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More state parks on chopping block


By Howard Fischer

Phoenix, AZ – Three more state parks have been added to the list of those that could be closed to balance the budget. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer explains.

When state lawmakers fixed the $1.6 billion hole in the budget they took nearly $5 million out of the Parks Department operating budget. Parks Director Ken Travous, looking for ways to make that up, said he likely would need to close five of the 27 parks. And he recommended the five with the highest per-visitor costs: McFarland, Oracle, Yuma Quartermaster Depot, Tubac and Homolovi. Since then, Travous added the Jerome Historic and Tonto Natural Bridge parks in northern Arizona to the top of the list.

(Tonto and Jerome are falling down. We've got to get in there and find some money to get those two before they fall down. So it just makes sense to close them while we're fixing them.)

He also added Red Rock State Park in Sedona to the list of possible closures because only one quarter of the folks who use that each year are Arizona residents. Travous said he did explore other options. But he said closing all 27 parks two days a week didn't save enough. And Travous said there is just no way to get nearly $5 million more in admission fees out of the estimated 400,000 people who will visit the parks between now and when the budget year ends June 30. The Parks Board meets Friday to decide which parks to shutter.