Nearly 60 Acres on Verde River Added to the Coconino National Forest
The Trust for Public Land, the U.S. Forest Service and the Town of Camp Verde today announced the permanent protection of 58 acres on the upper Verde River by adding the land to the Coconino National Forest. The property lies in the Town of Camp Verde and also within the boundaries of the Coconino National Forest at the meeting point of the Verde River and Beaver Creek, one of the river’s important tributaries.
“We are thrilled to announce the permanent protection of this property along one of the last free flowing rivers in Arizona,” said Michael Patrick, Senior Project Manager for The Trust for Public Land. “Aside from the many wildlife and habitat benefits, this land helps the Town of Camp Verde further its recreation and economic development goals and will provide an incredible opportunity for people to get out in nature and enjoy the beauty of the Verde River and Coconino National Forest.”
The Town and Forest Service plan to connect the new property via recreational trails along the river and creek and to link with a larger network of trails planned in the national forest, including a trail connection to the Town’s nearby Rezzonnico Park and its new Camp Verde Sports Complex. The protection of this land is one outcome of the vision described in the Town’s Verde River Recreation Master Plan, a community-based plan approved by Town Council in 2016 and which described the establishment of more riverside trails as a major goal.
“This is a significant step in making the town’s River Recreation Master Plan a reality. In securing this one parcel we will accomplish the community’s goals of being able to access the river, hike and bike from park-to-park along the river corridor and add to our inventory of open space,” said Camp Verde Economic Development Director Steve Ayers. “We are grateful for all the partnerships that made it happen.”
This property is located within an area along 17 miles of the Verde River and portions of Beaver Creek and Clear Creek that Audubon designated as a new important bird area in 2019 and is part of a larger plan to promote and enhance the eco-tourism benefits to the local communities. The property includes designated critical habitat for multiple federally-listed species including southwestern willow flycatcher, loach minnow, razorback sucker, spikedace, northern Mexico gartnersnake, and narrow-headed gartersnake, and proposed critical habitat for yellow-billed cuckoo.
In order to return the property to a more natural condition and enable the Forest Service to add it to the national forest, The Trust for Public Land had a number of existing buildings demolished and removed from the property after purchasing the land in 2018. Additionally, the Town of Camp Verde assisted by removing a large steel warehouse and metal pole barn, both which will be reassembled at its new Camp Verde Sports Complex and used as part of the operations and management of that new community park.
“We are thankful for the partner organizations that came together to add this property into the public trust. The Verde River and its tributaries are among the most important areas for conservation in the Verde Valley. With this acquisition the Forest Service will continue to work with partners to protect natural and cultural resources and provide for recreation access,” said Amy Tinderholt, District Ranger for the Coconino National Forest, Red Rock Ranger District.
The purchase was completed with the assistance of the Catena Foundation, which made a low interest loan so The Trust for Public Land could buy the property in 2018 and hold it until the Forest Service was ready to completed its acquisition. During the past two years, the Foundation also made investments on the property for riparian restoration to replace tamarisk and giant reed with native cottonwoods and willows along the river and creek – with the assistance of nonprofit Friends of the Verde River – and in trails work to design and construct recreational trails on the land.
“This effort took an incredible amount of vision, cooperation, and good will among partners, and we are proud to have been part of it. The property now boasts restored riparian habitat as well as a 2.2-mile multi-use trail loop which can connect the Town of Camp Verde with many miles of future trails. Camp Verde locals and visitors alike will enjoy new access to area rivers and trails, improved riverside habitat, and increased recreational opportunity, which will benefit community health and the economy,” said Mike Wight, Restoration and Trails Program Officer for the Catena Foundation.
This project is part of The Trust for Public Land’s Verde River Program, which is working along the river and its major tributaries to protect and restore critical properties and create equitable access to outdoor recreation. This project would not have been possible without support from Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and the J.W. Kieckhefer Foundation.
The addition of this land to the national forest was made possible through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a funding source used by federal agencies to acquire critical land inholdings and which is derived from the federal government’s share of offshore oil and gas production royalties to reinvest in protecting our nation’s natural resources. This fund also provides support to states to grant out to local communities for the creation of new parks and outdoor recreational projects, such as a grant provide by Arizona State Parks and Trails to the Town of Camp Verde to fund a portion of construction costs for its new Camp Verde Sports Complex. The Land and Water Conservation Fund was greatly expanded last year with the Congressional passage of the Great American Outdoors Act which increased that funding to a guaranteed level of $900 million per year.
“Last Congress, I was proud to cosponsor and vote to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation to fund much-needed updates for our beloved parks and public spaces. I am elated to see LWCF funding we secured going toward a new inclusion of the Verde River into Coconino National Forest, creating a public space for Arizonans to enjoy that simultaneously protects one of the last free flowing rivers in our state,” said Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01).
“Completion of the Verde River Land Conservation Project helps secure the community’s water future, expands outdoor recreation opportunities, and strengthens Arizona’s economy,” said Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema.
About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.