Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rally to save state parks

House Bill 2628 and House Concurrant Resolution 2040 both call for a fee to be added to every non-commercial Arizona vehicle to be used for funding the state parks. They vary slightly in how that would be done and the amount of the fee. Both admit vehicles with Arizona license plates for free day use to all state parks. This seems to be a good way to not only fund the parks but to increase usage, and therefore appreciation, for state parks.

However, one thing concerns me, as it should all RV snowbirds. What do they intend to charge us "outsiders" for admission? Will this become a situation of appeasing and pleasing Arizona voters at the expense of out-of-state visitors? Will parks begin charging snowbirds a day use fee in addition to a camping fee as is done in some other states?

Though I think the base plan is good, I wonder who is looking out for RV snowbirds. If you want to make your voice heard, join the Arizona State Parks Foundation and plan on attending the rally at the Arizona State Capitol on Monday, February 1st at 10:30 a.m.

Bill Meek, President of Arizona State Parks Foundation will be among the featured speakers. Following the program, attendees will be encouraged to move to the House Floor Gallery for the 1:00 p.m. session opening. Afternoon hearings are scheduled to be conducted by the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees which represent the interests of Arizona State Parks to the full House and Senate.

Visit the Arizona State Parks Foundation Web site for more details.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Red Rock State Park in Sedona announces February programs

Cliff Dwellings of the Verde Valley:
February 7

A program on "Cliff Dwellings of the Verde Valley: An Archeological Perspective on a Unique Architectural Trend" will be presented on Sunday, at 2 p.m. in the theater at Red Rock State Park. Matt Guebard, park archeologist from Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments, will present a program that will describe cliff dwellings and "cavates" used in the Verde Valley during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Most of us are familiar with the term "cliff dwellings," while "cavates" are specialized rock shelters. Particular attention will be paid to the best-known dwellings in the area, such as Palatki (photo) and Montezuma Castle.

Reservations are recommended, as seating is limited. Call (928) 282-6907 for info. Program is free with paid admission to the Park.

Geology Hike: February 14

On the second Sunday, visitors can join a volunteer on a guided geology hike through Red Rock State Park. You will learn why the rocks are red, where they came from, where they are going, and more. This hike includes the Eagle's Nest Trail for a great view of the Park and surrounding area.

More than a guided hike, this is an interpretive experience for the beginner as well as advanced geologist. The hike lasts for 2 to 2 ½ hours and has a 250-feet elevation climb. Bring water and wear suitable shoes or boots.

Daily Guided Nature Walks:

Daily at 10 a.m., visitors can join a naturalist on a guided nature walk, lasting 1½ to 2 hours, which will introduce them to the riparian ecosystem of Oak Creek and other aspects of the Park. Plants, wildlife, geology, history, and archeology are some of the subjects that may be discussed.

Daily Activity:

Daily at 2 p.m., the Park hosts either a guest speaker or a ranger/naturalist-led activity of approximately 45 minutes. Programs may include a nature-hike, a special presentation, or an educational/nature video. This program may be an indoor or outdoor activity.

Wednesday and Saturday Bird Walks:
Walks begin at 9 a.m. This month, with the Park again open daily, the Wednesday and Saturday morning Bird Walks return. Beginning as well as advanced birders are welcome. Rangers recommend that visitors being their own binoculars. A limited number are available for loan.

Arizona's famous Oak Creek meanders through Red Rock State Park creating a diverse riparian habitat for plants and wildlife. It provides the backdrop for our special hikes that are a regular part of the Park's environmental program.

For more information or reservations call (928) 282-6907. Red Rock State Park is located at 4050 Lower Red Rock Loop in Sedona. Red Rock State Park will be open daily in February from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitor Center hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Should Yuma buy its now-closed state park?

This letter from Yuma resident David Palmer appeared in the Yuma Sun. We think it's well-worth passing along to you here:

It is hard to believe that the Arizona parks department would consider closing an important heritage site such as Yuma Territorial Prison State Park. Their primary concern is not for the historic importance but cutting their budget.

I suggest the city of Yuma offer to purchase this site for the sum of $1. The city would agree never to sell or lease this site or change the zoning to commercial or residential. The city of Yuma would commit to ensuring that any changes or improvements to buildings or property would maintain historical integrity. The property would belong in perpetuity to the citizens of Yuma.

This would immediately solve the state's monetary concerns and relieve them of being responsible for the future integrity of this wonderful heritage site.

