Fort Verde will be staying open at least through the end of June while the town and state explore possible alternatives in the face of another tight budget year.
When the Arizona Legislature effectively gutted large portions of the Arizona State Park system’s budget over a year ago, several parks were faced with possible closure.
Fort Verde State Historic Park was one of those, but the town stepped up to the plate to keep the historic heart of downtown up and running with a combination of a cash infusion and a massive effort to organize local volunteers.
Other towns and communities followed suit and formed partnerships with the park service to keep their respective parks open as well.
The town initially put up some cash to keep the park open for a couple of months until a more official arrangement could be reached. The town and park system drafted a one-year agreement that involved around $75,000 from the town and $30,000 from Yavapai County.
The agreement expires this month; last week at its March 2 meeting the Camp Verde Town Council voted to put up more cash to keep the fort open through the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year, June 30.
That’s going to take $26,250, according to town records. It’s not a surprise expense, however. The town planned on this possibility and set aside the money when it crafted the current year’s budget.
Representatives from the town and park service will be meeting to discuss what future options to keep the fort open could be put on the table, Town Manager Russ Martin said.
That could lead to alternatives to the current arrangement, but Martin said he doesn’t yet know what those alternatives could be.
“We’re going to work and try to find those options,” Martin said. “We’ll be working until the end when we have to ask, ‘What does the town have to do to make this happen?’”
A consulting firm recently sent a study to the state parks board looking at the feasibility of privatizing some or all of the operations of parks across the state. While no action has been taken in that direction, the park system’s governing board will likely consider several options as long as their operating budget remains constrained.
In the meantime, Fort Verde Park Manager Sheila Stubler says the staff and volunteers are just taking things one day at a time.