- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) - A proposal that would allow New Mexico State Parks to stop patrolling thousands of acres around Navajo Lake is yet another example of states forcing more work onto local governments, San Juan County officials said.

County officials are up in arms over a proposal to reduce the area overseen by parks personnel. The idea could significantly eat into the county budget, San Juan County Executive Kim Carpenter said. County commissioners intend to pass a resolution at their next meeting condemning the proposal, the Farmington Daily Times reported (http://bit.ly/21Rd7CI) Saturday.

Under the proposal, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office could potentially be forced to patrol 15,000 more acres of land by the end of the year.

“Here we are again,” County Undersheriff Shane Ferrari said. “The state is pushing more on us - they are taking our funding - but they are pushing more on us and giving up their ownership in this area because it’s not profitable.”

New Mexico State Parks contends that they do not have the manpower to enforce the area. According to State Parks Deputy Director Toby Velasquez, there are four park officers assigned to a territory that includes nearly 20,000 acres of shoreline and 13,000 surface acres of navigable waters. The proposal would put the agency in charge of roughly 4,400 acres near Navajo Dam.

“We want to focus our resources on state parks,” Velasquez said. “We are not a large agency. We don’t have a lot of people out there. So we want their energy to be focused on the areas with the most need, where people are boating, camping and fishing.”

State parks spokeswoman Beth Wojahn said data shows that park officers will still be responding to most of the incidents around Navajo Lake State Park. In 2015, 81 citations or warnings were issued. Of those, 71 were in areas that would stay under state control, Wojahn said.

The proposal is still subject to a public hearing before any boundary changes can be made.

“This is a proposal that is still a work in progress, and we are certainly going to work with our partners to ensure that we have a good position moving forward and no one feels that they are carrying an extra burden,” Velasquez said.

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Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.daily-times.com

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