Big changes at Parker area state parks amid controversy

There are big changes in progress at state parks on the Parker Strip and Lake Havasu amid an administrative controversy for Arizona State Parks & Trails.

Parks Director Sue Black and her top deputy were both suspended on Thursday after the state Attorney General’s Office opened a criminal investigation of the agency. The probe comes over allegations that Parks repeatedly developed state land without regard for laws protecting Native American and other archaeological sites.

During the last state budget cycle, Parks was allocated $2.5 million for the redevelopment of Buckskin Mountain State Park, with Phase 1 happening now, Phase 2 next year and Phase 3 the year after that for a total of approximately $7 million.

The plans include new RV and cabin sites, electrical service and water upgrades, new shower and restroom facilities, extension of the north day use beach area, revitalization of the parking lot, installation of a new boat ramp and restoration of the ramadas and shoreline.

But the concession at Buckskin, including the restaurant, boutique and arcade, is gone for good. The operator, River Island Market, which has had the contract for decades, along with one at River Island State Park, must demolish it in accordance with their agreement.

“The plan for remediation and removal of the facilities is in progress,” Parks Chief of Communications Michelle Thompson told Parker Live. “The space will be incorporated into redevelopment of the park at the appropriate time. Customer service will be at the forefront of our plans. To help with transition, Parks expanded the offerings at our existing park store.”

A woman with close ties to the company, Penny Younis, posted on Facebook about the closure.

“After 46 years Buckskin Market has closed its doors. The memories I have had here are immeasurable, and I want to thank all the people who have crossed my path along the river; family, friends, customers, rangers, employees and even my former first-graders and Brownie scouts who came on field trips.”

She added that there are plans for a future concession, “at Big Bend Resort across the river on the California side.”

The concession agreement at River Island State Park has also run its course, but a deal to keep it going is in underway, according to Thompson.

“The current operator has agreed to an annual contract with a renewal for up to five years,” she said.

La Paz County District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor said the concessions are a part of the river community, and it was very concerning to hear that they may be closing.

“People are disappointed to see the Buckskin Market go away, it’s been there for a very long time,” Minor told Parker Live. “And I heard plenty about River Island Market, people really felt that it would be a big loss if it were to disappear. We met with the Deputy Director of the State Parks, and it sounds like they may have worked something out. People need to remember that this area is its own ecosystem and you can’t just take something like this out of it without it having an effect. It’s an asset in the community.”

River Island Market includes a gas station, convenience store, groceries and a deli offering pizza, burgers and sandwiches.

A redevelopment at Cattail Cove State Park is also in the works, Thompson said.

“We are in the final phase of awarding a construction contract for the development of Upper Cattail Cove. This project includes a new entry road and biking lanes, new RV sites, cabins, electrical service, and new water and waste systems,” she added.


  1. Wow, grew up in Parker and helped build the boat ramp at buckskin back in the 70’s, spent a lot of time in the store and restaurant, hate to see them go.

  2. Julie B Borboa

    our favorite spot buckskin ????

  3. Where is the SLIF money for County, City and other water recreation projects? SLIF (State Lake Improvement Fund) brings in $6-8 million dollars a year that is supposed to be for grants to other entities for lake recreation projects. La Paz County used SLIF grants for La Paz Park improvements, Sheriff patrol boats, Sheriff’s Boating Safety Center, and other projects. Buckskin Fire used the grants for Fire boats and their Fire Stations. SLIF money comes 100% from Arizona Marine Fuel Taxes, paid for by boaters who get fuel at lake side marinas and land based gas stations. But State Parks is keeping ALL the money for themselves. Approximately $75 million dollars since they began hoarding the fund. State Parks will say that they use that money as the law allows, on lakes that permit motorized watercraft use, but what they won’t tell you, is that they take the proceeds from entrance and other fees at those parks for administrative purposes and to bolster other parks that don’t pull a profit. Boaters are paying for all those improvements (including the Parks bulldozing archaeological sites), and are again charged entrance and launch fees to use what they’ve already paid for. State Parks is only after the money and screwing their “partners” in the process.

  4. Jennifer Rosina Kanady

    Better than a casino being put there

  5. Sandy Kantor

    We’ve had a spot directly across from Buckskin for 50 years (at Big Bend). We’re going to miss the amenities across the way and I’m not to sure about its move to our side. Time will tell….

  6. Scott Kinman

    I guess no more pizza or bathing suits ????

  7. Mike Kirschner

    Does that mean we’ll all be hungry and naked

  8. Very sad, such a big part of River history!

  9. Elane Alewyn

    Oh NO, it means you just cross the river for pizza and bathing suits and sun glasses and tshirts and sandals!

  10. Elane Alewyn


  11. River Island market will sorely be missed, I’ve been gassing up my boats, stopping in on the way BACK from the lake for pizza an hot wings, they have the cleanest restrooms you’ll ever see, and the store is excellent for whatever you might need, like a bilge pump for the boat, ski lines, boat plugs, maybe a tool kit for the boat, or, how about a light pole for night running on the river, need ice ? they got it, a loaf of bread, jar of mustard, how about a fresh made breakfast burrito ?…..yep, got those also ! just about ANYTHING you’d need to stay on the water for a day or two till ya got home etc.,….NOW ya need any of the above mentioned it’s a loooooong drive BACK into town

  12. Kristine Barrett

    Very sad to see River Island Market closing. It served the homeowners up river for over 40 years. We will greatly miss the convenience of getting gas, picking up a forgotten food item and ice. Such a shame!

  13. Suzanne Wehman

    I’m very happy to hear that Sue Black has been suspended! She totally mishandled the closing of Sandpoint RV park! I hope Buckskin doesn’t suffer the same fate!

  14. Never ever trust the government to do the right thing, unless of course the right thing is building a bigger government entity to suck money

  15. Scott Engle

    Prob be nice til Lois cleans them our

  16. Johnny Aguilar

    What a bummer, I loved stopping there for some chips and salsa, cold margaritas

  17. Carol Geary

    Coolest spot on strip! ????????

  18. John that owns the market signed a new lease. The market isn’t going away but, Buckskin market is closed. It is so sad for everyone.

  19. Sarah Miller

    Noooo!! That’s so sad. The boys will be upset, no more ice cream! ????????????‍♀️

  20. Elaine Miller

    So sad. I wonder if anymore changes are taking place.

  21. Kim Simons

    Good to hear River Island might be saved. It’s a valuable asset to the community.

  22. To the people that believe that Arizona state parks receives slif funding. You are wrong. Arizona State parks work fully on gate fees and donations. Local tax payers can use la Paz County parks free of charge showing means of residency. As far as understood.

  23. Denny Scales, the bathrooms at River Island are 5 star and we need that and you have brought that to the attention of everyone too.

  24. Tearing that market and gas station down it absurd

  25. Jill, YOU are the one mistaken about SLIF. State Parks has taken every penny of SLIF since 2009. They even cancelled and held back money from already contracted projects that were 1/2 way completed. La Paz County taxpayers ended up paying over $80,000 for grading and paving Take-off Point after Parks pulled the funding.

    Here is an excerpt from a news article about (now) Sen. Borelli trying to restore SLiF funding to cities and counties in 2014. Unfortunately, it failed. As such, Parks is STILL keeping and spending every penny of SLIF money.

    “Arizona Representative Sonny Borrelli is sponsoring legislation to restore funding to the State Lake Improvement Fund. Money was transferred out of SLIF to Arizona State Parks when state revenues declined sharply in 2008. House Bill 2149 requires money deposited in the SLIF fund to be used exclusively for improvements to lakes and rivers.”

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