The city of Yuma would have pride of ownership, as well as a world-class tourist stop.

It would need to be promoted - and new ideas are welcome. How about designing original prison guard uniforms for employees, doing newspaper advertising, installing a cannon to be fired daily when opening and using highway roadside advertising boards?
We should never allow this historical site to be closed.

Indian music festival at Casa Grande this weekend

Looking for something a little unusual and "off the beaten path," in terms of culture? This weekend, January 30 and 31, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument near Tucson may have something for you: The 2nd Annual American Indian Music Fest.

Native American music is perhaps best known by the drum beats featured in pop-culture Western movies. But Native music is far more than drums: Many of the featured artists at this year's festival are flute players, but at least one musician on the docket features classic guitar. Traditional native dances will also take a spot at the festival.

And what festival would be complete without vendors offering related items for sale, and of course, food booths. Unfortunately, there is no camping available at the monument, other than "VIP" spots, apparently only available by special request. There are several commercial RV parks near Coolidge, the town in which the monument is located.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Visit Arizona State Parks--they need the revenue

The damage to the state park system of Arizona has been done. Communities that do not rally to save the parks that are destined to close will be the losers, as will those of us who visited these state parks.

But there is something the rest of us can do now, and that is to visit the parks that remain open, not only for our enjoyment but also to provide the needed revenue that will not only keep those parks open but could also be used to reopen some that have closed.

Over the next nine days I will profile one of the remaining open parks. And please find time as well as make the necessary route changes to your itinery that will enable you to visit one of these fine parks, for yourself and for the future of Arizona State Parks.

Buckskin Mountain State Park

The park offers one of the finest views along the 18-mile Parker strip, "Arizona's West Coast," between Parker Dam and Headgate Dam. Dramatic mountains line the Colorado River on both the Arizona and California sides, and the wildlife is as varied as the recreational opportunities along the river.

This picturesque park provides a scenic respite, mountain hikes, a desert escape, and fun-filled water adventure. The park has a campground with full hook-up, partial hook-up, and primitive campsites, cabana sites, a beach, hiking trails, restrooms, showers, boat ramp, picnic area, basketball and volleyball court, playground, restaurant, camp store, arcade, gas dock, and ranger station.

In the summer, Buckskin is popular for boating, jet skiing, swimming, and camping and is visited by snowbirds from across America and Canada. In the winter, visitors appreciate the mild climate and enjoy camping, fishing and hiking in the park. Buckskin is a year-round destination for those looking to discover a variety of recreational and cultural resources.

The Colorado River Indian Reservation is just east of Parker and archaeological sites are scattered up and down the river. Parker Dam, the world's deepest dam, is located approximately five miles to the north on Highway 95. About 25 miles north is Lake Havasu City, home of the famous London Bridge. This 1,677-acre park has been operated by Arizona State Parks since 1967.

Note the following fee changes:

Starting Feb. 1, 2010, Buckskin Mountain State Park's camping sites with water, electric, & sewer will be $28. Camping sites with electric and water will be $26. Cabanas will be $25.

The nine Arizona Stat Parks that will remain open include Buckskin Mountain State Park in Parker, Catalina State Park near Tucson, Cattail Cove State Park in Lake Havasu City, Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area in Show Low, Kartchner Caverns State Park in Benson, Lake Havasu State Park, Patagonia Lake State Park and Slide Rock State Park in Sedona.

RV road trip: Exploring Arizona’s wineries

When you think of wines, wineries, and vineyards, Arizona doesn't readily come to mind.

"Defying desert and canyon stereotypes, Arizona’s two prime grape-growing landscapes are as lovely as they are unexpected," says Edie Jarolim in the Arizona Guide. "And the award-winning wines they produce are wonderfully expressive."

Southern Arizona’s vineyards

The first Arizona winemakers planted their vines in the mile-high rolling grasslands of southeastern Arizona, near the towns of Patagonia and Sonoita. Dr. Gordon Dutt, a soil scientist, discovered that its red clay soil was nearly identical to that of the Cote D’Or in Burgundy, France. He planted the first experimental vineyard in 1973 and debuted his Sonoita Vineyards a decade later.

Now about a dozen other wineries have helped the area to earn its own Federal appellation of Sonoita. Once in Sonoita, an hour south of Tucson, you will find several wineries on or around Elgin Road. The best known of the group, Callaghan Vineyards represents the state’s first wine dynasty. Harold and Karen Callaghan planted the Buena Suerte vineyard in 1990, and their vintner son, Kent, has won numerous national kudos and awards in the last decade for his Spanish-style reds.

