Colossal Cave finances questioned

2013-08-20T00:00:00Z 2013-08-26T15:39:28Z Colossal Cave finances questionedBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Colossal Cave Mountain Park will undergo an audit as soon as a criminal investigation into the shooting of a mountain lion earlier this year wraps up.

Supervisor Ray Carroll, whose district includes the county-owned park, agreed to delay the audit because two of those being investigated for the shooting have ties to the park’s management company.

Carroll released a three-page memo outlining a number of concerns about the current management and why he is calling for an audit.

Topping his list is a decline in visitors to the site. In 2010, more than 50,000 people visited the park, compared with fewer than 37,000 in 2012.

“A drop of more than 24 percent is certainly worrying,” Carroll said.

The company, according to Carroll, operated in the red in 2012, losing $42,371 despite a $100 a year lease with the county.

“The manager states that the Park has not made a profit since 2006. Gross income has fallen from $842,561 in 2007 to $726,112 in 2012,” Carroll wrote in a memo to his colleagues last week.

Carroll said he is unhappy with the reports coming from Escabrosa Inc., the nonprofit management company contracted with the county to run the park.

A fact-finding trip to the site only raised more concerns, he said.

“I am not satisfied with the numbers,” Carroll said. “I am not satisfied with the field trip I took out there and to see the deferred maintenance that has been occurring for years under the current management.”

Martie Maierhauser, director of Colossal Cave Mountain Park, did not respond to a request for comment.

Carroll agreed to delay his audit after concerns were raised it could interfere with the criminal investigation, but insisted it will be done.

“It is my intention to focus attention on the current operation of Colossal Cave Mountain Park and what this Board can do it improve it, not only in the management of the wildlife, but in performance of the park as a Pima County tourist attraction,” Carroll said.

Carroll said he expects the park to remain open for years to come despite its current financial problems.

He left the door open as to whether Escabrosa will continue running the operation after its current contract expires. The five-year contract with the company expires in 18 months.

“If we have to change operators to continue the operation, we will do that,” Carroll said.

The shooting of the mountain lion only adds to his concerns about mismanagement, he said.

“I think the shooting of a mountain lion on county lands by employees or subcontractors of Escabrosa, a company we entrusted, by lease, to manage our park, is a travesty,” wrote Carroll.

Three Tucson men face several misdemeanor charges in connection with the June 10 shooting of a female mountain lion at the park. Two of them have direct ties to the management company.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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