Arizona State Park's funding would be protected by voters

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Natural Resources Act would allow our state parks to keep entry fees and other park generated monies. 

In the past three years, the legislature swept $15 million dollars of entry fees from the park's budget to fill other state budget shortfalls.

"We were lucky this year," said Park's Board member Larry Landry.  "The Legislature didn't steal any of our money for the first time since 2009."

Landry and the six other board volunteers voted unanimously to support the Arizona Natural Resources Act, which would also give Arizona drivers an opportunity to donate $14 each year when they renew their vehicle tags. 

That money would allow the state's students grade 12 and under to enter state parks for free.  The Act would also protect $10 million in lottery money each year earmarked for the state Game and Fish Department.

Those gathering signatures for the act include ASU student Andrew Atallah, who said he has fond memories of going to the Tonto Natural Bridge as a youngster. 

Atallah said even though Arizona was one of the last states to set up a park system, he doesn't want it to be the first to lose it's parks.

Volunteers will be collecting signatures at the entrances to many state parks, trail heads, coffee shops and sporting good stores throughout the state. 

State Parks Foundation Executive Director Cristie Statler said they won't give up on the voter protection if enough signatures aren't gathered this year, but will keep pressing the legislature to let the parks keep the money they earn.