And following Arizona's cowboy tradition, the winery paired up with the Arizona Horseback Experience to offer a scenic ride followed by lunch and a wine tasting.

At the only tasting room in the town of Sonoita, Dos Cabezas WineWorks you can sit on a breezy patio overlooking an herb garden, and sample a crisp Viognier or the rich red El Norte blend, both winners of the Arizona Governor’s Award.

The winery’s name, Dos Cabezas, refers to the vineyard near Willcox that was the Bostocks’ winemaking operation before they moved to Sonoita. This original vineyard is now among several providing grapes to Maynard James Keenan (the front man for the band, Tool), whose Arizona Stonghold Vineyards belongs to the latest group of Arizona wineries.

North Central Arizona’s wineries

You can visit Page Springs Cellars and Caduceus Cellars on the newly designated Verde Valley Wine Trail. As with its southern counterpart, this Arizona wine region two hours northwest of Phoenix provides ideal conditions for grape cultivation: abundant sunshine, deep nighttime cool downs, and rich volcanic soil. It’s been compared to the Southern Rhone. The lush banks of the Verde River and Oak Creeks that meander through the Verde Valley, wouldn’t look out of place in the French countryside.

Along Page Springs Road and straddling Oak Creek, visit Page Springs Cellars for European styles with with local terroir; Oak Creek Vineyards & Winery, for small batch production of full-bodied reds; and Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery, where you can sip their award-winning Whole Foods Consumers Choice for 2009.

For information about other vineyards and winemakers throughout the state, see the Arizona Vines & Wines and the Arizona Wine Growers Association websites.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Four state parks saved by previous agreements

With most of Arizona's state parks closing, as mentioned in previous posts here on RV Arizona, except for those that are turning a profit, there are four others that luckily survived the legislators ax.

These are the parks that had previously established agreements when the state park system took them over. Each will now revert back to the original operator or owner as per these agreements and will likely stay open unless the operator decides to close it.

These include Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park in Superior, Sonoita Creek State Natural Area (photo), Verde River Greenway State Natural Area and Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, which the city of Yuma is keeping open and has already increased the number of visitors.

Check back often as we will keep you posted on the latest developments with the Arizona State Parks.

What you can do in response to state parks closing

Part of the responsibility of state legislatures is to provide opportunities for recreation for the states' citizens and visitors. State parks are a part of this recreational plan. "Only if they make money" is not part of an effective management plan. Visitors to the parks also benefit the surrounding communities, businesses, and recreational support services by the money they spend on food, fuel, supplies, RV parks, restaurants, service facilities, etc.

Our tax money should support these quality-of-life recreational programs just as they support services that are not expected to make a profit. Maybe instead we should be looking at the pork that legislators attach to every bill that they becomes law. The port that benefits them, that buys them votes in their home districts, and keeps them in office.

And how about practicing some aggressive efficiency strictures to cut runaway expenses of government operation, and weed out the forgotten and overlooked black holes that our tax money seems to disappear into?

We as citizens, travelers, tourists, and RVers need to make our voices heard. We need to let the legislatures know that the short-sided act of closing state parks will not solve, nor in most caes even put a dent in their fiscal deficits.

And if you’re asking yourself why you, as an RVer in Michigan or New Hampshire, or Florida, should care about what happens to Arizona’s state parks, it's very likely that your parks could be next. This initial act of closing the Arizona parks could spread to state park systems across the country.

Your voice carries--as a voter and as a tourist/visitor to states--just ask the visitors bureaus, or chambers of commerce, or state tourism departments. It is important that you let your legislator know, as well as those in the states that you visit, that closing state parks is unacceptable, that it will cost not only votes but state visitation.

And let them know also that their duty and responsibility is not to just grab money to cover expenditures when they can, but more importantly to find creative ways to fund what is necessary to provide recreation for the people that he/she has sworn to serve.

You you don't know who to write to or don't havetheir email address, you can find the email and snail mail addresses of state and federal senators and congress men and women here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Closing of Arizona state parks should not be tolerated

The unanimous vote by the Arizona State Parks Board to close two-thirds of the state’s parks last Friday was a blow not only to RVers that use the parks for camping and other recreational and educational interests, but to all the state’s residents and visitors.

