Audit: Arizona state parks need more funds, visitors

by Yvonne Wingett Sanchez

The Republic

The future of Arizona’s state parks is at risk, a new audit says, and their long-term financial sustainability depends on expanded partnerships and marketing efforts.

An Auditor General’s Office report released Wednesday portrayed the parks system as in dire need of funding. The Legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer cut funding to about $25.7 million last fiscal year from about $54.7 million in fiscal 2008, the report said.

The audit also found that low and declining visitation was among the factors that pose long-term risks for the parks.

Auditors recommended the Arizona State Parks Board, which manages the state’s 30 parks, continue to expand partnerships with local governments and organizations and create a new marketing campaign to showcase the parks. Auditors also said the board should study how the parks system can become more financially sustainable.

The 30 state parks cover a total of 62,000 acres, with 28 percent of the land owned by the state and 72 percent leased or under easement from federal and state entities.

There are four types of parks, ranging from environmental-education parks such as Boyce Thompson Arboretum to recreation areas such as Kartchner Caverns. About 2 million people visited the state parks in fiscal 2011, the report said.

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