Tonto Natural Bridge State Park Rescued By Rim Country Again

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Tonto Natural Bridge State Park will not close in September as planned due to the financial support from the Towns of Star Valley and Payson as well as the Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge.

These partners have come together to help fund the operations of the park through September of 2011 and the park will stay open on the five-day-per week schedule, said Arizona State Parks Executive Director Renée Bahl.

"Star Valley is one of Arizona's newest towns with 36-square-miles of incorporated land in its boundaries," said Star Valley Mayor Bill Rappaport. "Our town leaders have voted to join the effort to keep the park open. We feel it is crucial because Star Valley's planning area is 100-square-miles and we are all dependent on tourism. Those thousands of visitors are extremely important for businesses so we have set aside $5,000 in our budget this year to support the State Park."

Payson Mayor Kenny Evans said, "For more than a year now we have been subsidizing the park to be sure it stays open. This State Park attracts 90,000 visitors to the area and generates $3.6 million per year in spending for all the surrounding communities.

"It is clear that our $20,000 investment will return millions to the economy and can't afford to lose a tourism attraction of this magnitude."

Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge President Bill Ensign said their group has committed $10,000, which is earned by volunteers through fund-raising activities.

"We are thrilled to be part of the solution to help the businesses in the surrounding towns and encourage everyone to come and enjoy the world's largest travertine bridge, " said Ensign. "We also welcome any new financial support that can help us keep the Park open into the future.”

Go to www.AZStateParks.com for more information about these partnerships and to get information about the September Board meeting.

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