Arizona State Parks director Bryan Martyn spoke to Lake Havasu Marine Association members Wednesday (Aug. 15) with one message — a new era has dawned with Arizona State Parks. And with it, promise of greatly improved state parks and agency-partnership relationships, Today’s News-Herald, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., reported.

“I think we’re doing great things,” Martyn said. “There’s a complete shift in how Arizona State Parks approaches problems. We can no longer open the gates and charge a few bucks. I need to charge a fair fee to operate … It’s a business decision.”

Martyn said the state agency, which is now operating as a nonprofit and 100 percent unfunded by the state’s general fund, needs to identify a strategy to make money — at all the parks. And the best solution at this time is to enhance the parks in a way that is fiscally achievable, and within their power.

“We are no longer on the general fund, at all,” Martyn said. “We are the only one in the country … we were taken off the general fund with no warning. We cut half our staff. And it’s a different experience in the parks because of it.”

Director Notes Priorities

The orange stars mark the location of state parks in ArizonaLake Havasu State Park is located in a cluster of parks in the blue section in the western side of the state.

The agency’s No. 1 priority is to protect the natural resources of Arizona; the second is to make those resources available to citizens.

“We have an opportunity in front of us,” Martyn said. “We need to take that resource and make it as profitable and as endearing to our public as we can.”

Lake Havasu State Park was noted by Martyn as a front-running contender for ASP’s West Coast Parks. Lake Havasu State Park also is in the top three most popular parks in the state, along with Slide Rock State Park, in Sedona, and Kartchner Caverns State Park, in Benson.

Cattail Cove State Park, 12 miles south of Lake Havasu City, was the first park to receive white sand beaches.

Lake Havasu State Park was the second.

The white sand is special sand from a quarry in Nevada. It is a heavier, denser material and less susceptible to blowing away. In all, $12,000 was spent on the project.

“We are doing great things at this specific park here, but we’ve got a long way to go,” Martyn said. “You’re going to see big changes. This is the first step in how to improve parks along our West Coast to make money. We are going to improve all the parks along the West Coast.”

During the meeting, Martyn said he already has taken steps to repair and renew relationships with Lake Havasu City officials.

“There might still be animosity but we’ve no choice to move forward as partners, and we are,” Martyn said.

Director Looks Ahead

During an interview with Today’s News-Herald, Martyn said in a year’s time change will be evident.

“Lake Havasu State Park is going to look a lot different next year at this time,” he said. “It will have a completely different look from the water’s edge.”

Martyn said the white sand project goes a long way in creating that beach experience. Later, more trees may be strategically planted for shade purposes and more brush will be cleared.

Jim Salscheider, executive director of Lake Havasu Marine Association, said the association’s membership fully supports Martyn’s intentions.

“Someday Lake Havasu State Park will become the ultimate beachfront destination,” Salscheider said. “We’ve had endless discussions about (white sand beaches) but with no traction at all. And along comes Bryan with his new state parks philosophy. He wants to please the customers, and the boaters are the customers, we’re delighted. We are so happy he’s here. The boaters are going to be so happy.”

Doug Traub, CEO/president of Lake Havasu City Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the white sand beach fits with a study conducted last year that identified that beaches, and Lake Havasu State Park, are the biggest draw for visitors to Lake Havasu City.

“We did the study one year ago,” Traub said Thursday. “Lake Havasu State Park is the city’s number one attraction.”

CVB efforts to track social media posts and interaction determined “park” is one of the most frequently used words, he said.

“It’s a funnel into our community,” Traub said. “The majority of boats on Lake Havasu are going through there.”

“The No. 1 activity (for visitors) is swimming and sunbathing,” Traub said. “I don’t think we can underestimate the beaches and other recreational amenities. We would love to see the city move forward with similar action at Rotary Beach and London Bridge Beach … we are behind the times in how we treat our most important amenity.”

Salscheider said the study identified the highest priorities as sand beaches, overnight boat parking, and more boat launch ramps.

During the meeting, Martyn also said Contact Point is on his radar for development, too.

“We are going to develop Contact Point, that’s a great piece of property,” Martyn said. “We’re not going to be a park ranger that designs contact point … but the sky is the limit.”