The decision, though understandable by short-sighted politicians during this fiscal crisis, is one that is being faced across the nation, most seriously in the states of Nevada, California, and Florida in addition to Arizona where the debt crisis is the largest.

With the current populist mantra of “no new taxes,” rampant joblessness, and widespread housing foreclosures, it is understandable why politicians won’t get behind practical methods to save the parks that could require a new tax. One such plan that was proposed in Arizona, with a similar petition making the rounds in California, calls for the creation of a foundation, separate from the General Fund, to finance and operate the state parks. It would require a new tax, $15 was the figure used, to be added to the vehicle registration fee of every vehicle registered in the state.

The total amount raised would go to the foundation and satisfy all the bugetary requirements for park operation and maintenance. And the fund would be immune from confiscation by politicians, as was the case in Arizona, to pay non-related state debt or to supply operating revenue.

The closure of the parks to politicians does not have the face of a voter on it, as would a single mother who loses her job, or a retired widow who loses her house. But this plan went nowhere, because all those vehicle owners in the state suddenly appeared in the politicians’ radar as furious voters. Why should they point out that the plan would give all vehicle owners free admission to all the state parks as a bonus for the $15 fee--which is less than half what two visits would normally cost? After all, it would make them sound pro-tax, a dirty word in this financial environment.

But what is potentially worse, is that when politicians in other states see that absconding with state park operating funds, cutting the parks’ budgets to impossible figures, and punishing and closing parks that do not pay for themselves can bring in badly needed revenue, the Arizona parks closures could be just the first domino to fall in a nationwide “close the parks” pandemic. Forget the fact that state parks were not created to be profit-making entities, but to provide recreation to the states’ citizens and visitors, which is the job--and responsibility--of elected officials everywhere.

Are we to kowtow to legislative irresponsibility and allow these valuable historic, natural history, and scenic locations to be closed simply because they don’t produce a profit? What will be next? Trash collectors? They don’t produce a profit. Nor do school teachers, police, fire fighters, or as a matter of fact, politicians.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

List of state park closures

When the dust settled on the vote by the Arizona State Parks Board yesterday, the result was that 13 state parks will close, the final plan leaving open only nine parks—at least as part of the state park system. Some may stay open by reverting to previous owners or administrative agencies other than the state parks system, as did the Yuma Quartermaster Depot when taken over by the city of Yuma.

The nine parks that will stay open are:
• Kartchner Caverns, near Benson
• Lake Havasu, Lake Havasu City
• Cattail Cove, near Lake Havasu City
• Slide Rock, Sedona
• Catalina, near Tucson
• Buckskin Mountain, near Parker
• Patagonia Lake, Patagonia
• Dead Horse Ranch, Cottonwood
• Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area, Show Low

The parks closing will be closed in sequence with the first phase of closures beginning February 22, 2010 and will include:
• Homolovi Ruins, Winslow
• Lyman Lake, St. Johns
• Riordan Mansion SHP, Flagstaff

The next phase will close on March 29, 2010 and will include:
• Fort Verde SHP, Camp Verde
• Roper Lake, Safford
• Tombstone Courthouse SHP, Tombstone
• Yuma Territorial Prison SHP, Yuma
• Tubac Presidio SHP, Tubac

The final phase will close on June 3, 2010 and include:
• Tonto Natural Bridge, Payson
• Alamo Lake, Wenden
• Lost Dutchman, Apache Junction
• Picacho Peak, between Phoenix and Tucson
• Red Rock, Sedona

Friday, January 15, 2010

Arizona shuts down 13 more state parks

The Arizona State Parks Board voted unanimously Friday, Jan. 15, to close 13 more state parks in response to budget cuts. The move leaves two-thirds of the state's parks closed.

The action shuts down some of Arizona's Old West landmarks including Tombstone Courthouse and the Yuma Territorial Prison, one of Yuma's most popular tourist draws. The decision also closes other parks that attract tens of thousands of tourists a year.

Some parks will close almost immediately. The last round of closures will come June 3 when the popular RV camping destinations of Picacho Peak near Tucson, Lost Dutchman in Apache Junction and Alamo Lake will close along with several others.

Six profitable parks and three others that generate significant revenue in the spring and summer will remain open. They include Kartchner Caverns, Slide Rock, Lake Havasu, Cattail Cove and Buckskin Mountain.

