New Deal Keeps 5 More AZ State Parks Open

Help from the public helped save Picacho Peak State Park
from the budget axe – for now.

Five more Arizona state parks got a reprieve from being closed because of the state government’s empty pockets.

At its May 19 meeting, the State Parks Board voted to keep the five parks open after reaching finance and management deals with local communities, according to a state parks press release. The parks affected are Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, Alamo Lake State Park, Lost Dutchman State Park, Picacho Peak State Park and Red Rock State Park. The press release also highlights the financial help from donors, organizations and businesses. Similar deals will keep a total of 23 parks –originally slated to close– open into the next fiscal year.

That means this is a reprieve, not a full pardon. But the move is hardly worthless. Every deal the parks board inks to keep the parks open gives the state a little financial breathing room. That could buy just enough time for the state government to find the funds to keep these valuable assets open. The alternative would be allowing the parks to fall into disrepair.

The Arizona Republic mentioned that businesses and organizations from the small town of Apache Junction helped stave off Lost Dutchman State Park’s closure. From hikers to Harley-Davidson riders, they contributed about $26,000, the story said. The park provides essential –and convenient– access to Siphon Draw, which leads to the iconic Flatiron area that provides some grand views of the Valley. It also provides routes linking to the Superstition Wilderness. It’s arguably the most rugged and scenic areas flanking the metro Phoenix area. Being the epicenter of legends involving the infamous Lost Dutchman Gold Mine doesn’t hurt its cache, either.

Like Lost Dutchman, Pichacho Peak is one of the more visible and even iconic parks. It looms over Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson. During a recent trip there, I ran into a local man who was collecting signatures for petitions to keep the parks open. I’m not certain that petitions with no funding will do any good, but it speaks to the enthusiasm Arizonans have for their state parks. Not just anyone would spend a day in the sun hoping for a few people to drive up and sign a petition.

The board has also enacted some clever cost-saving measures, such as creating 5-day schedules for some parks. Fort Verde State Historic Park, Riordan Mansion State Historic Park, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and Tubac Presidio State Historic Park are closed every Tuesday and Wednesday.

Homolovi Ruins State Park, Jerome State Historic Park, Lyman Lake State Park, McFarland State Historic Park and Oracle State Park remain closed. Lyman Lake State Park, though, is scheduled to re-open May 24.

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