Print Council supports archaeology idea
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 12 January 2011 00:00

The Camp Verde Town Council officially threw its support last week behind efforts to open an archaeological center on Main Street.

There were plenty of headlines when the U.S. Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. Some of the money was given to state governments to distribute.

Arizona has $2 million the state government was holding on to, but suddenly found itself having to find something to spend it on quickly.

To that end, the state decided to offer rural development grants through the Arizona Commerce Authority. There wasn’t much time. After a series of community meetings, Camp Verde Town Manager Russ Martin brought a proposal before the council from the Verde Valley Archaeology Center, a nonprofit group currently based more on ideas than brick and mortar.

The group hopes to change that and crafted a plan to try and get a piece of the $2 million in grant money to establish a comprehensive museum and archaeological visitors center in the Fort Verde Plaza shopping center.

The grant application requires town government approval, although the money will be administered by the archaeology organization if approved.

The group is asking for $400,000, money to be used for hiring a director and making improvements to the building, said Ken Zoll, the center’s treasurer. The owner of the building would also contribute to improvements the center would require.

If all goes well and the group should happen to get the money, Zoll said it is confident the center could be open by Labor Day weekend when tourists flock to the region and also in time for Fort Verde Days in early October.

That’s critical for the grant application, because an approved project needs to be up and running by the beginning of the federal fiscal year, which begins Saturday, Oct. 1.

“I think it’s a win-win for the non-renewable resources of the archaeology sites we have here in the area,” said James Graceffa, president of the center. In addition to providing a resource for the region’s archaeological heritage, the center could potentially bring some welcomed tourist dollars to Camp Verde.

The group has the backing of the National Park Service and the Yavapai-Apache Nation, Graceffa said, groups that will promote the center when it is up and running. With more than half a million people visiting nearby Montezuma Castle National Monument each year, he’s confident enough people would have an interest in visiting and supporting an archaeology center in downtown Camp Verde.

“Once here in Camp Verde, we hope they stay in our hotels and eat at our restaurants,” Graceffa said.

Zoll said if the grant application is successful, around $30,000 will be used to pay the lease and $100,000 will be used for audio and video equipment. Zoll outlined future plans to host films and film festivals at the center. Over $200,000 would be set aside for actual construction and renovations. The proposed center will initially be around 12,850 square feet.

Camp Verde Special Projects Director Matt Morris said this grant was rather unusual, in part because of the quick turn around time.

The application had to be on the state’s desk less than 48 hours after the council gave its unanimous support.

“The state is really on the hook to get this money out the door,” Morris said. “They need to get it out there for economic development in Arizona.”

Graceffa said the project could be successful because there’s no other facility in the Verde Valley that fills this particular role, something that’s needed given the rich archaeological record left behind by the area’s ancient inhabitants.