by Rep. Ethan Orr, R-Tucson, would among other provisions reinstate the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund, which used Arizona Lottery proceeds to provide grants for park programs, trails, historic preservation, environmental education and related projects. Arizona State Parks used some of the money for acquisitions and improvements.

Arizona State Parks and the Arizona Game and Fish Department had received up to $10 million annually before the Legislature eliminated the Heritage Fund in 2010.

The House Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources endorsed the measure Feb. 18, forwarding it to the Appropriations Committee.

Janice Miano, director of administration at the Arizona Heritage Alliance, said communities across the state would benefit from reinstating the Heritage Fund.

“Every community in Arizona has received at least one Historical Fund grant over the last 23 years,” Miano said. “It’s certainly an economic engine for the rural communities. It brings in projects that wouldn’t normally be funded.”

Statler said that access to parks in terms of affordable entrance fees could be jeopardized if Arizona State Parks doesn’t receive adequate funding.

“You can’t jack up the fees so much that the public can’t visit these parks that are state-owned assets,” Statler said.

Meanwhile, Martyn, the agency’s executive director, said he’s happy that Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposed budget included Arizona State Park’s requested operating budget of $21 million along with $2 million in Arizona Lottery proceeds for capital improvements.

“The onus still is on us to demonstrate our value added to Arizona,” Martyn said. “Arizonans have to believe in state parks if we expect them to contribute.”

 

The Latest RV Park and Campground Briefs

February 11, 2013 by · Comments Off on The Latest RV Park and Campground Briefs 

ARIZONA

From the Arizona State Parks website:

The new 2013 Arizona Family Campout Program (March and April 2013) is designed for families that have little or no experience camping. We hope to introduce you to the great experiences you can share with your family and inspire you to continue to explore the great outdoors! This weekend introductory adventure is taking place at the five Arizona State Parks throughout Spring 2013. Parks include Catalina State Park, Kartchner Caverns State Park, Lost Dutchman State park, Dead Horse Ranch State Park and Patagonia Lake State Park.

Registration Fee: $65 up to family of four. Additional family members $5 each. Sorry, children 5 years and younger or pets cannot attend this program. To register, contact Camp Coordinator for specific park, listed below by park.

NORTH DAKOTA

From The Associated Press:

People interested in visiting state parks in North Dakota later this year can start making plans.

The Parks and Recreation Department says state parks begin taking reservations Tuesday (Feb. 12). Parks open May 17, and officials say the 95-day reservation window enables visitors to ensure they have a campsite when they arrive.

Reservations can be made 24 hours a day with the exception of the first day, when they open at 7 a.m.

Campsite reservations may be made for May 17 through Sept. 2, except at Fort Ransom State Park, which will have reserved sites available through Sept. 29. Stays are limited to 14 consecutive days unless otherwise noted.

Visitors to Icelandic State Park will need to use a detour to reach the campground due to ongoing work at Lake Renwick Dam.

VIRGINIA

From WTOP, Washington, D.C.

In an effort to attract new nature lovers, Virginia’s state parks are investing in technology and making upgrades to several visitor centers.

The idea behind the overhaul is to connect people, especially younger generations, to the great outdoors through the use of technology.

“Increasingly in our modern society, people have grown distant from the outdoors,” says Jim Meisner, a spokesman with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages Virginia’s state parks. “These are 21st-century technologies that young people especially will use as a new gateway to enjoy the outdoors.”

Lake Anna State Park in Spotsylvania is the first state park to go through a high-tech renovation. It has been upgraded with a 3-D theater, interactive touch screens and a picture wall of 70 flat screens.

Meisner says the audience will be able to view on-screen scenes of the state park and of the animals that call the park home. He says some people are intimidated by the outdoors and this is a way of letting people get closer to nature without actually being out in nature.

“Our goal is to have this type of technology in all of our visitor centers as we refurbish and build,” says Meisner.

Lake Anna State Park’s visitor center is hosting a sneak preview of the updated space on Feb. 23 and 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 

Arizona Parks Face $200M Capital Needs Backlog

January 18, 2013 by · Comments Off on Arizona Parks Face $200M Capital Needs Backlog 

Delaying capital improvements needed after years of deep budget cuts to Arizona State Parks will only exacerbate the problems and increase future costs, a state lawmaker said Wednesday (Jan. 16).

