National Park Centennial

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We’ll talk about the National Parks Centennial and the importance of the parks to the public with Sue Black, executive director of Arizona State Parks, and Sherry Plowman of the Southern Arizona Office of the National Park Service.


Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," we'll look at the importance of national parks on this 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Ted Simons: And a new book focuses on Phoenix as the future of the suburban city. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

Announcer: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons.

Ted Simons: The Behavior Research Center is out with a new poll that shows Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders leading all Republican contenders in a head-to-head matchup. The numbers show sanders with 54% when faced off against Donald Trump's 33%, and Sanders would defeat Ted Cruz and Jon Kasich by 14% points each. The same poll shows Hillary Clinton ahead of Trump by 7% points, but the numbers also show Clinton losing to Cruz by 5% and by an even larger margin to Kasich. The Behavior Research Center says that growing dissatisfaction with politics in Washington and in Arizona appear to be contributing to reshuffling of traditional loyalties and confidence in political parties.

Ted Simons: Also today, Arizona House and Senate leaders say they've reached an agreement with Governor Ducey on the state budget. The leaders indicate that a tentative deal was reached Saturday and that a budget with the possibility of new funding for education and state infrastructure should be introduced and approved later this week.

Ted Simons: Well, this is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Back in 1916, there were 35 parks and monuments around the country. We now have 400 areas managed by the park service. The growth is impressive but there are concerns about costs of maintaining those sites. Joining us now are Sue Black, executive director of Arizona State Parks and Sherry Plowman, superintendent of the southern Arizona office of the National Park Service. Good to have you both here, thanks for joining us.

Sherry Plowman: Thanks for having us.

Ted Simons: And we're going to talk obviously this is a celebration of the National Park Service. But as far as Arizona's parks are concerned, how do Arizona parks coincide, how does that dynamic work with the National Park Service?

Sue Black: You don't have a celebration of this magnitude, the 100th anniversary and it will start on it, for a year now we've been working together on it and we've been working with all the different park agencies, national parks, state parks, local parks, I think the public really likes to do their activity and not necessarily care about the jurisdiction and who runs them. So that's why trying to bring the spirit of collaboration has been fun to do.

Ted Simons: And far as the National Park Service is concerned, what is the mission of the parks service?

Sherry Plowman: The mission is to preserve and protect for the future, the current and future generations, our visitors. And as sue said our partnerships are find your park, that's one of our campaigns, and so what find your park means to any visitor is that any park, national, state, a ballpark, it's that place that you find your park.

Ted Simons: And we talked about National Park Service, people think about bears and trees and big open spaces but trails, parkways, memorials, those are part of the park service, correct?

Sherry Plowman: Yes, monuments and national historic landmarks. Throughout our state we have several. We have more like you said national trails, we have national historic landmarks.

Ted Simons: The scenic trails and the whole nine yards. So the mission of the state parks. Similar?

Sue Black: Yeah, very similar. One of the things that's in our mission statement that I like, it says in our parks and through our partners and I was here in the '90s as the chief of operations for the state parks and actually was part of writing that mission statement. I take that partnership really seriously.

Ted Simons: As far as differences between national parks and state parks? What are they?

Sue Black: State parks is better. [ Laughs ]

Sue Black: You know, I don't know if there is that much difference. When you look at something like the grand canyon, obviously, it's one of the wonders of the world but when you look at some of our other properties I think we have more in common that we have differences.

Ted Simons: One of the things in common and we know of it because we've talked about it many times on the show is the state parks have had some funding concerns.

Sue Black: No!

Ted Simons: Yes, as far as the national parks service, I understand there's a huge back log of maintenance costs. Talk to us about that. How are you going to address that?

Sherry Plowman: The way we're going to address it, and it's called deferred maintenance and you're right it's one of our publicly -- it means to our visitors, it's how are we keeping care of those resources? Keeping up the visitor center, making sure the restrooms are conditioned and have toilet paper and so we're making an initiative with our dollars from the park pass that our visitors pay for that we will put it towards that deferred maintenance, it's not enough and when you talk about waste water systems and all the things that we have to take care of in business.