State Park staff had offered the State Parks Board solutions that potentially could keep some parks open because they recognize the $266 million crisis for rural economies if the system were dismantled. "The State Parks system offers 27 destinations for 2.3 million tourists a year to travel into these rural communities as the system was envisioned by the Legislature in 1957 when the agency was created," said Reese Woodling the State Parks Board Chair. "State and National Parks are the tourism draws for visitors from around the world and any interruption in service causes dramatic impacts on the leisure economies, including impacting more than 3,000 leisure jobs in rural Arizona," he said.

The Legislature has cut 61 percent of the state parks budget since July. In December the Arizona State Parks department's budget was reduced by $8.6 million during the 5th Special Session of the Legislature.

Yuma keeps Quartermaster Depot State Park open

With some of the Arizona State Parks on the permanent closure list, a deal between the parks department and the city of Yuma may emerge as a model for the cash strapped state.

Under the agreement, the city will operate the Quartermaster Depot park temporarily to ensure the historic attraction remains open for residents and visitors alike until the state recovers financially.

Yuma took over operation of the Depot last October. Since then the park has had 14,000 visitors, more than it had during the entire last 12 months.

"That's an example of Yuma working with the state to improve services to the public," Governor Brewer said in a speech in Yuma.

She later told the Yuma Sun: "Absolutely, the park is a role model for the rest of the state. I'm so thrilled to hear about how the city is stepping up to take this responsibility from the state. I've shared that with many other communities. It's remarkable you were able to put that together."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Closing a state park has big repercussions

Lost Dutchman State Park is just one of many Arizona state parks that may be shut down by Arizona because of the state's money problems. This television news report shows how such a closure affects the park's patrons as well as the local economy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hope fading for state parks

The reprehensible behavior of the Arizona legislature regarding the state parks is laid bare in the REPORT OF THE GOVERNOR’S SUSTAINABLE PARKS TASK FORCE that was released Friday.

The report states that, "These splendid assets, acquired by Arizona citizens over the past 50 years, should be a source of intense pride, a legacy to be passed on to future generations – our children and grandchildren.

"Instead, the condition of the State Parks system inspires a deep sense of shame in those who look below the surface. Arizona Parks are crumbling before our eyes and the entire system is on the verge of collapse."

The Parks have had no operating fund increases since 2002, repairs remain undone, historic buildings are collapsing, docks in lakes and rivers are splintering. Why did this happen?

Prior to 2003 the parks had a base operating fund of $8 million, and user fees went to support operations. But when the state had budget deficits, as in 2003 and 2009, the money accumulated for park improvements was instead taken away from the parks to help balance the state budget.

The report states, and this is a direct quote, "To be blunt: a decision to allow the Parks system to wither and die would be economically reckless and irresponsible. State Parks generates far more economic benefit for the state and its subdivisions than it costs to run and maintain the system.
"According to a 2007 study by Northern Arizona University, the 2.3 million visitors to State Parks produced a combined economic impact of $266 million in Arizona counties and cities where the Parks are located. That is nearly 10 times what it costs to operate the Parks system annually.

"Moreover, tourist expenditures attributed to Parks visitations generated more than $22.7 million in state and local taxes. That is nearly three times the General Fund appropriation the Legislature granted to State Parks in 2008."

And yet the legislature failed to act in a more responsible way. The result is that more than half of all Arizona's state parks will close. You can, however, make your voice heard. Log in to the Arizona State Parks Foundation and follow their Urgent Call to Action. It's your voice--as a voter and as a visitor to Arizona--that may get their attention.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

State Parks staff recommends closing thirteen parks

Arizona State Parks Board will consider this Friday a proposal by State Parks staff to close thirteen state parks due to budget deficits in the state. More parks may close if the parks cannot raise enough money from entry fees to keep them open by the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

The six most profitable parks based on visitation income include Alamo near Wenden, Kartchner Caverns in Benson, Slide Rock near Sedona, Catalina near Tucson, Dead Horse Ranch near Cottonwood and Lake Havasu at Lake Havasu City. Also remaining open would be Buckskin Mountain near Parker, Cattail Cove at Lake Havasu City, and Fool Hollow near Show Low.

The parks that would close under the proposal include Tonto Natural Bridge near Payson, Red Rock near Sedona, Lost Dutchman near Apache Junction, and Tombstone Courthouse in Tombstone.

Game & Fish presentation on Arizona's wild burros

Today--Wednesday, January 13, 2010, Arizona Game and Fish Department will conduct an educational presentation on Arizona's wild burros--with a live Webcast if you can't make the event at The presentation will be at AGF offices at 5000 W. Carefree Highway in Phoenix.

