Print Park ranger sees a copper-colored future
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Monday, 13 February 2012 00:00

Monica Meinke is used to living in Army towns.

Born a military brat to a father in the U.S. Army, Meinke spent much of the first part of her life traveling where Uncle Sam sent them, including New York and Germany.

Meinke’s been in Minneapolis and Chicago, but for the past nine years she’s called Arizona home and today, it’s the Verde Valley.

Monica Meinke carefully gathers up the flag tp bring it in for the evening at Fort Verde State Historic Park on Friday, Feb. 3. A 2010 Mingus Union High School graduate studying for an associate of Arts degree at Yavapai College, Meinke started as a part time ranger at the fort back in Sept. 2011.Meinke once again finds herself working in another Army town — a 19th century army town, at any rate.

The U.S. Army left Camp Verde long ago, but people over the years have endeavored to preserve a little of what they left behind.

Meinke is the newest park ranger working at Fort Verde State Historic Park, a part-time position she’s held since September.

Her title is technically park ranger specialist, which in reality means Meinke has to specialize in a little bit of everything depending on what’s going on that day.

“I’ve got a background in sales and in construction,” Meinke said.

That’s good for when Meinke has to work the front desk and gift shop or when she has to join in the more physical efforts required to maintain the aging wood and adobe buildings that the army never intended to leave up permanently.

Meinke said she enjoys the work even if she has to field unexpected and occasionally oddly specific questions from visitors.

Not long after she was first hired by Arizona State Parks, Meinke worked at her first Fort Verde Days event.

“I’ve never helped run an event like that before,” Meinke said, adding that dressing up in period clothing wasn’t exactly her favorite part of the experience.

The job also comes with the park ranger uniform and badge, which Meinke said she likes wearing and is useful if you want to be mistaken for a police officer by little kids in the grocery store.

Meinke stays busy even when she’s not answering questions about the fort. She’s working on a degree from Yavapai College as well as helping her family set up a copper art museum and antiques business in Clarkdale.

In fact, it was the area’s rich copper history that eventually brought her out to the Verde Valley.

“It’s been in the family,” Meinke said. “My grandfather started collecting pieces years ago.”

A handful of people, including Meinke, have been working when they can to eventually open the museum in an old Clarkdale school building.

It’s tough work, Meinke said, especially with so few people working in a building that’s was in pretty bad shape to begin with.

Tearing up flooring, replacing electrical wiring, removing old white boards attached with liquid nails, Meinke said there always seems to be another labor-intensive task to keep them busy.

Meinke said they hope to have the museum open by December to display all sorts of copper and copper-related art.

Copper is the metal that gave Meinke her previous sales experience, working at antique shows here and there over the years.

In the meantime, visitors might find Meinke at the fort practicing her painting.

“Well, not artistic painting — more like drywall,” Meinke said.