Ted Simons: Hiking fees, mining fees, logging fees, I mean $12 billion maintenance back log, that's pretty substantial. Can those things -- how much can they actually help?

Sherry Plowman: We actually don't have fees like logging fees.

Ted Simons: You don't have those. I thought you did.

Sherry Plowman: That's forest service. Our main income from the visitor is that park pass that they purchase. Other than our base budgets that we get from Congress.

Ted Simons: So you do need some funding help here.

Sherry Plowman: Yes, yes.

Ted Simons: And you do need some funding help from the legislature.

Sue Black: Well, that and I just think you need to be really creative on how you market your properties, the amenities that you're going to put out there. All your revenue streams. You just really need to look at that and capitalize on them with keeping the integrity of the resource. I like to call it infrastructure renewal because deferred maintenance sounds like you haven't been doing your job so much. But I like to look at that infrastructure and if you look at the history of the parks service, I think when you have a big anniversary date, it's time to look back at where you've been, kind of reassess and then look towards the future. And to see what, you know, teddy and the visionaries called it back then, America's best idea, it starts tonight, it's a great series if anybody hasn't watched it. But it's to really look at what we're going to do to keep that vision for the next century and what's our mark and what are we leaving the systems that we run in better shape than we got them in?

Ted Simons: Can that vision include conservationists working with business interests, public-private, these sorts of things. Do we see enough of that?

Sherry Plowman: We see a lot. Part of what we are as the National Park Service or any of our parks, it is what the people give to us. I mean, it is how much people love those treasures that we are taking care of, you know, and want to help preserve that. So yes.

Ted Simons: Back to my previous point, how about the idea of logging fees and mining fees?

Sherry Plowman: Our mission is different as far as logging fees. That's more a forest service mission because we really are to protect and preserve our resources.

Ted Simons: Okay.

Sherry Plowman: So we would not --

Ted Simons: So I don't get any credit for a great idea there? [ Laughter ]

Ted Simons: I was trying to get some money into the coffers there. It's always a challenge, isn't it?

Sue Black: Our revenues at the state parks are continually going -- this year we'll hit 14 million, it's a lot for us and if you look at that chart, it's an encouraging future. And in your opening remarks about the governor and the legislature coming to a budget agreement, I'm very hopeful in the budget this year. I'm the first parks director that Governor Ducey has appointed and in my conversations and coming on board with him, I think it's a great partnership already but he really supports the parks system and we're having our 60th anniversary next year and one of the things I set the goal is I want to win the gold medal which in our industry is the best parks system in the country against the other state parks systems. So my goal is to really turn this ship around in short order and bring that goal back to Arizona so we have those bragging rights and so people want to come and visit the parks system and then the tide raises all ships so that hopefully the revenues will go up, and then we get to retain those revenues.

Ted Simons: As far as the national parks service is concerned, goals, vision for the future, what do you see in the next 100 years?

Sherry Plowman: Keep taking care of it. Bringing into Arizona the economy. We had like sue said 11.7 million visitors which brought 15,000 jobs to gateway communities to our parks.

Ted Simons: It's a great goal. It's a great vision. Can it get it done especially when the economy goes topsy-turvy?

Sherry Plowman: And as sue said we have to look at the reality of it. What is it that we can take care of? Maybe we can't take care of every visitor center, every historic building. We scale it down to meet our mission for the public.

Ted Simons: Very good. Good to have you both here.

Sue Black: Can I give you something? I've got a gift for you. We just won best cave in the United States.

Ted Simons: Did you?

Ted Simons: Isn't that cool?

Ted Simons: That's fantastic.

Ted Simons: Thank you very much.

Sue Black: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: And thank you both for being here.

Sherry Plowman & Sue Black: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Happy anniversary. Thank you.

Sue Black: Executive director of Arizona State Parks, Sherry Plowman: Southern Arizona Office of the National Park Service

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