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You own the state parks? No way!

  It really pisses me off when our government rulers force us to pay to enter State or Federal Parks which we are told are owned by the people.

They take money from us at gun point which is used to buy and build these parks. (They politely call this theft "taxes") Then they force us to pay money to use and enter the parks we they stole our money to build.

Some of the lines in the article seem to indicate that the state parks are a way to generate revenue for the government, rather then something which they built for the people to use and enjoy.


Lost Dutchman State Park: Fewer flowers, fewer visitors

by Jim Walsh - May. 7, 2011 07:20 AM

The Arizona Republic

Wildflowers are yellow, but they might as well be gold at Lost Dutchman State Park near Apache Junction.

And gold, whether it's the Lost Dutchman's or any other kind, is something the entire Arizona State Parks system could use right now. The state Legislature swept $3.5 million from gate fees and even raided park gift-shop revenues to help reduce the budget shortfall.

With nary a wildflower in sight after a dry season, attendance dropped in March by nearly 6,000 visitors from a year ago, when an unusually wet winter left a bountiful yellow blanket across the Crosscut Trail.

Wildflowers are a major attraction at Lost Dutchman and Picacho Peak state parks. Senior citizens and snowbirds who might not be fit enough for the arduous climb up to Flat Iron for a panoramic view of the Southeast Valley, will pay the $7 entry fee to view the flowers from their vehicles, or from some easy nearby trails.

"We're down 6,000 because there were no wildflowers," park manager Tom Fisher said. "It was just a very dry year. It was very wet last year, with lots of flowers. It was the complete opposite this year."

Fisher said the park was profitable until the wildflowers failed to materialize, but those profits disappeared. He expects the park to turn a slight profit for the year.

Ellen Bilbrey, a State Parks spokeswoman, said Lost Dutchman's revenues are up by a miniscule 1.36 percent from a year ago, despite a 14.3 percent drop in attendance. The revenues mainly increased because of higher gate and camping fees.

Delays in completing a campground electrification project, billed as a way of making the park more profitable, have been another major setback. The $415,000 project, financed mostly with federal grants, went out to bid late, and construction during the prime winter months forced Fisher to turn away potential customers, with more than half the spaces unavailable until mid-February.

The latest projection is that the project may be finished by mid-May, he said. Most seasonal campers left the park on April 1 and only half of the 72 spaces fill up on some weekends.

"I think next year, it will be huge. Once we get the electricity on, it will be a great improvement for us. It's higher fees and having a happy camper," Fisher said.

Attendance is particularly important to the park system this year after the sweeps. Park administrators are seeking permission from a legislative subcommittee to tap into gate revenues to pay for operating expenses or pay overhead during slow periods early in the fiscal year.

Jay Ziemann, an assistant State Parks director, said the system once had enough money saved to handle a year's worth of operations or emergency repairs, but that cushion is gone.

If the transfer of funds is approved as anticipated, it will keep the park system running, he said.

But with no money available in reserve, aging parks will be left increasingly vulnerable to closing.

"We are closer and closer to the edge on our budget. We have virtually no capital budget anymore. If anything breaks, we have no money to fix it," Ziemann said.

Fisher said Lost Dutchman's water treatment plant was renovated two years ago, but underground water and electrical lines date to the early 1970s.

"Most people don't realize we are like a small city. We have the same problems here," he said.

Cristie Statler, executive director of the Arizona State Parks Foundation, said she is pursuing a series of corporate sponsorships and grants to help augment the parks system's funding. Companies such as Bashas' supermarkets and AAA Auto Insurance have been running promotions.

"It's like an old vehicle. You pray nothing breaks," she said.

Steve Filipowicz, Apache Junction's economic development director, said it would be nice if automobile and motorcycle dealerships would consider giving away yearly passes to the state parks as a sales enticement.

He said the parks still need a long-term sustainable funding source, such as a surcharge attached to automobile registrations, instead of lurching from one stop-gap measure to another.

And Mark LeResche, president of Friends of Lost Dutchman and an owner of Superstition Harley-Davidson, said the organization is doing everything possible to help out.

An Adopt a Saguaro program has raised $1,000, but a motorcycle rally in March generated a disappointing turnout because of too many competing events. The Friends group also is paying for a billboard that will advertise the park with a scenic picture for two months along I-17 near downtown Phoenix to bolster attendance.

LeResche concedes his group may fall short of the $24,000 it raised last year, with the help of a winter resident from Texas who donated $8,000 alone, but he said they won't stop trying.

Volunteer coordinator Mitzi Rinehart said about 35 volunteers will help throughout the summer in a variety of ways, including staffing of the front gate and accepting entrance fees.

"I don't take anything for granted, nothing," LeResche said, noting the park system's financial instability. "What will kill the park is complacency on our part."

More on this topic

Lost Dutchman State Park by the numbers:

Through March, the park took in $265,220, compared with $261,665 a year ago, a 1.36 percent increase.

Attendance dropped to 71,380 from 83,325, a 14.3 percent drop.

Attendance in March 2010: 25,649; in March 2011: 19,633, a 23.3 percent decline.

Gate fees rose from $5 per day in the winter and $3 in the summer to $7 a day year round.

Camping fees rose from $12 to $15.

Lost Dutchman State Park, 2011 fiscal year through March, visitation and revenue:



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