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.