|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Wednesday, 02 June 2010 01:00|
The volunteer program that has helped keep Fort Verde State Historic Park open in the face of massive budget cuts to the state’s park system has been under way for several weeks now, and it seems to be working well, Park Manager Sheila Stubler said.
The Town of Camp Verde put up several thousand dollars to keep the park open after Arizona State Parks announced it was going to shut the fort down, along with many other state parks, indefinitely.
The money has helped keep some staff on hand to run the park, but it’s the volunteers who stepped forward that have made keeping the park open a reality.
Valarie House works in the town’s public works department and serves as the town’s liaison to the fort. House reported last week there are currently 45 volunteers approved by the state parks board to work at the fort, and they do everything from making physical repairs to helping to run the park’s front office.
There were a few kinks to work out at first, Stubler said, while everyone got adjusted to what they would be doing at the fort.
“The hardest thing to do is to sort out everybody’s talents and figure out what they can be doing,” Stubler said, adding she was grateful to town employees for helping to make the transition relatively easy.
Some volunteers come to work several times a week, others just a couple of times a month, but everyone’s assistance is valuable, Stubler said.
The volunteers come from Camp Verde and the surrounding area, people like Carol Dvorak and her husband, George.
“We were in the right place at the right time,”Carol Dvorak said. “I also convinced my husband that his talents could be used.”
According to House’s report to Town Council, George Dvorak has been coordinating people with the skills to carry out grounds keeping and physical repairs and improvements.
The volunteers’ project list has a number of important tasks, including fixing drainage issues and repairs to the fort’s aging adobe walls. After all, the U.S. Army of the 19th century didn’t build Fort Verde with an eye toward making it last until 2010.
It’s efforts like these that have help keep the fort viable as a tourist attraction in this era of crippling budget crunches. Camp Verde was one of the first towns to undertake a financial partnership with the state to keep its park open after elected leaders made it clear closing the fort just wasn’t an option.
Since then, many other towns around Arizona have followed suit, including a handful with agreements approved at the most recent Arizona State Parks Board meeting, bringing the total number of parks to remain open to 23.
“We have been successful in finding solutions to keep state parks open, but these are only short-term measures,” Arizona Parks Board Chairman Reese Woodling said. “It is a miracle that these communities have raised the funds to keep these parks open so far this year. Arizonans should be proud that so many concerned individuals have stepped forward to lead the communities to cobble together these monies.”
Even though Fort Verde is still closed now during the early part of the week, House said volunteers who have been around have urged visitors to the fort to come back when it’s open.
Attendance is actually up a bit, according to House, with around 2,700 visitors over the months of March and April.
In the meantime, Stubler said the fort is trying to come up with special events to be held each month in an attempt to bring more visitors to the park.
For more information, call the fort at 567-3275.
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