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Open Space Evaluation in Arizona
By Randy Gimblett
The University of Arizona School of Natural Resources and Environment worked closely with the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program thru 2009 on behalf of Arizona State Parks to learn more about the trends, issues, challenges and concerns regarding open space in the state of Arizona.
In 1998 Proposition 303, a ballot initiative, confirmed that Arizona voters value open space and are willing to pay for the cost of acquisition. Since 2000 Arizona State Parks has been responsible for administering the Growing Smarter State Trust Land Acquisition grant program which provides up to 50 percent of acquisition costs for eligible State Trust lands acquired at public auction.
The purpose of the acquisition grant program is to award grants from monies in the Land Conservation Fund “to conserve open spaces in or near urban areas and other areas experiencing high growth pressures.”In 2002 Governor Napolitano established the Growing Smarter Oversight Council to assess the effectiveness of the Growing Smarter legislative mandates.
In the Third Annual Report for the Growing Smarter Oversight Council, outcomes of their assessment are documented. Most of the report recommendations addressed needs for coordinated planning across jurisdictional boundaries and with stake holders, but there was little specific discussion about open space and acquisition.
In 2006, the oversight council presented their “Growing Smarter Oversight Council Guiding Principles for Arizona” report. That year, Governor Napolitano established the Governor's Growth Cabinet, consisting of state agency executive directors, to encourage coordinated, or at least complimentary, state, regional and local planning to achieve the goals expressed by Arizona residents.
Since 2006 little has been done to evaluate any effectiveness of the Growing Smarter Initiatives as they relate to open space. This study was undertaken to measure responses from planning departments in counties and communities regarding the planning for and acquisition of open space, as well as their compliance with requirements in the Growing Smarter Legislation.
Two surveys were constructed. The first was sent to county and local planning department administrators and staff to understand current and needed planning, policies, programs and facilities across the state. The second survey was sent to local, county, state and federal land managers and conservation non-profits to learn about management issues, needs funding, partnerships and user groups.
Questions in these surveys are based on the Growing Smarter and Growing Smarter Plus Acts, of 1998 and 2000 respectively, reports from the oversight council, and the Growing Smarter State Trust Land Acquisition Grant program administered by Arizona State Parks.Many issues emerged from the survey results, identification of pressing needs for consideration of open space grant program development and coordination with other local, state and federal agencies related to open space.
For more information on this research work please contact Randy Gimblett (firstname.lastname@example.org).