AZ state parks hoping budget cuts are over - Tucson News Now

AZ state parks hoping budget cuts are over

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Every state agency will be looking for money when the Arizona legislature starts up this month.
State parks were hard hit during the recession.  Park rangers and other park supporters are hoping they rebound as revenue rises.

We went out to Catalina State Park on New Year's Day and, not surprisingly, found a lot of fans of funding for state parks.

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 the park hope to have for years to come.

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

Catalina State Park, north of Tucson, was packed with hikers on New Year's Day.

The Romero Canyon Trailhead parking lot was full, not one space left.

However, the tough economic situation over the last few years had forced 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, Arizona.

Catalina State 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."

McCabe goes on, "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 hope is delivered to Arizona's legislature and governor.

However, for Arizonans and others who enjoy 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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