Quartermaster depot played key role for Army and Yuma

[Source: Chris McDaniel, Yuma Sun]

Yuma Sun File Photo

The U.S. military has had a presence in Yuma County for more 160 years and was instrumental in getting local communities established.

The Yuma Quartermaster Depot opened in 1864, resulting in Yankee soldiers in blue uniforms to be permanently stationed in the area to oversee the distribution of supplies brought up the Colorado River from the Gulf of California.

Today, the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park at 201 N. 4th Ave. is open to the public and boasts five buildings that have stood for more than a century.

“The fact that literally Yuma was founded and based on its connection with the U.S. military is significant,” Charles Flynn, executive director of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, said of the depot.

And the military is still here today. They are even more important to our economy and to our community.

However, if it had not been for the efforts of local citizens, the park would now be closed.

“Back in mid-2009 Arizona State Parks announced they were going to close this park because of budget cuts,” Flynn said.

We were able to work with the city and get some support from them and worked with the Yuma Visitors Bureau to move their welcome center into that site. We were able to pull the resources together through a joint effort and keep the park open and operating.

Flynn said the depot is an essential part of the historic North End.

We have always sort of assumed these national historic landmarks would always be there, but when the Hilton Garden Inn opened up there on the riverfront in April of 2009, within 60 days the state was talking about closing the Quartermaster Depot, which is directly adjacent to the hotel. We had designed this plan over 11 years to integrate all of these amenities, and to all of a sudden lose them just didn’t make any sense.

The depot was far too significant a resource to lose, Flynn said.

Frankly, these were community resources the community had worked long and hard to preserve and keep, and that is why the committee stepped up.

According to the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, the depot’s storied past began during the height of the American Civil War but matured during the Indian Wars of the 1870s.

During this period, the U.S. Army on the western frontier spent much of its time fighting with Native American tribes as the federal government attempted to force them onto reservations.

In 1877, the Southern Pacific Railroad line reached Yuma and construction continued into the interior of Arizona. With the railroad, the military could ship supplies much cheaper and faster than previously allowed, and the Yuma Depot along the Colorado River was no longer needed.

Largely abandoned by the late 1870s, the depot officially closed in 1883 after the quartermaster moved to Fort Lowell in Tucson.

The Signal Corps, having arrived at Fort Yuma and the Quartermaster Depot in 1875, remained there until 1891. After the departure of the Signal Corps, the property was transferred to the control of the U.S. Weather Service, which worked out of the depot site until 1949.

Other federal government agencies would also use the old buildings over the years. These agencies included the Bureau of Reclamation and Customs Service.

According to the city of Yuma Visitors Center, the depot was identified as a possible historic park in the early 1960s.

Groundbreaking for the park was held in 1986 after the land was purchased from the U.S. Department of the Interior by the city of Yuma and donated to the state park system.

In 1990 the Yuma Crossing Foundation Inc. established an agreement with the state parks board to manage, develop and operate the site as a living history museum.

After seven years of construction and rebuilding, the park was opened to the public in 1997 and is now part of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area. For more information about the park, call 329-0471.

New riverfront plaza opens window into history of Yuma Crossing

[Source: Yuma Visitors Bureau] – The “ghost train” arrived in Yuma this summer with the grand opening of Pivot Point Interpretative Plaza by Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area.

 This outdoor exhibit area is located on the site where the first railroad train entered Arizona in 1877 and features as its centerpiece a restored 1907 Baldwin steam locomotive.  But the plaza also incorporates some 21st century technology: a surround-sound audio system that re-creates the arrival of a steam locomotive at the old Southern Pacific Hotel – a.k.a. the “ghost train” – and a nightly laser display that shows where the tracks of the original rail bridge crossed the Colorado River. [to read the full article click here].

Brewer panel want to privatize the operation of Arizona’s State Parks

[Source: Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services, via East Valley Tribute]

A panel appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer to study government made its first recommendations Tuesday to turn more of it over to the private sector.

The initial report by the Commission on Privatization and Efficiency suggested the state pursue more opportunities to turn parks over to private companies or at least let them operate retail concessions. Members also want to push Congress to repeal laws that now prohibit the state from letting private firms set up shop in rest areas along interstate highways.

Mark Brnovich. (Photo Credit: AZ Dept of Gaming)

But state Gaming Director Mark Brnovich, whom Brewer named to head the panel, said this is only the first step. He said the nine-member commission, hand-picked by the governor, is predisposed to believe that if a government service can be privatized, it probably should be.

“Like the governor, members of the commission are strong believers in the free enterprise system and the free market,” Brnovich said in an interview with Capitol Media Services. “History has shown that the private sector is able to come up with innovative and, very often, cost-effective solutions to problems.”
Brnovich acknowledged that private companies, unlike government, have to make a profit. But he said commission members don’t see this as meaning higher costs for taxpayers.

“The free market system, capitalism works because folks are forced to come up with better ideas and create greater efficiencies and come up with new innovations,” Brnovich said. He calls it the “yellow book test.”

“If a function is available, if you can look at it and find it in the ‘yellow book,’ you should ask yourself, ‘should government be doing that?'” Brnovich said. “And if government is doing it, should it be done in conjunction through public-private partnership or can it be done in a better, more efficient way?”

Brnovich said this initial list of options includes those things that either already are underway or can be done relatively simply.

For example, the state contracted last year with the city of Yuma to operate the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park. And the Arizona Parks Board has since worked out other deals with local groups to help keep parks open.

The commission, however, wants more, including giving private companies the opportunity to actually run the parks, collect all admission fees and pay the state a percentage. The report suggests this would be profitable for private companies by allowing them to sell food and other items and even operate lodging, as concessionaires do at Grand Canyon National Park, albeit with the federal government still running that one.

Brnovich said that, despite the bent of commission members toward privatizing, that doesn’t necessarily mean state agencies would be put out of business and employees laid off. He said these agencies could submit bids, just the same as private groups.

That concept, called “managed competition,” has been used in some communities to award contracts for trash collection.

He said that concept will be studied before the final report is issued at the end of this year.

But Brnovich said measuring costs and benefits is only part of any analysis of what to privatize.

“Additionally, you have to ask the question, is this something government should be doing and, if so, can it be done in a better way and can it be done in conjunction with the private sector or by the private sector?” he said.

Brnovich said there are certain “core government functions” that, political philosophy aside, probably should not be farmed out. That includes his own agency which oversees tribal gaming.

He acknowledged there are functions within his office that might, under other circumstances, lend themselves to outsourcing, such as audits of the books of tribal casinos. But Brnovich said the secrecy required in the contracts with tribes makes it more logical for all that work to be done “in house,” with employees who are subject to background checks.

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Yuma Quartermaster Depot turned over to city

[Source: Joyce Lobeck, YumaSun.com 10-28-2009] – A new chapter for the Yuma Quartermaster Depot began Wednesday morning when Gov. Jan Brewer presented the key for the historic park to the city of Yuma. The ceremony launched an agreement to have the city operate the state park temporarily to ensure the historic attraction remains open for residents and visitors alike until the state recovers financially.

The park is seen as a critical element in the city’s efforts to redevelop the riverfront and downtown area, said Charles Flynn, who heads up that effort. He noted the effort began 10 years ago and has involved a tremendous outlay of time, effort and funding, with the state continuously being an important partner. Flynn said efforts to date include the restoration of the East and West Wetlands and opening of the Hilton Garden Inn and companion conference center. Plans ultimately call for residential, retail, dining and entertainment development along the Colorado River [to read the full article click here].