Viewpoint: Local vigilance needed as Arizona’s state parks close

File:Douglas Mansion.jpg
Douglas Mansion, Jerome State Historic Park

[Source: Camp Verde Bugle] — It’s official.  Jerome State Historic Park will close its doors.  By all appearances, Fort Verde will not be far behind.

Don’t panic.  When the State Parks Board voted Friday to shutter the Jerome park, it was with the understanding that repairs would be done and that some day the grand old place would be open to the public again in better shape than it is now.  Like Tonto Natural Bridge State Park near Payson, Jerome has long needed a repair closure. Though personnel had not received official notification Saturday, the understanding is the Jerome park will be shut down by Feb. 27.

Even if Fort Verde State Park follows the same path, which could happen at the next meeting of the Parks Board, this should not be considered a permanent move — not if residents remain vigilant.

While other parks like Oracle and Homolovi Ruins were temporarily spared, we have to agree with Parks Director Ken Travous that it is unlikely that the concerned groups will be able to raise enough money to maintain them. That is also true of Fort Verde, which has been even more costly to run than Jerome has.  No matter how many Friends or ex-Friends the fort may have, no one has that kind of money, certainly not the Camp Verde Historical Society.

What is important in Jerome (and in Camp Verde if and when the fort closes) is for residents to keep an eye on operations during the closure.  Jerome’s Douglas Mansion is supposed to be closed for repairs.  If residents note that the state is not spending money on such repairs, then it would be time to get more involved.  If the buildings and fences of Fort Verde appear to be taking a slide, locals should dig down and help with the upkeep of Camp Verde’s centerpiece.

The closed parks are not being abandoned by the state, just shuttered.  The rest of us should not abandon the parks, either.  In hard economic times, it will take vigilance to make sure these closures are only temporary.

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