Names exert enormous influence on people’s lives, yet people generally don’t get to choose their names.
Fortunately for the Town of Camp Verde, the public does have some say on what names are attached to town facilities.
On Wednesday, July 19, the Town Council approved two names for parks currently in development. The 110-acre sports complex park, previously referred to as the Community Park as a placeholder name, was narrowly approved as the Camp Verde Sports Complex by a 4-3 vote.
Vice Mayor Jessie Murdock and councilwoman Robin Whatley spoke strongly in favor of the name, while Camp Verde Parks and Recreation Division Manager Michael Marshall counseled that the name might be too general.
The 30-acre riverfront park, which sits at the southern termination of North Roundup Road alongside and under the Interstate 17 bridges, got wider approval from the council: A unanimous vote named it Parsons Riverfront Preserve, with the option to add an additional line of clarification regarding location, either along the Verde River or within Camp Verde.
Camp Verde Sports Complex, which will occupy land east of State Route 260 on McCracken Lane adjacent to the Verde Ranger Station, may include up to six baseball fields, two football-soccer fields, up to eight pickleball courts, multi-use space and a community center. Also included will be a 1.65-mile trail that encircles the park.
The trail is already funded via a $78,248 Arizona State Parks grant.
Marshall, who recommended the name White Hills Sports Complex due to the distinctive white hills of Camp Verde, called the park a “major feature” visible from I-17 — the kind of feature, he contended, that deserved a name the town could market as a distinct asset.
According to Whatley, the name “White Hills” has bad connotations for longtime residents, denoting an undesirable area. She argued for something simple that summed up the location and purpose of the park.
Parsons Riverfront Preserve, Camp Verde Economic Development Director Steve Ayers said, honors John Parsons, a longtime Verde Valley resident who helped change the “Dirty Verde” perception by advocating for the river’s sustainable usage, working to reduce the environmental impact of industry along the river and raising tens of thousands of dollars in support of his efforts. Parsons founded the annual Verde River Days.
“He’s kind of an institution to those who’ve been involved in the river the last few decades,” Ayers said, adding that the intended usage of the park as a preserve is consistent with Parsons’ work on behalf of the river and the nearby neighborhood’s desire to encourage access without increasing traffic and other negative impacts.
Ayers said that he envisions little more than a parking lot to accommodate visitors who want to walk, fish, canoe and kayak, and “not much else.”
According to Ayers, a side effect of establishing the park would be to “quiet down the area a lot” and discourage behavior that is “unacceptable,” including ATV driving and camping.
Whatley agreed with the park’s intended usage, saying that in order to access the park “you’re going through a huge amount of neighborhood.” To that end, she endorsed “low-key, mostly local” use of the park.
In order to discourage overuse of the park, Ayers said he promised nearby residents that the park would not be publicized on the town’s website.
The Town Council also unanimously approved its 2017-18 fiscal year budget, allocating an $18.2 million budget limitation and establishing an $8.4 million general fund for expenses.