Print Fort Verde park won’t close yet
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 12:21

Fort Verde has avoided the chopping block — at least for now.

The historic Camp Verde landmark was one of eight state parks recommended for closure to help plug a hemorrhaging Arizona State Parks budget.

The eight parks, including Riordan, Lyman Lake, Homolovi Ruins, McFarland, Oracle, Tubac and the Yuma Quartermaster Depot, only account for 6 percent of annual visitation to the state parks’ system.

Fort Verde is the only state park currently facing the risk of closure; parks in Cottonwood and Jerome are not on the list.

Last week, the park system’s Board of Directors decided to hold off on shutting down the parks to try and come up with alternate measures to close their $650,000 budget hole, a result of state cutbacks in the face of severe financial deficits.

The issue is expected to be raised at the board’s next meeting Friday, Feb. 20, in Phoenix.

The fort was never built by the U.S. Army to last, but a group of citizens, looking to the future, helped preserve the last four 19th century buildings until they were transferred to Arizona State Parks nearly four decades ago.

If the park were to close, it’s unclear what would happen. The land and buildings could possibly resort to private ownership under agreements signed when the park service first took over the fort.

If the park service can avoid closing the state parks, they may look to other measures like cutting jobs or days of operation.

Already at Fort Verde, the park has lost its part-time employees; a potluck farewell luncheon was planned this past Friday.

Fort Verde Park Manager Sheila Stubler said that everyone was simply taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the park’s future.

In the meantime, the park is moving ahead with a current renovation projects unless the state says otherwise, Stubler said.

Park volunteer Peggy Morris was more vocal about her opinions about what the state parks’ board should do.

“They need to start at the top and cut the highest salaries,” Morris said. “They need to leave the park open and leave the people who keep them running from day-to-day alone.”

Morris said she was afraid that if the park were to shut its doors, the buildings might be subject to vandalism. She’s also afraid of what would happen to the park’s extensive library of information and the historical artifacts kept on-site.

The Camp Verde Town Council voted last week to send a letter to the state, urging it to keep the fort open; despite the state’s budget woes, the fort draws thousands of people to town who spend their money in local shops and restaurants.

Town Manager Mike Scannell suggested that the entire community should write their legislators if they are concerned over the future of the town.
Mayor Tony Gioia said he didn’t think the state park’s board was really intending to close the fort, but felt the town should be proactive in trying to protect it just in case.

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