Travel author Roger Naylor speaks on state parks budget

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Governor Doug Ducey’s 2023 state budget proposal includes $176 million in funding for state parks, the largest amount in state history. The money would be spent on a variety of features designed to maintain and modernize more than 30 parks and 175 miles of trails throughout the state. We spoke to Roger Naylor, author of Arizona State Parks, A Guide to Amazing Places in the Grand Canyon State, to learn more.

Nearly half of the proposed amount, $86 million, would go towards wastewater treatment, with the other $90 spent on a wide variety of improvements.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Naylor said. Structural improvements, ADA accessibility, campground improvements, and broadband internet access are just a few of the proposed projects.

Naylor said that this injection of funds would be particularly significant because the state parks currently don’t receive any funding beyond what they are able to generate through fees.

“These are little gems,” Naylor said. “The state parks are self-sustaining, they get by with only the money they bring in; they don’t get anything from the general fund, so having some additional funding would be huge.”

State parks do not only bring in money for themselves, however, with state parks drawing in $449 million from visitors, sustaining an estimated 4,400 jobs in 2020.

“It really is needed. If you remember back in 2009 when there was a legislative issue, an economic problem, and all the funds for the parks were swept away, a lot of the state parks had to close, and a lot of others were only kept open because people stepped up, the community came forward, volunteers came forward. Because these parks are vital components of these communities, they’re economic engines, and people realized how important they are,” Naylor said. “Now all the parks have reopened and they’re doing well, but that doesn’t mean they have extra money to improve wastewater systems or improve things like the campgrounds that need improvement.

This is particularly important as state park attendance climbs, with a 2.6% increase statewide in 2021 according to the Arizona Office of Tourism. Some parks, like Jerome State Historic Park, saw a more than 60% rise in attendance over the previous year.

“Over the last few years, the campgrounds have just been packed. There’s an overflow of people, and the rangers are just barely keeping up. They need some of those funds put back into the park to make improvements and to make any kind of expansion they want to,” Naylor said.

Roger Naylor, travel author

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