Since the unveiling of Rockin’ River Ranch Park’s preliminary plan in June, Arizona State Parks and Trails has reduced the scope of the project considerably.
The budget for development of the park, $4 million allocated in Gov. Doug Ducey’s 2017-18 budget, has not changed, nor have the boundaries of the park itself. Rockin’ River sits along more than a mile of the Verde River in Camp Verde’s Salt Mine region. Arizona State Parks has owned the inaccessible property since 2008.
Regardless of the same capital outlay, a plan that once included an extensive RV camping area and an equestrian center has been revamped, scaled down to something more manageable with a budget that Arizona State Parks Director Sue Black said is “not going to go far.” Furthermore, as Black explained during the project’s last public meeting Wednesday, Aug. 16, at Camp Verde Middle School, public input — comments that occasionally took on a contentious tone, especially from members of the Salt Mine community — has shaped the scope of the project.
“First off, I don’t find the people prickly,” Black said during a post-meeting interview. “I find them spot on, wanting to protect their river .... They’re the ones who told us what to put out there. I want them to be involved [because] you end up with a better product that way.”
As a result, Black said, “I think we need to start small on this property,” accentuating river access and trails “because that’s where the people are going to be.”
Including current landscape features and facilities, all of which are in need of renovation for potential repurposing, the current site plan includes 43 acres of open space, 35 acres of fenced pasture, a 1.3-acre lawn and a 1.8-acre pond. Additionally, the plan includes 209 parking spaces, seven cabins, a contact station, a market building and “convenience sundries shop,” two river access points, a boat launch, restrooms and showers, extensive trails and wildlife viewing areas.
Of outstanding concern to the nearby community, according to project Technical Advisory Committee member Dana Donahue, is the condition of portions of Salt Mine Road leading to the park. This, she said, was an early expressed concern from many in Camp Verde. Donahue said that, though Arizona State Parks has responded to this concern and others nicely, Black and her staff were likely caught off guard by “how invested” the community was in the development of the park.
“It just doesn’t have the infrastructure Dead Horse Ranch State Park does,” Donahue said of the park. “The thing I like is that AZ Parks and others, including the county and town, did listen. I have every confidence [our issues] will be addressed.”
According to Black, the road is not under the auspice of Arizona State Parks’ responsibilities, but she is concerned. To that end, she has directed community concerns about access and the condition of the road to the Yavapai Board of Supervisors.
Donahue, a former first responder, said that she is communicating with local emergency response and law enforcement representatives to guarantee that any department in the position to respond to an emergency at Rockin’ River is familiar with the property.
According to Donahue, a helipad or helicopter-access point is not out of the question.
“I want for everyone who walks into the park to be proud of it,” Black said, adding that the “joyful” process of developing the park is a 180-degree shift from finishing the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park in Yarnell, which honors 19 firefighters killed in 2014’s Yarnell Hill Fire.
Rockin’ River, located at 4513 South Salt Mine Road in Camp Verde, is set to partially open in October. According to Arizona State Parks’ current timeline, a presentation of the master plan will take place in September. By March, it will present a final plan and begin construction lasting until November. In December 2018, the park is expected to open fully.