“If you don’t take care of your infrastructure, it’s like not taking care of your house and if you let that little $2 item go and don’t fix it, you end up with a $100 repair bill,” said Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott.

Fann, whose district includes five state parks, said Arizona has been doing roughly the same thing with its parks for too long, the Arizona Heritage Alliance reported.

“Not only are we behind the curve on fixing what should have been fixed years ago, but now we have additional problems on top of them,” she said. Bryan Martyn, director of Arizona State Parks, is requesting $15.5 million in Gov. Jan Brewer’s budget for capital improvements.

Arizona State Parks hasn’t received money from the state’s general fund since 2009 and currently works off a $19.5 million budget. Officials say state parks have about $200 million in capital needs.

Fann, who pushed successfully last year to allow Arizona State Parks to keep all gate and concession fees, said that parks are vital to the state’s economy.

“It is responsible for over 3,000 direct jobs, it is responsible for over $2 million worth of revenue, and so state parks is really something we need to keep open,” Fann said. “This isn’t a feel-good item, this is about our economy. The feel-good and the beauty and all that stuff, that’s just the icing on the cake.”

Cuts to the Arizona State Parks budget led to agreements allowing some communities to take over operations and keep parks operating. Arizona State Parks Board Chairman Tracy Westerhausen said the $15.5 million would be an investment.

“It serves the people who come from outside of Arizona to see our parks and enriches the lives of the people who are here already,” she said. Westerhausen said the projects include improving water-treatment systems and electrification of campsites. “We’re under a state mandate to provide clean water to people who come to our parks, and one of the things we can’t do is improve our water structure in the parks,” she said.

Matthew Benson, a spokesman for the governor, said Brewer has taken Martyn’s request into account along with all of the proposals from other state agencies. “Of course state parks are a priority, but so is public safety, classroom education, road and transportation systems, Child Protective Services – all of these issues are important,” Benson said.

Grady Gammage Jr., who as a senior research fellow for Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy co-wrote a 2009 report on ways to fund state parks, said the facilities are assets to both the state’s economy and residents.

“Part of reason people want to live in Arizona is because of the open space and natural resources of parks and it can have a lot to do with what makes the state attractive to businesses and people moving here,” Gammage said. “If you don’t support that, you risk a lot more than just damaging the parks, you risk damaging this economic engine that drives Arizona.”

Arizona State Parks Eye More Money in 2013

January 3, 2013 by · Comments Off on Arizona State Parks Eye More Money in 2013 

Every state agency in Arizona will be looking for money when the state legislature starts up this month, KOLD-TV, Tucson, reported.

State parks were hard hit during the recession. Park rangers and other park supporters are hoping they rebound as revenue rises.

A TV crew went out to Catalina State Park on New Year’s Day and, not surprisingly, found a lot of fans of funding for state parks.

“We like the park. It’s dog-friendly and bike friendly and everybody’s nice,” says John Sapp of Waddell, Arizona.

However, the tough economic situation over the last few years had forced closures and cutbacks at state parks in Arizona and across the country.

“We have stayed in state parks so much and we just love them. And we would be so disappointed if anything closed them,” says Terry Sapp of Waddell, Ariz.

Catalina State Park’s popularity has helped it escape closure or big cutbacks.

Keeping state parks open is a priority for many Arizonans, especially when money is tight.

“Typically in government your services, like parks and recreation, are the first to go, but that’s kind of old thinking,” says Catalina State Park Ranger Jack McCabe.

What’s the new thinking?

“We’re also a great economic engine for the entire state of Arizona,” says McCabe. “We’re bringing money into the state. Tourism is important to us. These are the places that generate that tourist dollar.”

McCabe goes on, “So we think that’s a very important reason for keeping it open besides its natural intrinsic value that we’re protecting here.”

That’s a message park rangers hope is delivered to Arizona’s legislature and governor.

However, for Arizonans and others who enjoy the parks, it’s about a lot more than money.

“To have the access to the land and have it maintained by the state is a good thing,” says Denise Stark of Tucson.

Her husband, Allen, adds, “Not only here in Arizona, but all across the country because we’ve got an RV and we travel and we’ve stayed in state parks and it’s really great.”

 

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