The State Parks Board, with the approval of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, released about $7 million to finish nearly completed projects that were put on hold in February.
About $50 million of the parks budget was swept as part of state budget cuts and about a third of the agency was laid off, said Ellen Bilbrey, a public information officer for the Parks Board. In the process, Heritage Fund grants were suspended.
The grants provided money for 30 trails, historical preservation and local parks projects. Virtually all work stopped on the projects from February until September, because the projects run on a reimbursement basis. Any work contractors did was at their own risk, said Jay Ziemann, the assistant director of partnership and external affairs for the board.
When the Legislature cut funding for state agencies, lawmakers included a provision that allowed agencies to request permission to backfill funding for projects if they were able to provide their own money. Then the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) was required to review the requests.
The Parks Board submitted a request in July, and the JLBC approved the backfill Sept. 22.
“We’re very happy that at least these projects will be completed,” Ziemann said.
Arizona State Parks was dealt a 26-percent reduction in its operating budget this year, compared to the budget passed in July 2008. As one way to combat the huge difference, Bilbrey said many state parks will be operating on shortened hours or five-day weeks.
For example, Slide Rock State Park and Red Rock State Park, located in Oak Creek Canyon, will be open from Thursdays until Mondays from Nov. 3 through Jan. 27, 2010. Various other parks will remain on the five-day schedule year around.
A full list of parks and shortened hours can be found at www.azstateparks.com.