Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Boondockers and wildlife watchers take precautions during hunting season

The Fall season is a good time for wildlife watchers. Most of the summer crowds are gone, campgrounds uncrowded, and birds and wildlife are active. This is also a time when wildlife watchers, boondockers, mountain bikers, and hikers need to be on alert and take some extra precautions because the deer hunting season is open from October through December.

It can be an unsettling time for many boondockers and recreational users in the national forests and on BLM land when they hear gun shots or encounter armed individuals while out enjoying nature.

Many boondockers just avoid the national forests during this season because of the prevalence of hunters, which is not always necessary, as some areas are closed to hunting at certain times and hunting seasons are very defined.

RVers using public lands in Fall can go online to the Arizona Game and Fish website to learn the actual dates of hunting seasons and camp elsewhere.

If you still want to camp in an active hunting area, do not act like a deer--wearing antlers on your head or a deerskin jacket, for example. You also might want to do what hunters do, and wear a bright orange hunter's vest and cap letting hunters know that you are not something to be shot at.

There are several locations around Arizona that are classified as Wildlife Watching Areas, which are either off limits to hunters or you can visit at times when hunting is barred. You can get specific information about these areas on the Game & Fish watchable wildlife page.

And remember that we share the forests. Hunters have as much right to be there as RVers and hikers, and if we RVers recognize that, we can all get along better.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kaibab Lake campground rennovations a hit

While Tusayan, Arizona may technically be the real gateway to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, Williams likes to claim the honor. Fifty miles to the south, Williams sits on the Historic Route 66 and is home station of the Grand Canyon Scenic Railroad. Tourist trap that Williams may be, for a while there wasn't a satisfactory public campground nearby.

That's all over now. A couple of miles up the road to the South Rim, officials are preparing to wave the flags, fire up the barbies, and offer free hot dogs and burgers in celebration of the "Grand Opening" of Kaibab Lake Campground in the Kaibab National Forest. All that takes place Friday, September 16. Ah, but intrepid correspondents for RV Arizona have already beat the pomp and ceremony to report on the state of the campground.

Calling the celebration at "Grand Opening" is rather a misnomer, as Kaibab Lake has existed for some time. Still, the Forest Service folks have reason to be proud of their recently completed renovations. Facilities for RVers have been considerably upgraded at the campground, with neat paved sites, fire rings, tables, and brick outhouses built like--well--built like a brick outhouse. On our visit in early September we were happy to stay on at one of Kaibab Lake's upper loop sites. Evergreen trees shade but don't overwhelm with overhang throughout the grounds, and the occasionally disappearing (OK, "shrinking") lake is said to be home to eatable fish.

Our experience with the wildlife of the campground came more in the form of a guilt-producing bushy-tailed squirrel. After mistakenly allowing a garbage bag to sit unattended for a few minutes, the enterprising rodent broke open the cache and made off with a disposable bowl. Garbage properly dumped, the squirrel returned and sat a few feet outside our dining area window, giving us the accusing look of a disappointed pan handler. We'll be more cautious about our refuse from now on.

The reconstruction project includes 11 new sites on an all-new camping loop. All the loops are connected by hard surface, all weather roads, and the entry access road is likewise "non-muddy." Site fees are a reasonable $18 a night. Don't look for a dump station, and water, as in most places around Williams has to be hauled in, so treat it like liquid gold.

photos: R&T DeMaris

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Arizona State Parks to remain open thanks to local communities and non-profit agencies

With the continuing recession it seemed inevitable that not only would the padlocked Arizona state parks remain closed, but that more would close also. However, many local communities and non-profits haveteamed up to keep 14 of the state's most vulnerable parks open by providing more than $800,000 to eh Arizona State Parks Agency.

For instance, the Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and the towns of Payson and Star Valley are helping with $35,000 in funding to the park that bears their name. Earlier this week, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park returned to a five-day schedule after being open every day between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The Tubac Historical Society is helping keep Tubac Presidio State Historic Park open by providing both funding and operational support, and Red Rock State Park in Sedona is being aided by Yavapai County and the Benefactors of Red Rock State Park.

Local authorities and non-profits say they decided to cast a financial lifeline to the more vulnerable parks because they recognize their value - their rich history, intense beauty and, perhaps most importantly, their economic impact.

Today, less than two years after major closures seemed certain, 26 of Arizona's 27 parks are open (only Oracle SP remains closed), although many have abbreviated schedules. Some, such as Picacho Peak and Lyman Lake state parks, are on seasonal calendars. Others, such as Jerome State Historic Park and Fort Verde State Historic Park, are on five-day schedules. Still others switch between opening for seven days during their peak season and five days during their shoulder seasons.

"When the Legislature swept $8.6 million from Arizona State Parks' budget during a special session in December 2009, it was clear there would be widespread closures," reports the Arizona Republic. "Thirteen parks, including Tubac Presidio, were operating in the red. All were targeted for closure.

"Many parks have a substantial economic impact on their surrounding communities, even if they don't operate at a profit, State Parks officials say. Tubac Presidio (photo) supported four jobs and had a local economic impact of $256,377 in fiscal 2007, according to a study conducted by the Arizona Hospitality Research & Resource Center. Lake Havasu State Park, which consistently operates in the black, supported 484 jobs and had a $34.5 million economic impact.

"Cumulatively, the state parks had an economic impact of $266.4 million from July 2006 through June 2007, the study said. 'State Parks does have parks in its system that are fairly small and don't have the same appeal as some of the recreational parks,' said Thomas Combrink, senior research specialist at the center. 'It's just the nature of what they are.'"

For now the parks will stay open, which is important to both park visitors and the surrounding communities. But, these are short term solutions and are not sustainable. A long term plan is needed to guarantee the parks will be open next year and the next.