The free program will cover the life history and ecology, legal history, resource and management issues, proposed legislation, and how burros on public lands relate to native wildlife and habitats in Arizona.

Three of the department's experts with over 50 years experience in the management of wildlife, habitats, and public lands will present different aspects of wild burros in Arizona, followed by a question-and-answer session with the public is encouraged to address questions, concerns, and issues about wildlife, habitats and wild burros.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Beginning birdwatching tour in Spanish at Wings Over Willcox festival

Of the more than 900 species of birds that live in the United States and Canada, more than half can be found in Arizona at some time during the year. Some are here year round while others breed in Arizona and then migrate south to Mexico and other areas in Latin America for the winter.

For some birds that breed in the northern United States and Canada, southern Arizona is their winter destination, and January is the perfect time to see some of these species. Sandhill Cranes, ducks, sparrows, hawks, and many more species spend the winter months here before returning to their breeding grounds in the north in the spring.

The 17th Annual Wings Over Willcox Birding and Nature Festival will offer a special Beginning Bird Watching field trip in Spanish. Whether you are a native Spanish speaker or would just like to improve your own basic Spanish skills, the tour will teach basic bird identification skills, including how to use binoculars, how to use a field guide to identify birds, and more at the Willcox ponds and nearby areas.

Tour leaders Juan Caicedo and Jennie Duberstein have many years of experience teaching about and studying birds in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America and they will be the guides for this three hour excursion. Binoculars and Spanish field guides will be provided for use during the tour if needed. The tour is free but requires registration. For more information or to register, contact Karla: 520-284-4122 or 507-1029.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Arizona Game & Fish releases pronghorns into new ranges

If you are the type to geet excited when you glance out your RV window and see pronghorn, America's fastest land animal, streaking through the prairie grass, then you will be happy to find that Arizona Game & Fish is releasing pronghorn back into two native ranges tomorrow (Sunday and Monday, Jan. 10th and 11th).

About 30 animals will be given a new home at the Raymond Wildlife Area east of Flagstaff and another 50 southeast of Safford. This southwest icon will be joining and strengthening existing herds, and increasing the chances of us road rangers of even more pronghorn sightings.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Are you the rugged outdoor type?

Do you like the outdoor life? Do you crave a life of adventure? Do you have what it takes to be a wildland firefighter? The Bureau of Land Management Gila District (southeastern Arizona) is recruiting applicants for seasonal employment during the 2010 fire season. To serve on a fire crew, persons must be at least 18 years of age, have a strong work ethic, be able to pass a pack test and maintain good physical fitness, be available to travel out of state for extended periods of time and be willing to contribute in a team-structured environment.

Applicants will be notified in May regarding their selection for one of the 20 positions on the crew. Recruits will receive classroom and field training that will enable them to safely and effectively tackle wildfire suppression.

The crew will be trained and ready for assignments starting later that month. While most fire duties will be in southeastern Arizona, some assignments may be out of state and last 14 consecutive days plus travel time. Emergency firefighters are hired on a call-when-needed basis and are only paid during training and fire assignments; pay is $17 per hour.

Those who think they have what it takes to be a wildland firefighter and who seek meaningful employment for several months should contact Jon Ziegler or Lathe Evans at the Gila District fire office located at the BLM Safford Field Office, 928-348-4400.

Here is your chance to be heard

State wildlife workers would like you to help them determine how best to preserve wildlife in Arizona.

The Arizona Game and Fish department is holding meetings around the state over the next two months, including one held Wednesday in Tucson, to get comments on the State Wildlife Action Plan, or SWAP.

"We've taken the criteria that we developed several years ago, we've revisited those, tried to rewrite some of the criteria to make them clearer and more logical," says Thomas R. Jones of Arizona Game and Fish. "We've added criteria, we've taken away criteria, and we're asking our partners and the public to address that issue."

You can read the SWAP plan for yourself and offer your take on Arizona's wildlife.

Arizona Game & Fish steps up OHV decal compliance

Citing statistics showing that less than one-quarter of off-highway vehicles in Arizona have the required OHV Decal, Arizona Game and Fish Department Director Larry Voyles announced that the agency’s officers would be stepping up compliance enforcement efforts in the field.

“Our officers will be issuing citations to off-highway vehicle users who don’t have the required decal on their OHV,” said Voyles. “The program has been in effect and public education efforts have been ongoing for over a year now. The compliance rate is very disappointing, given the benefits the program would provide to recreationists.”

