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Town of Clarkdale plans new river park
Written by Staff Reporter   
Saturday, 23 July 2011 00:00

There are only two locations that allow access to the Verde River in Clarkdale without trespassing across private property. One is located at the bridge that crosses the river on Tuzigoot Road and the other is at Tuzigoot National Monument.

Anthony Socash, 18, recovers his adrift inflatable while playing in the Verde River near Tuzigoot National Monument on a hot afternoon Friday, July 15. The Clarkdale Town Council began discussions June 12 to explore increasing public access points to the river within Clarkdale town limits.Driving around town one day in June, Mayor Doug Von Gausig and Town Manager Gayle Mabery were taking inventory of the town’s most underperforming attractions and realized the river topped the list.

“We’ve got more than 2 miles of river nobody can get to,” Von Gausig said.

Soon an idea developed, which Von Gausig and Mabery pitched to the Clarkdale Town Council on July 12.

Why not build a riparian park with trails and amenities stretching from the 20 million-ton copper slag pile northeast of town to the national monument?

“Conceptually, we’re trying to create a park upstream, right where the river enters Clarkdale,” Von Gausig said. “It would be a 40- to 50-acre park, with plenty of beautiful, old growth cottonwood trees.”

An area near the slag pile would form the upper anchor of the park, where there would be parking, picnic tables and other amenities, he said.

Concerned about financing, some council members questioned the town’s ability to pay maintenance costs into the future but nevertheless directed staff to further investigate the idea.

The costs could be significant. The park envisioned by Mabery and Von Gausig would require the town to lease land from Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold.

Grants from a variety of sources should be available to fund initial construction. Paying long-term maintenance costs will be a little trickier, Von Gausig said.

Stretches of land along the river are torn up by heavy equipment or choked with vegetation. These areas would need to be cleared, Von Gausig said.

“We need to get it cleaned up, signed and managed in a way people feel comfortable doing float trips,” he said. “Tubers and kayakers could float down and end up getting out at Tuzigoot [National Monument].”

Eventually, the town or a franchisee might operate vehicles to shuttle floaters back and forth between the monument and the park, Von Gausig said.

Representatives of the mining company have already met twice with city officials to discuss the possibilities, though talks are in the very preliminary stages.

Fortunately for the town, the riparian park initiative comports with the goals of the Walton Family Foundation, which provided grant money for Clarkdale to hire Jodi Filardo as Clarkdale Sustainability Park project manager.

The riparian park ties into the sustainability project, Von Gausig said, so Filardo will take the lead in investigating the possibilities and report back to Clarkdale Town Council.

A group of family and friends swimming near the Tuzigoot bridge on a hot Friday, July 15, seemed to like the idea of a more developed spot for their river recreation.

Matt McClain and his dog, Jackson, splashed in the cool, green water while Joaquin Aspetia, 11, and Dominic Newell, 7, ignored instructions and jumped from rocks.

“Watch out, there’s crawdads,” Aspetia said.

McClain said his crew visited the spot frequently for a summer swim.

“It’s a lot of fun,” another swimmer, said Anthony Socash, 18.


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