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Supervisors Urge Sen. McCain to Reauthorize Heritage Area

Posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014 10:30 pm | Updated: 1:02 pm, Mon Mar 3, 2014.

BY MARA KNAUB @YSMARAKNAUB

County supervisors voiced their support of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area by adopting a resolution calling for its reauthorization for another 15 years.

Sen. John McCain intends to introduce legislation allowing the Heritage Area to continue to do work along the riverfront and manage the East Wetlands and the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park and Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park through 2030.

The Heritage Area’s initial authorization sunsets on Sept. 30, 2015, and Congress must reauthorize the Heritage Area in order for it to continue to operate with the support of National Park Service funding, matched by local funds.

However, McCain requires a show of support from the community, in particular the city and county, said Charles Flynn, executive director of the Heritage Area.

“Over the last 13 years we’ve made a lot of progress on the riverfront,” Flynn said.

Congress designated the Heritage Area on October 2000, and a nonprofit organization was established in February 2002 to implement the Heritage Area’s plan, which was approved by the Secretary of the Interior in December 2002.

The resolution points out that the plan envisioned improvements to seven miles of Yuma’s riverfront, including parks, trails, wetlands restoration and encouraging private investment in Yuma’s historic downtown and riverfront.

Since then, the Heritage Area has undertaken a major transformation of Yuma’s riverfront, which has improved Yuma’s quality of life and contributed to its economic growth, according to the resolution.

It noted that this has been accomplished through partnerships with businesses, nonprofits and governmental agencies at all levels.

More recently, the Heritage Area led the effort to save the Territorial Prison and Quartermaster Depot and now manages them on behalf of the community and Arizona State Parks.

“The state parks were about to close,” Flynn noted. “The state left us with a $110,000 annual operating deficit and we’ve turned it around.

“The transformation at the prison has been nothing more than amazing,” he added.

Now the Heritage Area is considering a potential 25-year agreement with the state to continue running the parks.

The funding received through the National Park Service has been leveraged with other local, private and state funds at a ratio of 5:1.

The 400 acres that have been restored need maintenance, Flynn said. This past year the Heritage Area, City of Yuma, Bureau of Reclamation, Quechan Indian Tribe and Arizona Game and Fish entered into a 50-year agreement for maintenance of the swamp lands.

Under the agreement, the Bureau is paying 70 percent of the maintenance costs and the other entities each contribute 10 percent.

On behalf of the county, Chairman Greg Ferguson signed a letter of support to McCain. The letter noted that the supervisors “are particularly appreciative of the way the Heritage Area has worked in close partnership with so many sectors of our community. It has all been based on voluntary and cooperative efforts with business, farmers, nonprofit groups and government agencies.”

Ferguson noted that “changes along the Colorado River can only be described as amazing.”

He also pointed out that the way the National Park Service funds are being leveraged is “a really cost effective investment.”

 “We need the Heritage Area to continue to manage the Yuma East Wetlands and the state historic parks, so that the riverfront continues to thrive,” Ferguson added.

Supervisor Russell McCloud acknowledged Flynn’s efforts. “The changes are striking and it didn’t happen without great leadership.”