- Associated Press - Saturday, August 9, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Interior Secretary Sally Jewell praised an Arizona park on Saturday as the ideal example of the benefits that can come from a longtime federal program that focuses on creating urban parks across the country.

“It’s evident it gets a lot of use from families and hikers,” Jewell told The Associated Press. “You certainly don’t feel like you’re in the middle of a big city. You feel like you’re out in the wild, which is really nice.”

Jewell spent the morning visiting South Mountain Park in Phoenix and was joined by U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor and Mayor Greg Stanton.

Phoenix was the last stop in a series of visits Jewell has been making around the country this week in support of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. As a city, Phoenix has received more than $10 million from the fund. Arizona has gotten $210 million over the years for parks and open spaces, Jewell said.

She has been pushing for Congress to renew the conservation program and give more funding from revenue generated by oil and gas.

“We’re starving a lot of our public lands. Yet, people care a lot about them,” Jewell said.

According to officials, South Mountain Park is the largest municipal park in the U.S. and considered a “model urban park.” The park received one of the fund’s earliest grants of $26,000 back in 1966, Jewell said.

During her visit, Jewell also met with a group of Boy Scouts who did their Eagle Scout projects in the park.

Jewell on Friday announced in New Mexico the completion of the Southwest’s first urban national wildlife refuge. Federal, state and local partners have acquired the lands needed to complete the 570-acre Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. The fund contributed nearly $6 million to the $18.5 million refuge.

She now heads back to New Mexico where she will spend Sunday talking to tribal officials. Then on Monday, she and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will attend a meeting on energy in Santa Fe.


Follow Terry Tang on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ttangAP

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