Monday, March 1, 2010

Lost Dutchman State Park

March 1, 2010 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The magnificent and spectacular beauty of Lost Dutchman State Park that we know may be lost forever if the Arizona State Legislature continues its present agenda. The park provides an active window whereby we can interact with the beauty of the western bajada and facade of Superstition Mountain. If the legislature continues to sweep funds from the park and heritage fund it will eventually close most state parks.

The historic perspective on Lost Dutchman State Park dates back to 1967.
A historic perspective on Lost Dutchman State Park dates back to 1967 when the Bureau of Land Management developed three hundred and twenty acres of desert land immediately west of Superstition Mountain as a recreation area. The BLM created picnic sites with tables and a few campsites. On September 13, 1977 the three hundred and twenty acre site was turned over to the State of Arizona and became part of the Arizona State Park system.

Ron Kraig became the first park manager and the park was opened on December 5, 1977. Kraig was park manager for about four years when Bob Sherman took over in 1984. Sherman remained manager for twenty-four years guiding the construction projects within the park and caring for it continuous needs. Under his leadership the park became a nationally known destination for hikers and campers from around the world. Today the park is one of the premier state parks in the United States. Bob Sherman retired in 2008, and Tom Fisher became park manager. From December 5, 1977 continuous improvements were made by park personal creating one of Arizona's finest public state parks.

The park has approximately 8 miles of hiking trails. There are about 3.2 miles of paved roads in the park and 72 overnight camping sites. There are 3 group ramadas for picnics, 13 single ramadas for picnics and 25 other picnic sites. There are two restrooms and one shower building. There are three trailheads within the park to access the Superstition Wilderness Area. There are a variety of activities including moonlight walks, ranger guided hikes, and a Junior Ranger program. These programs are active during October thru April.

The state park system has very well trained park managers and employees who fully understand the systems required to manage a public park. The park has many highly specialized tasks that must be properly managed. These tasks include managing and maintaining the septic transfer system, water system, the trails, the fences, the roads, the parking areas, the campsites, RV sites and the ecosystem of the park.

The employees of the park are highly trained in management skills and the duties of park rangers. All park employees and volunteers need to be knowledgeable about the history, fauna, flora and legend of the area. This is a unique park where visitors have a multitude of questions to be answered and guidance about hiking the parks trails. In addition to all the numerous activities of a park the employees must work with the many campers and RV'ers that spend days and weeks staying at the park during the prime winter months, November through April.

This unique park setting is extremely beneficial to the community of Apache Junction and all the communities of eastern portion of the Salt River Valley. Day hikers come from around the valley, the nation and the world weekly to hike the many trails of Lost Dutchman State Park. The park's trail system feeds into the Superstition Wilderness Area trail system that is part of the Tonto National Forest trail system.

The wilderness trail system connects with the Arizona Trail System in the eastern portion of the wilderness. Visitors come from all over the world for the unique view of Superstition Mountain from the park grounds. They also enjoy the parks camping facilities and trail system. Park trails lead visitors into the beauty of this unique American wilderness area.

Many people claim Superstition Mountain is second only to the Grand Canyon as the most visited, painted and photographed landmark in Arizona. The Superstition Wilderness Area attracts almost a hundred thousand people annually from around the nation and the world. In addition, thousands people visit the area primarily for camping and hiking from the Salt River Valley's communities.

Presently, with the severe economic crisis that faces the State of Arizona all of the state parks could eventually be closed permanently. The closing of the parks will only increase the economic crisis this state is facing. The enormous numbers of tourist and residents these parks attract to the state will be lost. The economic influx that Salt River Valley communities experience as the results of this park being in their area is significant. The community of Apache Junction estimates about four million dollars in tourist dollars will be lost annually in the immediate area if the park is closed.

This loss will eventually impact the entire community in some way. Maybe we should be asking ourselves; how can we save our community the loss this enormous economic benefit? Tourism is a very important economic factor in our community. The loss of our park will result in lost revenue for the community which eventually will lead the closure of more businesses that we have learn to depend on for services.

There are several scenarios as to what may happen. The park will be closed down and eventually the land will revert back to the Bureau of Land Management and then could be transferred to the Department of Agriculture and Tonto National Forest for management. There is an enormous difference between the philosophy of state parks and federal lands. A state park encourages the use of the land and the federal government tries to control the use of the land by closing many areas to public use. It is doubtful the forest service would manage the area as a public park. The future of Lost Dutchman State Park is in the hands of those who find this unique treasure an important part of this community. For more information, contact the Arizona State Park Foundation at (602) 920-4505 or