[Source: Andrea Wilson, Cronkite News Service] — Dressed in a handmade cavalry uniform, Jack Stewart gives a crisp salute to a veteran touring the adobe buildings at Fort Verde State Historic Park. In the museum, Peggy Morris, outfitted in a prairie dress, explains to a visitor how a painting accurately depicts when Gen. George Crook commanded the fort in the late 1800s. Other volunteers churn butter, cook hardtack and tend a garden to let visitors feel what life was like when the garrison protected settlers in the Verde Valley. “The park and its artifacts are priceless,” said Morris, a retired widow who lives in neighboring Camp Verde. “Our hearts are really in this.”
“This place is cherished and loved,” said Stewart, who drives from Flagstaff for his volunteer duty. “I shudder to think what would happen if it was abandoned.”
A roadside display topped by a cannon bills Camp Verde as “Home of Historic Fort Verde.” But Fort Verde could soon close due to state budget cuts, a move that would sever community ties extending far beyond the park’s economic value. Mary Taylor, chairwoman of the Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce, dropped by the park on a recent weekday to check in with the rangers. She’s among the area residents with a family connection to Fort Verde: her great-grandfather was a doctor here, something that makes the prospect of the park closing especially painful. “It’s hard because it’s personal,” Taylor said.
Mayor Tony Gioia said losing Fort Verde would take away the main draw for downtown Camp Verde, where many businesses are designed to complement the park’s historic flavor. “The town functions on sales tax,” Gioia said. “Now, in these economic times, tourism is especially vital.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]