Keeping state parks open a priority for many - Tucson News Now

Keeping state parks open a priority for many

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The parking lot at the Romero Canyon Trailhead was full. The parking lot at the Romero Canyon Trailhead was full.

You couldn't ask for a better day for a hike.

Clear, blue skies.

Snow on the Santa Catalina mountain peaks.

Water running down into the valleys.

It's all something people at Catalina State Park, north of Tucson, hope to have for years to come.

The park was packed with hikers on New Year's Day.

"We like the park. It's dog-friendly and bike friendly and everybody's nice," says John Sapp of Waddell, AZ.

The Romero Canyon Trailhead parking lot was full.

However, the tough economic situation over the last few years had forces closures and cutbacks at state parks in Arizona and across the country.

"We have stayed in state parks so much and we just love them. And we would be so disappointed if anything closed them," says Terry Sapp of Waddell.

The park's popularity has helped it escape closure or big cutbacks.

Keeping state parks open is a priority for many Arizonans, especially when money is tight.

"Typically in government your services, like parks and recreation, are the first to go, but that's kind of old thinking," says Catalina State Park Ranger Jack McCabe.

What's the new thinking?

"We're also a great economic engine for the entire state of Arizona," says McCabe. "We're bringing money into the state. Tourism is important to us. These are the places that generate that tourist dollar.

"So we think that's a very important reason for keeping it open besides its natural intrinsic value that we're protecting here." 

That's a message park rangers want to deliver to Arizona's legislature and governor.

However, for Arizonans and others who enjoy hiking the parks, it's about a lot more than money.

"To have the access to the land and have it maintained by the state is a good thing," says Denise Stark of Tucson.

Her husband, Allen, adds, "Not only here in Arizona, but all across the country because we've got an RV and we travel and we've stayed in state parks and it's really great."

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