Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Thu, Oct. 29

Parks on the Rez will benefit if voters approve county tax<br>

A diverse group of community, county and city leaders has launched and endorsed Our Land, Water, Wildlife and Parks — a YES campaign on a Coconino County Parks and Open Space program up for approval by voters in November’s election. This campaign would provide $33 million over 10 years for key land protection projects and recreational facilities throughout Coconino County. The measure needs approval by voters to preserve water quality, wetlands, forests, wildlife habitats and other natural areas and to develop and improve parks, trails, historic and cultural sites.

Eighteen priority land protection, park, and recreation projects in Coconino County have been identified for funding through the measure’s 1/8 of one cent sales tax. With voters’ approval of the program, federal and state matching funds would double the County’s money on open space and wetlands projects. The program would help fund crucial new tourist facilities at Navajo Nation parks such as Antelope Canyon, the Little Colorado River overlook and Grand Falls and several other community park, recreation, and trail projects. A much-needed community park with ballfields, playground and picnic area at Tuba City is included.

“We’ll definitely get something for everyone in Coconino County when voters approve this measure on Nov. 5,” said Sheriff Joe Richards, honorary co-chair of Our Land, Water, Wildlife and Parks.

Projects were selected and endorsed through the Flagstaff Open Spaces & Greenways, Vision 2020, Flagstaff Area Regional Land Use and Transportation Plan, and the Coconino County Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan. This finance mechanism to protect land and improve trails and park facilities is expected to raise $33 million (an estimated $1.63 per month per household) over 10 years. Nearly half of the sales tax collected in Coconino County would be paid by tourists and other visitors. The Coconino County Parks and

Recreation Department will manage the program with oversight by an independent citizen parks and recreation commission.

“Now is the time to vote yes to protect our water sources, key wetlands and wildlife corridors for ourselves and for our children,” said Shelley Silbert, Nature Conservancy program manager. “This election, we can cast a simple vote to protect special places such as Rogers Lake before they’re swallowed up by development. Forests next to the Arboretum and natural areas on Observatory Mesa are among those that would remain as open space.”

Silbert said that the open space and parks item appears right after the list of candidates on the November ballot.

Coconino County Supervisors; Flagstaff City Council Members; leaders from Williams, Page, Sedona, Tuba City; Northern Arizona University faculty; park and wildlife officials, and more than 30 other community leaders have all endorsed and support the Our Land, Water, Wildlife and Parks campaign. The Nature Conservancy, Friends of Flagstaff’s Future, the Grand Canyon Trust, and the Trust for Public Land are conservation groups participating in the campaign.

“From the Navajo Parks — Little Colorado, Antelope Canyon and Grand Falls — to Cataract Park in Williams, county residents and tourists will gain a lot,” said Brad Ack, Grand Canyon Trust program director. “Together we can implement years of planning and hard work by many folks and elected officials who agree it’s now or never to purchase key wildlife habitats and wetlands, upgrade facilities at Fort Tuthill, and keep natural, undeveloped land as a buffer against the threat of development near Walnut Canyon-just to name a few,” Ack said. “These projects strengthen the gateway communities to the Grand Canyon. Voting yes now is a great investment in our region’s future — at the same time a yes vote goes a long way for our quality of life.”

“It’s a small price to pay to protect our forests, water, wildlife and parks,” said Becky Daggett, executive director of Friends of Flagstaff’s Future. “Coconino County residents have been planning for over a decade for how we want to protect our water quality and natural areas. This program is our golden opportunity to put those plans into action.”

For more information, project location maps, photographs, exact ballot language text, and more — please visit www.YesOnParks.com or call Amy LeGere at 928-600-1665. The Coconino County Parks and Open Space program is the first question on the Nov. 5 ballot after the candidates.

(Steele Wotkyns is Grand Canyon Trust Communications Manager.)

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