Voyles likened the “user play, user pay” program to wildlife conservation, where hunters and anglers pay for wildlife conservation through the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses. “Rates for hunting license compliance exceed 95 percent,” said Voyles, “Hunters and anglers have demonstrated their commitment to wildlife conservation for decades.”

As for OHV Decal compliance, Voyles stressed, “Arizona Game and Fish officers have unequivocally demonstrated their ability to achieve compliance through aggressive law enforcement. All OHV users should expect more special OHV law enforcement operations throughout the state beginning in January and going on through this spring until compliance numbers show a dramatic increase.”

The OHV Decal program took effect Jan. 1, 2009 and requires the annual purchase of the $25 decal for any off-highway vehicle designed by the manufacturer primarily for use over unimproved terrain and weighing 1,800 pounds or less. This includes most ATVs, side-by-sides (utility vehicles), dirt bikes and some sand rails.

For more information about the OHV Decal program or OHV use in Arizona, go online to

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Javelina attacks walker

On New Year's day, a man walking on a path alongside Dove Mountain Blvd. in Tucson was attacked by a normally shy javelina or collared peccary.

The attack came at about 11:30 a.m., when the 66-year old man heard a noise behind him. He turned to see a female javelina charge him and bite him around the knee and thigh, knocking him to the ground.

The javelina continued to attack the man as he was on the ground, latching onto his wrist and forearm and wouldn't let go, according to Mark Hart, the public information officer for Arizona Game and Fish Department.

A passing bicyclist clobbered the javelina over the head first with a stick, and then with a log to get the animal to release the walker. A Marana Police Department officer arrived on scene about the time the javelina ran onto Dove Mountain Boulevard, and started toward a group of people. The officer sounded his siren, startling the javelina, which ran off into the desert. He pursued the javelina and killed it.

Because of the aggressive behavior and unprovoked attack of the javelina, the bite victim was treated for the bites at Oro Valley Hospital, where he began treatment for rabies.

The attack comes on the heels of a recent rabid bobcat attack on a man in Oracle on Dec. 23. In the last year, there were 261 confirmed rabid animals in Arizona, roughly a third of them in Pima County.

"We may be more aware of cases because of drought conditions which are bringing animals into urban areas in search of water and food," Hart said.

Arizona Game and Fish Department suggested taking the following action due to the increase in rabid animals showing up in urban areas or campgrounds.
  • Do not feed or leave food out for wild animals such as javelinas.
  • Pet owners should not leave their pet's food out overnight.
  • Make sure all pets are up-to-date with their shots.
  • Carry a walking stick and a whistle.
  • Never turn your back on an animal.
  • Do not approach animals that appear to be tame or are not acting as wild animals should.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Arizona legislature "poaches" donation to state parks

If things weren't bad enough for Arizona's state parks, ABC News in Phoenix reported today that $250,000 left by eighty-two year old Asta Forest to Arizona State Parks has been "poached".

"She wanted to give this money so that other people could enjoy the state parks and all they have to offer," said trustee and family friend Roger Essenburg.

While parks officials were considering what to do with her donation, when the state Legislature met to cut cash from the budget, $213,000 was taken away from the Arizona State Parks donation fund--most of Forest's donation.

Can you blame folks for being upset with the state for taking the donated money and using it to fill gaps in Arizona's budget? Essenburg said he's very angry with the state for poaching Forest's donation.

"She would have never given money if she knew it would be used for other things other than the parks," said Essenburg.

It seems the Legislature can take any donations that have not been earmarked for a specific purpose, and use them as they need to.

Come on, Arizona. Are you legislators aware of what a backlash acts like this can provoke? I hope your mailboxes overflow with irate parks users demanding the return of these funds to their proper use, and that you reconsider the shortsighted plan to close the state parks to save money.

Go here for a list of the email addresses of the members of the Arizona state senate. Send them an email and let them know what you think.

Keep Arizona State Parks open

Lawmakers’ decisions last month to close some Arizona State Parks means that some will close by year’s end, said Renee Bahl the agency's director.

The only question that remains is, which ones?

Bahl said the system--which gets no direct taxpayer dollars--is being crippled because of the legislative action to take away a chunk of the funds they get from other sources. That includes not only the fees paid by those who go to the parks but also special funds raised from assessments on registration of boats and off-road vehicles.

