According to major news sources, including the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, major budget shortfalls in Arizona will result in the closure of 13 state parks by June. Eight others have already been closed.
The Los Angeles Times:
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.
The Arizona State Parks Board has voted unanimously to close 13 parks in response to budget cuts.
The Arizona State Parks Board is closing some of the state’s iconic Old West landmarks, including the Tombstone Courthouse in one of the West’s most storied towns, and the Yuma Territorial Prison, which housed hundreds of Old West outlaws and was portrayed in the film “3:10 to Yuma.”
The decision also closes parks such as Red Rock State Park near Sedona that draw tens of thousands of tourists a year.
The Legislature has cut 61 percent of the state parks budget since July.
In a Huffington Post editorial, Chad Campbell, the House Democratic Whip in the Arizona State Legislature, describes the reappropriation of a quarter of a million dollars meant for state parks:
GOP legislators recently pilfered a nearly $250,000 gift left by an elderly woman – now deceased – for the Arizona State Parks system.
The severity of budget cuts in Arizona is quite disturbing, but the cuts to State Parks have touched an especially raw nerve. In 2003, 82-year-old Asta Forrest left nearly $250,000 to the Arizona State Parks Board. This Danish immigrant’s gift to Arizona was inspired by her love of its beautiful natural surroundings.
It’s ironic that, in today’s rough economic times, state parks are being closed. During the Great Depression, construction of state parks provided need work for thousands of young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps.