Ted Simons: Arizona's state parks have not received appropriations from the state's general fund since 2009. The agency is now expected to be self-sustaining. But the new state parks director has identified some critical funding issues, and he's asking for $15 million to be included in the next state budget. Here to talk about that and his strategies for improving the agency is state parks director Bryan Martyn. Thanks for being here.
Bryan Martyn: Ted, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Ted Simons: What is the current state of Arizona state parks?
Bryan Martyn: We are doing well. We are doing a lot better than we were in the past. In the past we looked at parks kind like a museum or a library. Where it really didn't matter if you made money. It was a social contract you had with society. And these days we have to look at parks as being self-sustaining. You got to make money and that's kind of where we are at. We are trying to figure out how to keep our parks running efficiently and make money where we can.
Ted Simons: I know that some critics would say doing better is one thing but doing well would be another. They see some noticeable deterioration out there. How would you respond to that?
Bryan Martyn: I would say it's a marathon. It's not a sprint. We are moving forward slowly. We do understand that funds are limited throughout the state. You cannot expect to just raise your hand and get money thrown at parks. There are a lot of other obligation out there. We have to demonstrate our worth to communities throughout Arizona.
Ted Simons: Talk about the budgetary concerns here. What you are faced with and what you are asking for.
Bryan Martyn: Our budget has been reduced dramatically. And what we have asked for, as every agency in Arizona, there are over 80 different agencies that they all ask for what they can get. We have asked for those things that I would like to call tires and gas. State parks is kind of like a car running down the road at 100 miles an hour, and it has bald tires. You know you have got some things that you need to fix and you don't know when they are going to go so you hope to get some money to get new tires to keep your parks going. Because if they go down, car's not going anywhere. That's one of the big things. And the gas part we talk about enhancing our parks so they can make more money.
Ted Simons: Indeed. And state parks, this is an enterprise agency. Explain what that is.
Bryan Martyn: We eat what we kill, basically. We have to go out and make money and that's the basics of it. We are not on the general fund. We are one of about three states in the America that are not on the general fund. And that is just is what it is. And our job is to demonstrate why it's important that we get help from communities and friends groups and we demonstrate our worth every day.
Ted Simons: If it is what it is now, does it always have to be that way? Can that change? Can the state show a little more impetus in helping these parks succeed?
Bryan Martyn: There's no doubt. Arizona State Parks has friends throughout the state and throughout the legislature and the governor is a big fan of Arizona State Parks. Make no mistake. More and more they understand the value of state parks. But there are limitations on what funds are available. My job is to demonstrate these are our needs, these are the funds that we have asked for. If you have the ability, wherever that cut line is and we have no idea where that cut line is, it would be great to get some funds.
Ted Simons: Any indication that you will get some funds?
Bryan Martyn: It's difficult to say. We have no idea. The effect of Obamacare and those things on the state. We don't know how much revenue we have out there. My job is to director of the agency as the on the business end of the deal is to put forward a request and justify that request and then just wait and see.
Ted Simons: The request involves, what, capital project, maybe operations, staff, the whole nine yards?
Bryan Martyn: The whole nine yards, very much the tires and the gas. I mean, a sewage treatment plants that are 40 years old. That goes down, the park theoretically goes down. That's one of those tires. We have try to get money for those things and if we electrify a camp ground, get more people in the campground, the rates for being in the campground are raised and that’s kinds of our guess, we make more money.
Ted Simons: The car analogy, I know there are some lawmakers who don't think the state should be in the car in the first place. How do you convince them that state parks are important to Arizona?
Bryan Martyn: This is one of our resources in Arizona. And the reason state parks came around in the first place was to assist those rural communities. There are no state parks right now in Maricopa County that are operated by the parks system. So our parks are out in these rural communities and they are economic drivers for these communities. That's part of our obligation in Arizona to take this resource and make it enhance the communities, get people to these smaller communities.
Ted Simons: You referred to this earlier with the idea of financial partners. What's the status of that? How can you improve on that particular dynamic?
Bryan Martyn: We are very blessed in state parks. We have had a lot of people step up, friends groups, individuals, counties, cities, tribes, have given money to help keep parks open. Their park open. Because they understand the benefit of that park as an economic driver. These groups, they are getting tired. I mean, they continue to give and give and give. Our job is to continue to embrace them. We put our arm around them and thank them and give them loving and they continue to make our parks great. Eventually, those people aren't going to have the resources. We will continue to use their time. The important part, Ted, is, I need more people. We need more citizens who are willing to step up and help. I asked for a weekend a year. That's all I ask. If you can spend two days a year at a park, everything from pulling weeds to greeting people as they come in, that's great benefit added.
Ted Simons: Last point, I know a lot of citizens would say we need to see more of a commitment from the state. How hard are you going to push on this?
Bryan Martyn: I'm pushing as hard as I can. We work hard every day educating legislators on the value. You can't just go ask for something. We just don't have those kind of resources in Arizona. As a prior elected, I understand a lot of people have their hand out. Arizona state parks need to demonstrate the value of the investment, you’re investing in Arizona State Parks and there is a return monetarily and to our citizenry and our guests.
Ted Simons: Bryan, it's good to have you here. Thanks for joining us we appreciate it.
Bryan Martyn: Ted, I really appreciate the time.
Ted Simons: Thank you.
Bryan Martyn: Thanks.