Upgrades for Oracle State Park included in Gov. budget plan

Upgrades for Oracle State Park included in Gov. budget plan
(Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It's pristine, public land. 4,000 acres sit north of Tucson for anyone who wants to enjoy the environment.

Oracle State Park is open, just not all the time, for out-of-town visitors like Susan Barthel.

"We have a camper, which we don't have down here now," said Barthel, from Portland, Oregon. "But I think it would be great to camp here overnight - if that were a possibility."

It's possible and it's being proposed.

Governor Doug Ducey's budget plan is calling for $4 million to upgrade Oracle State Park.

It still needs legislative approval, but if it passed it would give the Arizona state park a new look and new amenities, allowing for 24-hour overnight access to visitors with space to sleep on campgrounds.

According to Gov. Ducey's Senior Press Secretary, Patrick Ptak, the upgrades could include 20 tent sites, 20 cabins, and 30 recreational vehicle sites. It would also breathe new life into the 15 miles of hiking and biking trails in the park.

The governor's office expects the renovation to raise annual revenue about $1.2 million dollars in Oracle State Park. Ptak said they saw a record number of people visiting Arizona state parks in fiscal year 2017 that generated nearly $18 million in revenue.

The upgrades are a dream situation for Barthel.

"I think we'd probably walk every inch of the trails and look at the stars. But we'd want it to be quiet," she said.

Quiet is hard to come by during the busy season in southern Arizona between October and April.

The biggest benefit might be realized just down the road, about 24 miles down State Route 77, at Catalina State Park. Ptak said the new additions at Oracle State Park would free up some space at Catalina State Park, where rangers said they often have to turn people away due to the crowded campgrounds.

On Monday, Feb. 19, the signs at the Catalina State Park visitors center signaled the full fate of anyone hoping to find open space.

Dave Schlaht, a camper visiting from Montana, knew it would be a challenge for him and his wife on their road trip.

"It was a little difficult. You have to put in probably a year in advance to get a campsite," he said.

Staff at Catalina State Park said they are booked full until at least April.

The governor's proposal would ease the pain, making Oracle State Park another option for outdoor enthusiasts.

Barthel just hopes it doesn't ruin her experience.

"Well, you don't want the beer cans and the boisterous voices, necessarily," she said. "Especially, you don't want those folks to be your neighbors."

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