Janice Miano honored with Valley Forward Association Award of Merit

On Saturday, September 14, Janice Miano, AHA Director of Administration, received an Award of Merit from the Valley Forward Association. Here celebrating the award with Janice are AHA board members Jim McPherson, Beth Woodin, Sam Campana, Matt Fesko, Thom Hulen, and Bonnie Bariola.

On Saturday, September 14 at The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Janice Miano, AHA Director of Administration, received an Award of Merit from the Valley Forward Association. Here celebrating the award with Janice are AHA board members Jim McPherson, Beth Woodin, Sam Campana, Matt Fesko, Thom Hulen, and Bonnie Bariola. Congratulations Janice!

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Black-footed ferret spotlighting event

Image[Source: Matt Fesko, Arizona Heritage Alliance Board Member] – participated in the Fall 2012 Arizona Department of Game and Fish Black Footed Ferret spotlighting event in Aubrey Valley. Black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) are one of North America’s most endangered mammals. The primary goal of the Arizona reintroduction effort is to establish a free-ranging, self-sustaining population of black-footed ferrets in the Aubrey Valley Experimental Population Area (AVEPA). I was paired with two volunteers from Northern Arizona University. After a short introductory video and training session at the Game and Fish field house in Seligman, we headed out to Aubrey Valley with our spotlights and traps to trap ferrets from 10 pm until 6 am. It was a rewarding experience to see first hand these amazing creatures in their natural nocturnal habits. The Game and Fish staff and all of the volunteers did a fantastic job.

Below are the results of the outing that I received in a very nice thank you card from the Game and Fish BFF Team: “Thank you for your help during the 2012 fall spotlighting event. We really would not be able to get the job done without the invaluable help of so many dedicated volunteers. During the fall event we caught 65 ferrets, of which 57 were unique BFF’s. Fifty-one of these ferrets were brand new and nine of the ferrets trapped had been caught during the previous events, which we like to see because we get an idea of long term survivability in the population. We had 44% trap success this event. Over the five nights we had a total of 144 volunteers, of which 103 were brand new. We broke our previous record of 22 ferrets caught in one night, with 23 captured on the first night! With a spring count of 53 individuals and a fall count of 57 individuals we have a minimum population of 110 ferrets; falling just short of last year’s population count of 116. Thank you again for your help and we hope to see you at another event!”

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Heritage Grant Awarded to the Town of Clarkdale

[Source: Verde Independent] – The Town of Clarkdale has received a Heritage Grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department in the amount of $40,500 to develop accessible facilities on the Arizona State Parks property south of the intersection of Sycamore Canyon and Tuzigoot Roads. Improvements include a modified access road, two ADA parking spaces, and an approximately 400-foot wheelchair accessible trail to a viewing platform adjacent to the Verde River.

As part of the Town’s Sustainable Clarkdale Initiative, this access for all members of the public will be developed using best practices in green development. The Town and Arizona State Parks are working in partnership to develop this site based on an intergovernmental agreement recently executed by both parties. The first phase of the project, development of improvement plans and construction estimates, has been awarded to Shephard Wesnitzer, Inc. of Sedona, Arizona with the planning scheduled to be completed by June 2013.

The funds from the Heritage Grant will provide improved public access to the Verde River, especially safe access for people with disabilities. This is the first phase of the Verde River @ Clarkdale project, whose mission is to provide enhanced community access to a healthy, flowing Verde River.

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Desert Vista Garden in Ahwatukee a boost for learning

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[Source: Coty Dolores Miranda, the Arizona Republic] – An unused patch of ground on the Desert Vista High School campus is being planted with native plants and trees that organizers hope will not only be eye-pleasing but assist biotechnology and honors biology students with plants, bird and insect research. Students, staff and parents recently began planting Blue Palo Verde, Foothills Palo Verde, desert lavender, desert bluebells, wolfberry and jojoba, and other species they obtained through an Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Fund grant and monies from campus student groups and staff. The $9,555 grant resulted from the proposal written last year by guidance counselor Josephine Levy and parent Susan Norton, who have been working on the garden concept since 2010. This is Norton’s fourth school-garden proposal, all of which earned grants.

