Arizona To Close Half its State Parks

Arizona's Tombstone Courthouse has been open as a state historic park since 1959. The 1882 building will close on Mar. 29, 2010.

On Dec. 23, 2009, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed legislature reducing the state parks budget by $8.6 million. In the face of these cuts, last week the Arizona State Parks Board voted to close 13 of its 27 state parks by June.
"It's a seismic change to our department," says Renée Bahl, executive director of the Arizona State Parks Board. "Basically, we'll have zero dollars at the end of this year."

By the end of March, seven of Arizona's eight state historic parks will be shuttered, including the 1882 Tombstone Courthouse, the Yuma Territorial Prison, and the 1904 Arts and Crafts Riordan Mansion in Flagstaff. In fact, the only historic park that will remain open to visitors will be the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, spared thanks to support from the city of Yuma.

"We can only afford to operate those parks that either make money or have a low operating cost," Bahl says. "What this means is that our buildings—historic and otherwise—will suffer, and so will the appreciation of our history. It will be lost because we won't be able to pass it on."

Rally for Arizona Parks

The Arizona Heritage Alliance is organizing a rally on Feb. 1 at the state capitol in Phoenix. Details at

The Arizona State Parks agency was created in 1957 to drive leisure business to rural economies. The 2.3 million tourists who visit Arizona's parks each year generated nearly $23 million in state and local government taxes in 2007, according to a February 2009 study by Northern Arizona University. They bring in $266 million to local economies, according to the State Parks Board. Bahl predicts that negative impacts on local communities will be severe. "Parks in any state bring in money to the local economies," she says. "We understand it's a recession, but we are part of the solution."

What's the solution for Arizona's state park system? Perhaps a tax on vehicle registrations, says Sandy Bahr, Grand Canyon Chapter Director of the Sierra Club. "We need the legislature to pass the vehicle license-fee to help fund parks and to reverse the cuts," she said in an e-mail. In the end, it is the "smaller historic parks are the ones that will suffer the most, as they do not generate as much money."

11 most markArizona isn't alone; last year California shuttered state parks, along with Illinois, Pennsylvania, and other states in economic crisis. Closing state parks won't solve any problems in the long run, says Anthony Veerkamp, director of programs at the National Trust's Western Office in San Francisco. "The National Trust for Historic Preservation recognizes that the state of Arizona is facing a severe fiscal crisis," Veerkamp says. "We believe, however, that eviscerating state parks is shortsighted at best and threatens lasting harm to Arizona well beyond the current economic downturn."

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Submitted by Jim at: March 18, 2010
Update on Arizona State Park's situation on front page of today's Arizona Republic:

Submitted by Nate at: February 18, 2010
Another problem with these closings is that they will be closed in phases. The true affect won't be felt. It's like the last paragraph said, closing the parks won't help in the long run. If there is not more of a charge almost all parks will be cut. It's unfortunate that these beautiful places are so easy for the government to take away.

Submitted by Nader at: February 8, 2010
Plz start charging a Fee, also have them cut budget by %10,add a dollar to gas. do something. plz keep our state alive. Cut wastefull spending.

Submitted by Brian at: February 7, 2010
We need to produce real wealth in this country again (not print money out of thin air). This is just a result of the trade deficit. The dollar has been debased by 96% since 1913.

Submitted by Ginny at: February 2, 2010
If Arizona is not charging a fee to enjoy these state parks, they need to start. If they are they need to raise the fee. Closing historic parks is not the way to go - it discourages tourists from visiting and spending their money. Save the parks.

Submitted by Jim at: January 29, 2010
WHAT CAN YOU DO? Attend Monday's Rally at the Capitol (if you live or happen to be in Arizona, that is): Sign the Petition. Help us get 5,000 signatures: For background information, visit any of the following websites of organizations leading the charge: * Arizona State Parks Foundation: * Arizona Heritage Alliance: * Arizona Preservation Foundation: (also on Facebook) To the question, "Does anybody know why historic buildings and sites are referred to as 'parks'?," here's the answer. Arizona State Parks organizes its parks by category: (1) recreation and (2) historic & cultural. Eight of the nine historic & cultural parks (which have historic buildings or archaeological sites as the primary focus) are scheduled to be closed; one will remain open thanks to a financial agreement with the City of Yuma. Here's a list of our historic & cultural parks:

Submitted by Bonsai Lady at: January 29, 2010
Closing state parks is horrible! That's a terrible idea. Don't do it!Put the word out in those multitude of RV Parks in Yuma and beyond to stand up and do something.

