Arizona is broke, which isn’t a secret.
Many groups, however, refuse to give up without a fight or at least an attempt to ward off complete elimination of their programs.
Arizona State Parks and the individual parks themselves have fought tooth and nail to stay afloat, particularly in Sedona and the Verde Valley.
In Sedona, Slide Rock State Park wasn’t in jeopardy of closing because it is one of few parks that actually generates revenue, but Red Rock State Park and its volunteers have fought for each day the park has stayed open.
In Camp Verde, a massive volunteer movement kept Fort Verde State Historical Park from closing.
Jerome State Historical Park fought back from the grave, in a sense, rallying to reopen after the state shut it down for structural repairs without a completion date set.
Cottonwood’s Dead Horse Ranch State Park is virtually untouchable. It, like Slide Rock, actually turns a profit each year.
In an effort to develop a plan for saving the parks, reporter Mark Lineberger wrote Wednesday, Jan. 19, a nonprofit group, the Arizona State Parks Foundation, commissioned a study. The report gave two suggestions for parks in the Verde Valley — limit hours or seasons of operation at some parks and develop other revenue generators.
Both ideas could help local parks stay above water, but only if administered correctly.
The study recommends closing the Fort Verde, Red Rock and Jerome parks November through March.
A four-month closure of Red Rock State Park isn’t going to go over well with Sedona residents.
A one- to two-month closure may be possible during December and January when tourism numbers are down, but Sedona fights to extend its tourism season every year. An extended closure could be viewed as detrimental to these efforts.
At Slide Rock State Park, one of the state’s most successful parks, the study recommends expanding the revenue base with possibly a zip line or a café.
Extra attention and care needs to be taken if this is the route Slide Rock takes. The point of designating a property a state park is to preserve its history and natural beauty. Building cafés and recreation equipment on a site set aside for preservation is tricky.
The best bet would be to brainstorm park-specific ideas that fit with the theme. Maybe Slide Rock could have a dessert café where desserts are made from apples, drawing a connection to the park’s apple orchard history.
Who should manage the parks and whether a private group should step in to be a liaison between the state and a park was also addressed.
In the Verde Valley, a regional operation responsible for all of the area’s parks would be the best option. Then money raised at our parks would stay here to support their operations, and the state wouldn’t be able to take it away.
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