With a horticulture degree from Texas A&M, Norton has worked as a teen volunteer coordinator at Desert Botanical Garden, and is working with the Arizona State University engineering school as a K-12 outreach coordinator. The mother of three — 2012 Desert Vista grad Christopher Norton, Desert Vista junior Regan Norton and Kyrene Altadeña seventh-grader Leah — said she has always enjoyed community gardens. “I like to see any garden that brings people together to nourish the earth,” she said. Her Ahwatukee garden endeavors started with the concept, design and grant proposal for Monte Vista Elementary School six years ago when her children were students there. The school received $10,000 from the Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Fund.

“In that first grant proposal, I said I hoped to promote habitat gardens at other schools, and shortly after, Esperanza started one.” she said. “I moved out of state for a while, and when I returned, I worked in project management for Colina Elementary’s garden. It’s nice to see the first garden inspired other people.” The Desert Vista garden idea started serendipitously when Norris noticed a desert-landscaper certification from the Desert Botanical Garden posted on Levy’s guidance-counselor office wall. “Susan is really the driving force behind this project and it wouldn’t have happened without her,” Levy said, noting how notification of the grant propelled others on campus to become involved. “This is a remarkable demonstration of student, staff and community efforts to build something that benefits everyone,” she said. “Our hope is to show how a native desert landscape can be both educational and beautiful.”

The 76- by 67- by 44-foot Desert Vista Heritage Garden and green space makes use of an existing walkway between the gymnasium and cafeteria, and will offer space for outdoor classroom instruction and “personal solitude,” she said. “It is an awkward space, but what we like is it’s a highly-visible spot in the school so students can’t help but walk by it,” Norton said. “We’re putting in 11 benches to encourage students and staff to come use the space.” Student groups have sponsored the benches, with ceramic-tile artwork by Desert Vista alum Colleen Conlin and Ahwatukee mosaic artist Jeanne Rademacher. Solar lighting for the area, an idea of teacher Dan Zavaleta, will be installed by his technology students.

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Lawmaker: Funding state parks improvements now saves costs later

[Source: Donyelle Kesler, Cronkite News] – Delaying capital improvements needed after years of deep budget cuts to Arizona State Parks will only exacerbate the problems and increase future costs, a state lawmaker said Wednesday. “If you don’t take care of your infrastructure, it’s like not taking care of your house and if you let that little $2 item go and don’t fix it, you end up with a $100 repair bill,” said Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott.

Fann, whose district includes five state parks, said Arizona has been doing roughly the same thing with its parks for too long. “Not only are we behind the curve on fixing what should have been fixed years ago, but now we have additional problems on top of them,” she said. Bryan Martyn, director of Arizona State Parks, is requesting $15.5 million in Gov. Jan Brewer’s budget for capital improvements. Arizona State Parks hasn’t received money from the state’s general fund since 2009 and currently works off a $19.5 million budget. Officials say state parks have about $200 million in capital needs.

Fann, who pushed successfully last year to allow Arizona State Parks to keep all gate and concession fees, said that parks are vital to the state’s economy. “It is responsible for over 3,000 direct jobs, it is responsible for over $2 million worth of revenue, and so state parks is really something we need to keep open,” Fann said. “This isn’t a feel-good item, this is about our economy. The feel-good and the beauty and all that stuff, that’s just the icing on the cake.”

Cuts to the Arizona State Parks budget led to agreements allowing some communities to take over operations and keep parks operating. Arizona State Parks Board Chairman Tracy Westerhausen said the $15.5 million would be an investment. “It serves the people who come from outside of Arizona to see our parks and enriches the lives of the people who are here already,” she said. Westerhausen said the projects include improving water-treatment systems and electrification of campsites. “We’re under a state mandate to provide clean water to people who come to our parks, and one of the things we can’t do is improve our water structure in the parks,” she said.

Matthew Benson, a spokesman for the governor, said Brewer has taken Martyn’s request into account along with all of the proposals from other state agencies. “Of course state parks are a priority, but so is public safety, classroom education, road and transportation systems, Child Protective Services – all of these issues are important,” Benson said.

Grady Gammage Jr., who as a senior research fellow for Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy co-wrote a 2009 report on ways to fund state parks said the facilities are assets to both the state’s economy and residents. Image

“Part of reason people want to live in Arizona is because of the open space and natural resources of parks and it can have a lot to do with what makes the state attractive to businesses and people moving here,” Gammage said. “If you don’t support that, you risk a lot more than just damaging the parks, you risk damaging this economic engine that drives Arizona.”

