For many Americans, the state of Arizona epitomizes the wild west.
It just shot itself in the foot.
As part of its ongoing and extremely effective campaign to undermine just about everything that makes Arizona special, the state government has announced it will close almost all of the state’s parks. The list of closures reads like a who’s-who of Arizona history, culture and natural beauty. The historic Courthouse in Tombstone, where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday stood trial for the death of the Clantons at the O.K. Corral: closed. Red Rock State Park in Sedona, one of the most beautiful state parks in the country: closed. Homolovi Ruins, ancestral home of the Hopi: closed. Some towns offered to help pay to keep their parks open; they were denied the opportunity. When all closures take effect in June, two thirds of Arizona State Parks will be shuttered.
Arizona is not the only state struggling with a huge budget deficit, but other states have found less destructive ways to handle their problems. When faced with difficult economic circumstances this past year the state of Washington also closed state parks. But in contrast to the draconian measures enacted by Arizona, Washington closed only a few because the legislature decided to give Washington state residents a chance to keep the parks open with a voluntary $5 vehicle tax. When it’s time to renew your license plate tabs in Washington state you can say, yes, I love my state parks here’s $5, or no, keep your hands out of my wallet. Seems enough Washingtonians were willing to pay to preserve; only 13 out of approximately 150 state parks were closed.
But here in Arizona we were not given a choice. Heck, we don’t seem to be given a say in much of anything; even when we make our voices heard loud and clear our state leaders ignore us. In 2008 every single county in the state rejected a proposal that would have allowed payday lenders to stay in business. Guess that vote was meaningless to Republican House Majority Whip Andy Tobin, who just introduced a bill to allow predatory lenders to keep the doors open and keep charging Arizona residents 36% interest on loans. He’s gotten support from other Republican legislators and from Republican Governor Jan Brewer: when two of her closest allies (and her possible managers in the upcoming gubernatorial race) came out in support of keeping predatory loan companies in business, Brewer “had no problem with it.”
The way in which the Arizona legislature has tackled the budget deficit is breathtakingly shortsighted. By closing the parks they’re depriving the state of the very thing we need the most: estimates say Arizona’s state parks bring in $266 million a year in park-related revenue. And with newspapers across the country running the story you’ve got to wonder what that will do to tourism. Would you want to take your vacation in a state that puts a closed sign on its greatest resources? When coupled with the recent closure of rest stops across Arizona, folks very well may decide to take their travel dollars to states more welcoming to visitors.
The one bright spot in the Arizona mess is that our greatest treasure is safe from our inept state government. That wasn’t for lack of trying: selfish and shortsighted legislators fought it every step of the way. Led by one of Arizona’s Senators they tried to mine it, dam it, and put up a toll at its entrance. Fortunately the Federal Government stepped in, and the Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, was saved.
Thanks to the Federal Government, future generations will be able to stand in awe at the wonder of the Grand Canyon.
Thanks to the state government, other wonders in the Grand Canyon State face a very different fate.