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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Fiscal woes may close state parks

    Tubac Presidio Historic State Park, known as Arizona’s first state park, is at risk of closing within the next couple months, along with seven others, said Ellen Bilbrey, chief public information officer with Arizona State Parks.

    Tubac Presidio is located less than an hour south of Tucson and is meant to preserve the oldest Spanish presidio ruins in Arizona. A presidio is a Spanish fortified military settlement.

    The park is home to reenactments of Spanish explorer Juan Bautista’s life, picnic areas, and hiking and horse trails, but if the state’s budget problems continue, Arizona’s second-oldest park could be closed down.

    The Arizona State Parks Board voted on Feb. 20 to close two parks due to budget cuts, with eight more parks remaining in jeopardy, said Bilbrey.

    Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and Jerome State Historic Park will be closing immediately, she said. The cut was approved by a 3-1 vote. McFarland State Historic Park was closed earlier this month.

    The state parks that are still at risk to be put on the chopping block are: Homolovi Ruins, Oracle, Yuma Quartermaster Depot, Fort Verde, Lyman Lake, Riordan Mansion, Red Rock and Tubac Presidio.

    The fate of these parks will be decided after the Arizona State Legislature approves the budget for the fiscal year 2010, which according to Bilbrey, will probably occur sometime in March.

    So far legislators have focused on the smaller parks that do not have enough visitors to support their upkeep, she said.

    “”If you have a lot of staff and not a lot of visitors, you can’t keep it open,”” Bilbrey said.

    Once it is decided that a park will be shut down, it is closed up, and no one can go onto the land anymore, Bilbrey said.

    Bill Mannan, a natural resources and wildlife conservation professor, said since these are smaller parks, their main value is providing a place for people to observe and enjoy nature and not necessarily to protect any specific species.

    “”They have value in the social standpoint of getting people connected with the natural world,”” he said.

    Mannan said when people are able to experience nature and wildlife they are more likely to appreciate it and then vote for legislature that will protect it in the future.

    Areas like state parks promote an important connection between nature and people, he said.

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