Print Tourists still come to Camp Verde
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 26 January 2011 00:00

Gloria Kariya was taking in the sights and history Friday, Jan. 14, at Fort Verde State Historic Park.

“The weather’s been just beautiful,” Kariya said. Throw on top of that an interest she’s always had in the history of the West when it comes to the interaction between the settlers and the Indians. Kariya said she thought the preserved remains of the 19th century military post were “very nice.”

Gloria Kariya, a visitor to Camp Verde from Layton, Utah, explores the buildings at Fort Verde State Historic Park on Friday, Jan. 21. Although visitation to the park has remained steady during the second quarter of fiscal year 2010-11, the number of visitors in December 2010 dropped 43 percent from the number of visitors to the fort in December 2009.A resident of Layton, Utah, Kariya was in town visiting her friend Mary Ellen Cook, a resident who splits her time between Camp Verde and Alaska.
Kariya said this was her first time at the fort, despite several visits to the town.

The fort hopes to keep visitors like Kariya, and of every other stripe, coming back to the park, especially when the state parks system is facing uncertain economic times.

The Town of Camp Verde already helped financially to keep the park open for the past year, and Park Manager Sheila Stubler said a new agreement needs to be worked out.

“We’re just taking things one day at a time,” Stubler said.

The park continues to depend on its volunteer program, and despite a recent report prepared by a consulting firm recommending privatization of state parks, Stubler said the fort was moving forward with special events like the upcoming Buffalo Soldier weekend and other projects like renovations to some of the buildings on site.

Stubler gave a report on activities and visitation to the fort last week covering the second quarter of the fiscal year, October through December 2010.

Visitation was up significantly in October compared with the same month last year, with 1,906 people coming through the doors compared with 1,445. The number held just about even in November, 641 compared to 640, but December visitation was down with 439 compared to 814 a year prior. Still, the fort managed to pull in more revenue thanks to sales at the gift shop.

The fort also held several special events, including a Victorian Christmas celebration and living history presentations.
While the fort is a large draw for tourists to downtown, the Camp Verde Visitor Center wants to promote the town for all it has to offer.

During the second quarter of fiscal year 2010-11, the visitor center saw a 15 percent increase in visitation over the same time in 2009, with 1,688 visitors.

Most of those visitors stopped by in October, with 95 coming in on the Saturday of Fort Verde Days alone, Chamber of Commerce Director Tracie Schimikowsky said.

The largest increase in visitors came from people who live in Arizona, Schimikowsky said, continuing a trend.

“We’ve been seeing that consistently over the past year,” Schimikowsky said. “We’ve also done more with in-state advertising.”

That advertising includes everything from spots in a Phoenix visitors guide to a Canadian magazine aimed at grandparents. Canadians constitute a good portion of the recreational vehicle tourists, Schimikowsky said, especially this time of year when our neighbors to the north flee the cold.

The calender year 2010 saw more than 8,300 people visit the downtown Main Street office, Schimikowsky said.

The chamber has been focusing on promoting Camp Verde as not only a great destination for outdoor and other activities, but also as a base from which visitors can explore the Verde Valley and Northern Arizona.

The average stay for regular visitors is three nights, Schimikowsky said. For RV tourists, that number jumps to 36.

The town was also recently host to a group of international travel writers whom the visitor center hopes will help spread the word about Camp Verde to a wider audience.