 

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The Arizona Preservation Foundation has released its 2012 Arizona Most Endangered Historic Places List

The Arizona State Parks system has been added due to the agency’s precarious financial situation and the loss of the State Parks Heritage Fund.

You can view the listings on the Foundation’s website home page and new webpage devoted to the “Most Endangered” ~ http://azpreservation.org/mostendangered  The story was covered on the front page of today’s Arizona Daily Star: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/stretch-of-broadway-joins-list-of-az-endangered-history-spots/article_c2f18395-db54-552f-9e30-e1ff35524ebf.html

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Arizona State Parks – YouTube

Bryan Martyn, the new director of Arizona State Parks, talks about funding needs and strategies …

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Arizona Parks chief asks governor for ‘critical’ $15 mil in funds

[Source: Craig Harris, The Republic] – Arizona Parks Director Bryan Martyn said his agency has “critical funding issues” and is asking for additional state funding of about $15.5million for capital projects, operations and staff. Martyn, a self-described fiscal conservative who is just a few months into the parks job, has asked Gov. Jan Brewer, a fellow Republican, for the additional money in the fiscal 2014 state budget, which begins next July 1. “Arizona State Parks is a car running down the road 100 miles per hour with bald tires,” said Martyn, who became parks director May 1. “We need money for tires and gas.”

Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Brewer, said the governor and her budget team will weigh Martyn’s proposals. “The Parks Department request has come in like all other budget requests,” Benson said. “The budget process is under way, and the governor’s proposal will come out in the middle of January.” Benson declined to say whether Brewer would support additional funds for state parks.

Martyn said his department is seeking the additional funds because state parks have experienced significant cuts the past few years and have deteriorated. Parks need improvements, he said, because they are a product on which many Arizonans and out-of-state visitors are willing to spend money for something they enjoy.

Some of the money Martyn seeks would fund electrification of campsites at Catalina State Park near Tucson and new launch ramps for boats, roads and parking at Lake Havasu State Park. Martyn said the enhancements would increase visits by customers.

Martyn also wants to:

  • Build and install a potable-water line from Benson to Kartchner Caverns State Park in Cochise County, replacing the current well that draws water from an aquifer that feeds the caverns.
  • Replace a 40-year-old wastewater-treatment plant for Patagonia Lake State Park near Nogales to bring the facility into compliance with state environmental-quality standards.
  • Maintain base salaries for employees who received raises this fiscal year and add seven staff members for program management and administration.
  • Make non-routine repairs and maintenance within the park system.

The state went into its current budget cycle with more than $800 million in cash on hand. Martyn said he believes the state can afford to make an investment in parks. “I will use the money wisely to enhance the product,” said Martyn, who oversees a $21.1 million annual budget with 146 full-time positions. The state has 30 parks, with 27 in operation.

Martyn, a former Pinal County supervisor with 20 years of military experience, said he also plans to aggressively court lawmakers who will craft a budget with Brewer. “Every day, we have to sell state parks,” he said.

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Arizona Game and Fish announces black-footed ferret spotlighting results

A record number of volunteers assisted in the effort to document the population of endangered black-footed ferrets in Aubrey Valley, just west of Seligman. The Arizona Game and Fish Department partnered with 144 volunteers for the fall spotlighting effort from Sept. 27-Oct. 1 to count the elusive predators. Spotlighting from dusk-to-dawn is the method used to capture the animals and document the population.

The 57 individuals captured during the event brought the 2012 total to 110, just short of the record 116 counted in 2011. The effort did set a one-night record when 23 individual ferrets were trapped, breaking the previous mark of 22. The numbers remain good in Aubrey Valley considering the black-footed ferret once numbered just 18 in the world when captive breeding efforts began in 1985.

“The spring and fall spotlighting efforts were a bit earlier than we would like,” said Jennifer Cordova, a biologist with the recovery effort. “But, that’s the way it worked this year. We try and hold these efforts when predatory animals such as the black-footed ferret are most active; during a full moon. “We may do a small spotlighting effort in December because we don’t believe the slightly lower count is indicative of how the population is doing.”

Cordova credits the continued support of the public and the Heritage Fund in the recovery of the black-footed ferret. The Heritage Fund comes from a portion of Arizona Lottery ticket sales and provides the financial means for Game and Fish to be the lead agency with no cost to Arizona taxpayers. “The record number of volunteers is a testament to the interest in wildlife conservation efforts,” Cordova stated. “We would not be where we are today without their support.”

