State officials are recommending the immediate closure of eight state parks because of midyear spending cuts imposed under legislation signed by Gov. Jan Brewer to eliminate a revenue shortfall.
The parks recommended for closure are: Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde, Homolovi Ruins State Park in Winslow, Lyman Lake State Park in Springerville, McFarland State Historic Park in Florence, Oracle State Park in Oracle, Riordan Mansion State Historic Park in Flagstaff, Tubac Presidio State Historic Park in Tubac and Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park.
Parks Director Ken Travous told The Associated Press on Monday that he will recommend the closures to the Parks Board when it holds a special meeting Tuesday morning regarding the budget cuts.
Travous said he picked the parks recommended by closure because of their higher per-visitor costs among the 27 state parks.
The eight parks recommended for closure all have relatively low visitation rates. In the 2007-2008, for example, 4,945 visitations were reported for McFarland and 9,989 for Oracle. Those numbers are well below the parks with the highest number of visitors: Slide Rock with 249,759 and Lake Havasu with 248,851.
Parks officials caution that more closures may be needed because of fiscal restraints.
The budget changes approved Friday night and Saturday morning by the Legislature closed a $1.6 billion shortfall in the state’s current $9.9 billion budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Legislative budget analysts have estimated that there could be a $3 billion shortfall in the next budget.
Sen. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, said the park closures could economically damage the rural communities where the parks are located.
“When you make cuts there is a ripple effect,” she said. “The communities are going to have to find another way to draw visitors.”