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Brown: Arizona Legislature must support parks funding bill


The restored Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund needs to be fully funded by the Legislature this session.

As a Minnesota transplant, the remarkable and diverse landscapes of Arizona never cease to amaze me. Spending summers in Queen Creek growing up, I was constantly in awe of the starry nights, mountainous landscapes, and unique wildlife Arizona offered.

I fell in love with the plentiful open spaces where friends and families gather to hike, camp, or in my case photograph the unique flora and fauna. I liked it so much that I moved here so I could enjoy it year-round. These spaces allow us to take a moment out of our busy lives; to slow down and enjoy the natural beauty found all around us.

Unfortunately, due to urban sprawl and disastrous fires, historic buildings and cultural sites are faced with destruction as time, the elements, or neglect have taken their toll.

In 1990, Arizonans voted to pass the Arizona Heritage Fund, which directed $10 million annually from the State Lottery to the State Parks Heritage Fund to be used for local, regional and state parks; trails and open spaces; and cultural heritage sites. Since the creation of the State Parks Heritage Fund, over $89 million in grants have been reinvested in communities across Arizona.

With the State Parks Heritage Fund, ancestral lands and historic downtowns where previous generations grew up, went to school and conducted business have been restored to their original beauty. People for years to come will now be able to live, learn, and enjoy these treasures.

In 2010, the state legislative majority decided — as part of their plan to address severe budget shortfalls during the Great Recession — to repeal the State Parks Heritage Fund. Nine years later, a bill that put the fund back into statute was signed into law.

However, it did not restore the annual $10 million from Lottery revenues. In the 2021 session, a bill to finance the fund with a one-time appropriation of $5 million for fiscal year 2022 was passed.

As the 2022 legislative session begins, with large budget surpluses and the Arizona Lottery encumbrances have been repaid and removed, the board of the Arizona Heritage Alliance, other heritage and environmental stakeholder groups and hundreds of Arizonans, believe it is time to reinstate the annual funding to the State Parks portion of the Heritage Fund.

We must encourage our legislators to once again honor the decision Arizonans made in 1990 by reinvesting in the fund and the responsible stewardship of our heritage and lands.