Looking a little like military commanders planning the next campaign, the Camp Verde Town Council sat down last week, poring over maps of the town’s 118 acres of parkland.
It was the first step in meeting with consultants and representatives of the town’s Parks and Recreation Department to chart a course for the land’s future.
Owning a large town park has been recognized as a critical town need for decades.
Things were finally set into motion when earlier this year the town obtained the land, near the White Bridge on Highway 260, from the U.S. Forest Service for $2.4 million.
Last month, the town awarded a $49,000 contract to RBF Consulting for help in developing a master plan for the site.
While the company promises heavy public participation in the design of the park, last week’s meeting was termed a “visioning” session for the town council to brainstorm on what its members would like to see in the park.
The park has the potential to become “a real crown jewel in the Verde Valley,” said Kevin Kugler, a consultant with RBF.
The possibilities are endless, as evidenced by a set of posters on the wall listing some potential uses.
The list included facilities for nearly every kind of sport, a possible rodeo ground, a dog park, shooting range, fishing pond, amphitheater, a BMX cycling track and even an observatory.
While wish lists are nice, Mayor Tony Gioia pointed out that a wish list will only get you so far if there’s no money to pay for it.
While some things might be feasible in the future for the currently cash-strapped town, all of the town’s leaders agreed that ball fields should be the park’s top priority.
There are other uses that could be implemented relatively cheaply, Councilman Ron Smith said, such as the creation of a trailhead that would give visitors access to the huge network of trails on Forest Service land in the nearby White Hills. Whatever ends up getting built, Smith said, the No. 1 priority should be to focus on the needs of Camp Verde’s children.
A big question to be answered will be where to put the main access point to the park. From three possibilities, McCracken Lane, Highway 260 and the access road to the Sanitary District Wastewater Plant, Kugler said RBF felt that McCracken Lane was the most feasible and most likely to get a signal light from the Arizona Department of Transportation.
The land closest to McCracken Lane is the land most likely suitable for ball fields, Kugler said, meaning it would be initially cheaper to build an access road to the part of the park which is the council’s top priority.
Not everyone was immediately sold on the idea, including some McCracken Road residents in attendance who felt that additional traffic would make the road more dangerous. Councilman Bob Kovakovich said he would prefer the sanitary district road for several reasons, including the increased visibility for traffic on Highway 260.
Whatever the park ends up being, Councilwoman Norma Garrison said, she wants the public to be involved at every step of the way.
“I don’t want so much the council’s fingerprints on this as the community’s,” Garrison said. “We get one chance to do this, and we need to do it right.”
RBF is also planning a meeting with the leadership of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, Kugler said, and the first big public input meeting is set for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 16 in Rooms 206 and 207 in the town complex on Main Street.