Jan 262010

Like everywhere, the State of Arizona has been hit hard by economic setbacks, and the state has announced the closure of thirteen of its 22 State Parks in the next few months. The parks on the closure list are Homolovi Ruins State Park in Winslow, Lyman Lake State Park in St. Johns, Riordan Mansion State Historic Park in Flagstaff, Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde, Roper Lake State Park in Safford, Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park near Payson, Alamo Lake State Park in Wenden, Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, Picacho Peak State Park near Tucson, and Red Rock State Park in Sedona. Four State Parks, Jerome State Historic Park, McFarland State Historic Park in Florence, Oracle State Park, and San Rafael State Natural Area were closed previously due to budget cuts.

We have visited many of these parks over the years, and I’m really sorry that this action was taken. It is a real loss to the people of Arizona and visitors to the state. However, do I wonder if the attitude of the folks at the State Parks might not have been a least a tiny part of the problem.

I can’t help but remember that three or four years ago, we stopped at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park and wanted to do a story on the park for the Gypsy Journal. Usually when we tell whoever is on duty at a place like this what we’re up to, we get a warm welcome and often a lot of extra help, such as pointing out behind the scenes details that most people overlook. After all, we’re giving them free publicity that will reach thousands of potential visitors.

But not at Tubac Presidio, a Spanish mission dating back to the 1600s! When the very officious Ranger on duty learned that we planned to do a feature story in the park, he demanded we surrender our cameras, and took away the park brochure I had picked up, because State Park “policy” forbade anyone from using photos of or information from the park for commercial purposes.

When I could not get anywhere with the Ranger on duty, I asked to speak to a supervisor, but he told me that would not be possible. In a follow up call to the State Parks headquarters in Phoenix, I was told that this was indeed the policy, but that if I were to submit a request in writing, weeks ahead of our visit, it would be reviewed and they would get back with me. I had a better idea – we drove a few miles further south and stopped at Tumacácori National Historical Park, another historic Spanish mission from the same period, where the folks on duty welcomed us with open arms and went out of their way to give us enough information for two or three feature stories!

Two years ago we were staying at the Thousand Trails preserve in Camp Verde, Arizona and made a day trip to Jerome. Sometime in the afternoon, as we were headed back to the campground, Miss Terry suddenly needed to make a pit stop. We were right in front of Jerome State Historic Park, so I pulled in and Terry went into the Visitor center to use the bathroom. The Ranger on duty stopped her and told her that the bathrooms were for park visitor use only, and demanded that she pay the $5 entrance fee or she could not use the bathroom, which was right there in the Visitor Center. She told him that it was rather an emergency, but he did not care one bit. Pay the money or go find a bush someplace!

So while I hate to see the parks closed, I keep thinking that what goes around comes around.

On another note, Bad Nick had to act like a grownup and play disciplinarian yesterday. You can read about it in the Bad Nick Blog post titled Bad Nick Plays Censor. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Thought For The Day – Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach a person to use the Internet, and they will forward dumb e-mails to you forever.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  10 Responses to “Arizona State Park Closures”

  1. We love Arizona! We’ve stayed in many State Parks there. Lost Dutchman was one of my favorite. I’m sad to hear that it will close. I’ve always looked forward to the day we could return and climb Superstition Mountain again. What a bummer.


  2. Is it just me or is the link broken to sign up for the Rally? I’m trying to sign up for the early arrival. I can get to paypal independently.


  3. One very good way to get the voters to pay attention is to take away something they like to do. I really think shutting down parks and in some states rest areas on interstates is to show the voters that the state is pinched for money. This is a very visible example of the states need for money. When the time comes to vote for those tax increases then the voters have been “shown” the state needs money for such things as parks and rest areas. I am not saying the states are not in need of money for many of them have had reductions in state incomes (sales tax) due to the recession. I am merely stating how states “get our attention” for more taxes.
    I still think a good BUDGET and adhering to that budget (no deficient spending) would be good for the states as well as the nation. And maybe even a few individuals need a good lesson in spending only the money they have, not spend-spend-spend even if they don’t have the money.

  4. And when the city of Tucson tells its voters they will be cutting the police and fire department budgets so that there will have to be a reduction in officers and fire fighters, that’s pretty severe. Fortunately the city reversed itself on that one. From what I understand, the Arizona legislature for years has been putting bandaids on its financial problems rather than taking meaningful and effective action (which would be unpopular with the voters). Now it looks as if they are being bitten by their own bad choices. And yes, the voters need to bite the bullet and accept necessary tax hikes.

  5. While we are Californians, we try not to dwell on all the political gamess and fiscal woes in that great state. But, when the Governor threatened to close many of the state parks and landmarks, he learned that the lawsuits that would result from all the private contractors doing work in or for the parks under strict contracts would far outweigh the savings from closing the places. Does Arizona face the same potential lawsuit risk? I think I’ve been reading some of the AZ parks are closing Tuesdays and Wednesdays which also makes Monday nights iffy, too.
    (Currently in AZ until mid-April with apparently fewer places to visit and spend $$$)

  6. I just checked the Arizona State Parks website and looked at their fees, effective March 1st, these will be the new rates for camping:

    Raised day use pass from 25% to 100% (Now $7-20 depending on the park)

    Raise the Electric Site Range to 20.00–35.00 from 19.00–25.00 at all parks.

    Annual Entrance Pass to 200.00 from 125.00

    So it could cost me anywhere from $27 to $55 a night to camp at an electric only site.
    I know that there are a lot of purist out there that only stay at a state park, always watch PBS and only eat vegetables (My sister-in-law is one of them). But these price will prevent us from using the parks and I’m sure a lot of other travels will be in the same boat. For those of you that can afford these rates I’m happy for you since you will be guaranteed your pick of site and have the park almost all to your self’s.

    They are closing the parks because no money is coming in, now do they really thing that raising the rate is going to improve anything, all they are doing is pricing the parks out of every body’s price range which means even less people will be using the parks which will cause more closings.

    Michigan did this a few years ago and there midweek occupancy for the parks went from about 25% to well under 10%, results loss of revenue and more park closings.

    Ohio took a step in the right direction by offering Passport rates Sunday through Thursday, which brought in a lot of travels during the midweek.

  7. Jerry,
    Are you using Firefox as your web browser, by any chance? For some reason it does not work well with our links. Try accessing it with Internet Explorer and see if that works.

  8. Nick, I just got around to reading the Gypsy Journal print edition, and in the Free Campgrounds and Overnight Parking Spots section, you mention the T/A truck stop on I-4 at Exit 53.

    Are you sure it’s not Exit 10, same exit as Lazy Days? There is no Exit 53, as far as I can tell.

  9. You are correct. That was a misprint. My apologies.

  10. Thanks Nick. That worked.


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