'Old Main'

Florence High School’s “Old Main” classroom building, now Florence Unified School District’s main office, was restored with the help of the Arizona Heritage Fund.

After a 10-year absence, the Arizona Heritage Fund is back — but without the state lottery funding to preserve and enhance Arizona’s historic, cultural and natural heritage.

At the Arizona Heritage Alliance board meeting on June 26, which was attended by state Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Paradise Valley, everyone agreed to work diligently to secure funding at the 2020 legislative session.

“We won’t give up until the State Parks Heritage Fund is 100 percent whole again,” Janice Miano, Arizona Heritage Alliance board president, said. “We’re thankful to our bill sponsors, all legislators and our friends for making great progress.”

Funding of $10 million would provide 50 percent ($5 million) to State Parks, and through a grant process, 30 percent ($3 million) for Historic Preservation, 10 percent ($1 million) for non-motorized trails and 10 percent ($1 million) on outdoor and environmental education.

From 1991 through 2006, Florence, Coolidge and Casa Grande received 30 Heritage Fund grants totaling $2,277,647. Since a local match was required, this doubled to a $4.5 million investment in Pinal County. It also helped save many historic properties, including the Chapel of the Gila, 1891 Pinal County Courthouse, Florence Silver King Hotel, Florence High School/Old Main, Clarke House, Harvey/Niemeyer House, Mandell’s Department Store and four residences in the Historic District in Florence; the Old Stone Church, the Woman’s Club, Mandel Meyer Building and Pioneer Market in Casa Grande; and the Woman’s Club in Coolidge.

In 1990, through a voter initiative, the Heritage Fund was created to provide funding for conservation and preservation throughout Arizona, resulting in up to $10 million a year from lottery funds going to Arizona State Parks. The purpose of the Arizona Heritage Alliance is to protect the Arizona Heritage Fund.

Unfortunately, due to the economic downturn, in 2009 State Parks and the Legislature were forced to discontinue the Heritage Fund. The Arizona Heritage Alliance has been working diligently ever since to get the State Parks portion of the Heritage Fund reinstated.

This tenacity proved successful in the 2019 legislative session when Senate Bill 1241 was introduced by McGee and co-sponsored by Sens. Paul Boyer, Heather Carter, Sine Kerr, Tony Navarrete, Lisa Otondo and Frank Pratt — and was signed by Gov. Doug Ducey on June 7. SB1241 restores the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund to be funded by grants, donations and direct appropriations until Arizona Lottery encumbrances are repaid and removed.

House Bill 2701 (state parks; lottery; heritage fund) was also introduced this session by Rep. Joanne Osborne, R-Buckeye, and co-sponsored by her House colleagues Andres Cano, Regina Cobb, David Cook, Tim Dunn, Charlene Fernandez, John Kavanagh and Ben Toma as well as Sen. Sine Kerr. Although this bill whizzed through committees and the House and Senate, it was held as a budget bill. Had it been approved, it would have provided full funding of $10 million from the Arizona Lottery — its original funding source from 1991 to 2009.

“It has been ten years since the State Parks Board canceled or suspended $11.7 million in Heritage Fund grants already awarded and contracted. It has been a long hard journey to restore the Heritage Fund, but we finally did it,” said Miano.

“This year, building on past efforts, hundreds of our members and friends voiced their support for one or both bills via the Legislature’s Request to Speak system and hundreds more communicated through phone calls, emails, letters or attendance at committee hearings,” Miano said.

Formed in 1992, the Arizona Heritage Alliance is a nonprofit 501c(3) organization that is funded with private donations, grants and memberships. The alliance’s mission is to protect, preserve and enhance Arizona’s historic, cultural and natural heritage by protecting the integrity and voter intent of the Game and Fish Heritage Fund; working to restore the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund; monitoring state legislative and agency activity; and educating Arizonans about the benefits of wildlife, open space, parks, and historic and cultural resources.


Bonnie Bariola is a member of the Board of Directors and secretary for the Arizona Heritage Alliance.

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