Submitted by BC in Washington, D.C. at: January 29, 2010
I am going to disagree with the other posters on this site. These historic sites need to be funded with admittance fees and local public/private initiatives. And they aren't exactly being razed, they are being closed. They can be reopened in better times, but priorities are very difficult right now.

Submitted by m arietta at: January 28, 2010
Does anybody know why historic buildings and sites are referred to as 'parks'?

Submitted by Leslie at: January 27, 2010
Save AZ state parks. They are part of our national heritage.

Submitted by Steve at: January 26, 2010
Fear of the state grabbing funds earmarked for the parks is unfortunately well founded. But, it needn't be that way when well crafted. Follow this link and read the simply stated details of an initiative plan for California:

Submitted by Paul at: January 26, 2010
Once again tweedle dumb and tweedle dumber strike again. Why is it that history, arts and culture are always the first to get cut when things are tight? How about cutting politicians salaries and expense accounts? Make them eat at McDonald's instead of a five star restaurant and drive economy cars instead of riding around in limos and private jets. They only look at the world as a balance sheet in dollars and cents and don't even consider the opportunity costs of shutting off minds from creative endeavors. It just makes me sick!

Submitted by Lisa at: January 26, 2010
For those of you reading this article, please consider writing a letter to AZ State Park to argue that even if the parks are closed (hopefully temporarily as promised), the cultural resources need to be protected. They are closing parks with important archaeological sites that will probably be looted if no one is there to watch over them.

Submitted by Steve at: January 26, 2010
Short-sighted sort-term politicians playing loose with public trust to make good on their political debt of "no new taxes" (just punitive fees for the poor) for their neo-con supporters. It's sickening to see this happen as state taxes are meant to equalize state benefits FOR ALL. But, car fee schemes that open the parks on a daily basis to the masses is better that allowing them to become so decrepit that the only solution becomes selling them to mall developers.

Submitted by PRD at: January 26, 2010
I am saddened to hear that states are closing parks and historic sites. We are all feeling the pinch of these tough ecomomic times, and governments are not exempt, but to close down potential revenue sources seems shortsighted. I do not believe that Arizona cannot find $7 Million in waste to trim from its budgets from agencies, commissions, state offices that do not generate any revenue, and instead beef up its tourist industry...

Submitted by Rufus at: January 26, 2010
The former (ousted) governor of Illinois closed several parks only to have it overturned after he was ejected from office. The point that was made about keeping them open was that the places closed generated tourist money. Something to keep in mind.

Submitted by JB at: January 26, 2010
The real tragedy is the gross mismanagement of ever facet of the state government in Arizona by the majority Republican legislature and the grossly incompetent Jan Brewer. Not only are we losing our parks, but we are losing many basic services from education to healthcare as well. It is an admission of criminal ineptness when a legislature sells off its own historic meeting place to the highest bidder to raise a few million dollars in the short term only to have to lease back that space to meet for billions over the long term. A vehicle registration tax will not save our parks. The legislature will simply funnel that money to another developer tax break or some other silly boondoggle to benefit mining interests, land development interests or their own pocketbooks. It is a tragedy and crime what has happened in this state and should not be compared with legitimate budget "shortfalls" elsewhere that are the result of economic pressures.

Submitted by BK at: January 26, 2010
Combined with the Az legislature's slaughter of (already grossly underfinanced) education- and health care-related funding, Arizona has become a poster child for anti-people government. Slanted political values seem supreme.

Submitted by Maggie at: January 26, 2010
What a shame. I am a frequent visitor to AZ and this will only cause them to lose tourist dollars.