The numbers have Arizona meeting the original goals established for the recovery site, which boasts a self-sustaining population. “There is reason for optimism for the species, but there’s a long way to go,” Cordova said. “Continued support from the public will play a pivotal role. Volunteers are crucial in documentation of population trends throughout Aubrey Valley.”

The black-footed ferret crew will continue spotlighting efforts in the spring of 2013. For anyone interested in obtaining additional information, write to azferret@azgfd.gov or call (928) 422-0155. To receive current information from the Game and Fish Region 3 office in Kingman, search for Azgfd Kingman on Facebook.

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AZ State Parks repairs historic San Rafael home

[Source: JB Miller, The Weekly Bulletin] – After years of neglect due to funding cuts, as well as a wildfire that nearly razed one of the state’s most important territorial style homes, Arizona State Parks is now rushing to save the historic headquarters of the San Rafael Ranch. As part of this effort, over a dozen AZ State Parks personnel recently spent two days (Oct 9-10) cleaning house, making repairs, and getting the grounds into shape.

In addition, a new caretaker has been hired to keep an eye on the ranch house and adjoining property located along the U.S.-Mexico border just east of Lochiel. “All hands are on deck,” said Lee Eseman, acting chief of operations, who was busy working on one of the columns along the weathered and termite eaten porch that wraps around the 9,000 square foot house. “Hopefully it is in time.”

In 2008, the state parks system experienced a heavy layoff, leaving the San Rafael State Natural Area devoid of staff. “We had this place pretty much vacant when the recession hit and they started cutting back on our funding. When they did away with the Heritage Fund they did away with all the operational funding for this,” said Assistant State Parks Director Jay Ream. “We’ve had about $2 million over the last few years taken from our operating fund to help out with the state budget. We just couldn’t put people here and keep other parks open too. The problem was if you don’t keep a park open you begin to spiral down.”

In addition to damage to the main house, it was discovered that the adobe walls to the barn were crumbling away. “It’s been deteriorating quickly,” said Eseman, who added that there are also two out buildings “cowboy houses” that need to be maintained. Other challenges include keeping the solar and water systems going. Near one of the bunkhouses, a windmill broke and water had to be trucked in. The vegetation that surrounded the structures had also gotten out of hand, which fueled a wildfire that broke out following what was suspected a lightning strike this past summer.

“The fire in June was a wake-up call,” said Ream about the wildfire that destroyed a nearby pump house before burning all the way up to the historic headquarters. Luckily firefighters from the Patagonia Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and the Coronado National Forest Service were able to respond quickly enough to douse the flames.

“We dodged a bullet and swore that when we got to the new fiscal year, we were determined to get somebody in here and have a clean-up day,” Ream said. In addition to mowing around the house in order to make it more “fire wise,” the work crew also removed an alarming amount of dead grass that had blown against the buildings. “A clean-up day does two things – one it gets a lot of big projects done in a hurry, but it’s also a nice team-building thing,” Ream said. He said parks personnel also wanted to knock out as much as they could so it wouldn’t seem so daunting to the new caretaker, Jon Erickson, who he described as a “good all-around hand.”

For now the San Rafael House will remain closed to the public. “It’s not structurally sound nor does it have the facilities for the general public (restrooms etc),” said Eseman, adding that safety along the border has also been a concern for AZ State Parks.

Originally a Mexican Land Grant, San Rafael de la Zanja was purchased by Colin Cameron and partners in the late 1800s. Built in 1900, the “Cameron House” was sold along with the ranch three years later to William C. Greene, better known as Colonel Greene the “Copper Skyrocket.” After the death of William Greene’s daughter Florence Greene Sharp, the ranch was sold to The Nature Conservancy in 1998 and eventually Arizona State Parks purchased 3,557 acres of the property in 1999 as a natural area.

According to the San Rafael State Park website, the purchase was made with Heritage Funds, which are used to preserve open areas. In 2008 the ranch headquarters was designated as a National Historic District. “It’s an investment in Arizona’s future,” Ream said while looking out of one of the windows at the surrounding San Rafael Valley. “Fifty years from now people will be seeing this as one of the greatest places in the world. I’ve seen maps of what Arizona is supposed to look like in 2050 and vast places like this will be the places people will want to visit.”

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