The bottom line, she said, is that her agency will have just $7.5 million to spend rather than the $19 million it had planned for the fiscal year that began last July 1.

Bahl said she will make specific recommendations to the board on which parks to close in two weeks at their January 15th meeting. The bad news is that it will likely close the smallest and least used of the parks. But, she said, the cash from the parks that stay open might eventually be enough to reopen one or more of those shut down.

Topping the list of money producers is Kartchner Caverns, followed by Slide Rock in Sedona, and Lake Havasu state parks. Catalina State Park brings in about $193,000 more a year than it costs to operate.

At the bottom of the list is Tonto Natural Bridge near Payson, where costs exceed revenues by $541,000. Red Rock State Park at Sedona operates on a $190,000-a-year loss, with six-digit deficits at Tubac Presidio, Picacho Peak, Homolovi Ruins and the Riordan Mansion in Flagstaff.
Can this be the end of these parks?

Bahl said, though, the board will have to consider other factors when deciding which parks should be shut down.

"There's one-time costs like fencing or if we needed to add a security system to a building or board something up," she said. "And we're still going to need to keep an eye on it after that, checking it both for fire hazards and seeing if there's any trespassing.”

Do they not recognize that the parks bring in more in tax dollars from visitors to communities than just the cost to operate the parks? Can lawmakers be that clueless?

What about the idea that was recently floated about putting an optional $15 surcharge on the registration fees for all vehicles in the state. The fees would raise enough to keep the system operating, with motorists who paid the extra cash getting free admission all year to every state park. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Many of the parks will be lost forever because of previous legal agreements. For example, the Tombstone Courthouse and parking lot reverse to previous owners if it is permanently closed. Land at Picacho Peak and Lost Dutchman reverts to the federal Bureau of Land Management if they are no longer operated as parks, with the Defenders of Wildlife entitled to reclaim Oracle State Park if shuttered. Yuma Prison would have to be given back to the federal government.

Do you want to do something about it? Well, you can. And you don’t have to be a resident of Arizona either.

Call, email, or write Governor Jan Brewer and urge her to veto the parks cuts (a sample letter can be found on the State Park Foundation’s Website).

Phone: 602-542-4331 or 800-253-0883
Email via Governor's Contact page at:
Mail: The Honorable Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona,
1700 West Washington, Phoenix, Arizona 85007

Do it now! And pass the word among those snowbirding in Arizona. You may not have another chance!

Arizona RV resorts welcome winter snowbirds

With the wealth of Arizona RV parks there is no reason not to head out into Arizona’s dramatic landscape. If you’ve never been to an Arizona RV resort, the invigorating contrast of the red rock and blue sky will be a pleasant surprise. Return visitors have a vast appreciation for the wide open red scenery that acts as backdrop for jutting monoliths and prickly cacti. At night, the galaxy opens up and blankets the desert in an intricate lattice-work of stars, the likes of which you may never find anywhere else. Alongside the sparkling Colorado River, the oasis in the desert, are two fantastic resorts that offer both luxury and location, two of the best indicators of great vacation destinations.

Lake Havasu RV Resort - Located near Lake Havasu and Lake Havasu City, Arizona this RV resort is a fisherman’s dream. Lake Havasu is home to many professional fishing competitions and boasts some of the best fishing around. Catch Bass, Crappie, Sunfish, Catfish, or perhaps even one of the elusive White Sturgeon that were stocked in the lake in the late 60’s. None of the Sturgeon have been caught yet, but they can survive for up to one hundred years so don’t count them out just yet!

Although this area is far from the drizzly, gridlocked streets of London, you can still visit the original London Bridge. Robert Paxton McCulloch, an American businessman, bought the bridge after the city of London deemed it unable to withstand the traffic of the city. The bridge was taken apart, brick by brick, and re-laid in Arizona. Capture the spirit of the bridge and visit the Olde English village that sits just beneath it. Have a pint and some fish and chips in one of the village’s restaurants and you will truly feel that you have been transported halfway across the globe.

Yuma Lakes RV Resort – In southern Arizona, close to the historic town of Yuma, this resort is swarming with life. Head into Yuma for some gun-slingin’ history and visit the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park, the most popular state park in Arizona. It was once the home of Arizona’s worst criminals and has caught the world’s imagination in movies, books, and television for decades since. Back at the resort, you can fish on the pristine lake stocked with Bass and enjoy peace and quiet to soothe your soul.