Print Fort Verde remains open for another year
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Saturday, 02 July 2011 00:00

The Town of Camp Verde is moving forward with efforts to keep Fort Verde State Historic Park open for another year, but the local government can’t afford to keep spending as much money to do so.

The Town Council approved an agreement with Arizona State Parks at its June 22 meeting to keep the historical attraction in the center of town open from Friday, July 1, through June 30, 2012, the dates of the upcoming fiscal year.

Yavapai County will still be providing $30,000 to the town to keep the fort open, Arizona State Parks employee Ray Warren said, but the town has had to reduce its own financial contribution.

Last year the town provided around $75,000 of taxpayer dollars to help keep the fort open in an agreement that relied heavily on the establishment of a volunteer program to help keep up with the day-to-day operations of the fort.

Fort Verde State Historic Park volunteers Paul Bueker and Dotty Bast price books while staffing the front desk Thursday, June 23. The Town of Camp Verde is considering changes to an existing  agreement with the fort which currently has the state providing one and a half paid positions for the park supplemented by approximately 30 volunteers.This year the town is offering $45,000 in funding, along with an agreement to provide town employees to the fort to help keep things running.

“We can’t continue to operate as we have given our current financial situation,” said Town Manager Russ Martin. Martin said he wasn’t sure how the new plan would turn out for the town, but he hoped it would provide a framework that would “keep this asset for the community open.”

The 19th century military post, which has been operated by the state since the 1970s, faced a potential shutdown last year after the state Legislature made sweeping cuts to Arizona State Parks’ budget. Camp Verde was the first town to step up to the table to try and broker an agreement that would keep its park open.

The new agreement, once approved by the state parks board, would provide about 700 hours in staff time from town employees.

That could include everything from running the register to providing maintenance for the park, Warren said.

The agreement also spells out that the state will not be able to provide funding for any capital improvements at the park over the course of the fiscal year. The fort’s grounds and buildings would also be made available to the town for use in special events, including potential gatherings like chamber of commerce mixers or candlelight tours. The town doesn’t keep the same hours as the fort, Martin said, but the use of town employees would be spread out.

There might be some special events where town employees are needed to help out at the fort, Martin said, and there might be weeks at a time when no town assistance is required.

The volunteer program would also need to continue.

“There’s still a very huge need for volunteers,” Martin said.

“It’s important to keep it open,” said Rick Knotts, a regional manager with Arizona State Parks. “Not only to preserve that historical treasure, but tourism does drive the economic engine.” Knotts said that keeping the fort open to the public left open the possibility for visitors to spread their money around to other local businesses and generate dollars for the local community.

The council is facing a tough budget year, but the vote was unanimous to try and provide what support it could to the fort.

“The fort is a vital part of our community,” said Councilman Brice George. “I’m definitely for this.”

Martin said the agreement was the result of months of discussion with Arizona State Parks.

The state parks board hadn’t approved the agreement as of press time, but Warren said he was sure it would pass as soon as board members received word of Camp Verde’s approval.