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Feds warn Arizona on Park Closures

Shuttering Parks Purchased with Federal Dollars Jeopardizes Future Federal Aid

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By: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)

TUCSON, May 28, 2010 - The National Park Service has served notice on the State of Arizona that its plan to close more parks purchased with federal dollars could cost the state dearly in future federal aid according to a letter released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Arizona had planned to begin a new round of park closures next week, starting on June 3, 2010, but new short-term local agreements may delay some additional park closures

The April 29, 2010 letter from Acting National Park Service (NPS) Intermountain Regional Director Mary Gibson Scott to Governor Jan Brewer and other state officials notes that the state "has received $58 million in Federal Financial assistance to aid in the acquisition and development of numerous local, county, and state parks", including "11 Arizona state parks which have received LWCF {federal Land and Water Conservation Fund] financial assistance [that] we understand are proposed for closure by no later than June 3, 2010." Ms. Gibson warns that:

"The purpose of this letter is to alert you that the closure of any state park or historic site that has received LWCF assistance would be viewed by the NPS as being in noncompliance with Federal requirements. Noncompliance will jeopardize LWCF funding and reimbursements and potentially impact other Federal grant programs."

"If Gov. Brewer closes parks, the National Park Service must quickly move to take over parks created or supported with federal funding. The people of Arizona want parks open and would applaud," stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson who is also an Arizona State Representative who has been working with State Parks employees and advocates to try to keep the parks open. "Gov. Brewer's reckless 'shut it down' attack on Arizona's state parks violates conservation agreements that are important to the future of the state."

In her letter, Ms. Gibson Scott invites state officials to work with NPS to explore "measures that can be taken short of total park closures" that still would "provide as much flexibility as possible to deal with funding shortfalls." In any federal-state park deal, a key player will be Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, Chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands. Rep. Grijalva has been working with NPS and PEER to help avoid the Arizona State Parks shutdown.

In addition to loss of federal funds, park closures will bring a host of liability and public safety problems due to the state's inability to secure park lands from spreading wildfires, drug cultivation, violent crimes and injuries. "Last year, California proposed to close state parks as a budget cut but figured out that the resulting lawsuits and other losses could cost taxpayers much more in the long run than any short term savings," said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch pointing to an extraordinary legal analysis by California Department of Parks & Recreation attorneys detailing a litany of legal headaches from shuttering parks. "Even California has learned that closing state parks is the epitome of a penny-wise-pound-foolish economy."

Read the NPS letter to Arizona:
http://www.peer.org/docs/az/5_28_10_NPS_warning_Arizona_park_closures.pdf

Examine Arizona park closure plans:
http://azstateparks.com/press/2009/PR_04-11-09.html

See how California learned that it may be more expensive to close parks than keep them open:
http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=1242

 

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