Budget woes for AZ State Parks - Tucson News Now

Budget woes for AZ State Parks

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Kartchner Caverns State Park (Source: Arizona State Parks) Kartchner Caverns State Park (Source: Arizona State Parks)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Those heading out to enjoy Arizona's state parks this weekend - may be surprised at how little money they operate on.  The budget gets smaller, while the repair and project list keeps getting longer.

Rangers at state parks rely more and more on volunteers like Art Dorner, to help keep the parks open.   

"I drive the tram to bring the people from the discovery center up to here, I also lead tours through the caves, that's my favorite," said Dorner, a volunteer who has worked at Kartchner Caverns for several years.

Much of the budget woes are due to the state parks not receiving any money from the state's general fund for nearly five years - forcing staff reductions and putting off repair and maintenance work.

"This is one of the busiest times of year for Kartchner Caverns but the staffing isn't changing.  In fact some volunteers put in four days a week," said Bryan Maryn, Executive Director of Arizona's State Parks.

He has seen over the years the decrease in full time employees; according to records there were 420 full time employees in 2007, in 2014 they are down to 159. 

"Now we are all about providing that consistent quality customer experience with the resources we have," said Maryn.  "State Parks is a lean and mean organization now."

The state parks budget is a fraction of what it used to be as well, down to $22 million from $81 million.  Smaller budget means less money for rangers, tram repairs and a critical upgrade to the park's water system.   Kartchner staff had to rely on a partnership with the University of Arizona to upgrade the exhibit hall. 

"Hopefully when times get better in this state, we'll demonstrate to our legislators that state parks are worth the investment," said one park ranger.

According to State Park officials it would take about $80 million to add improvements and restore operations at all state parks.

Volunteers like Art say they are dedicated to the park - no matter the money issues. 

"Yeah well its work," said Dorner.  "But I enjoy it."

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