Arizonans to replicate riverfront project

Traci Wieland, superintendent of Grand Junction Parks and Recreation, gives a presentation Thursday afternoon to Arizona officials from the Sedona-Verde Valley region at Connected Lakes State Park about creating their own riverfront commission.

Arizona dignitaries who toured the local system of parks and trails along the Colorado River on Thursday said the development of recreation areas here proves how efficient permitting, collaboration, and especially persistence can pay off for their own communities.

Hosted by the Colorado Riverfront Commission, the delegation of small-town mayors, county supervisors, state parks officials and others from the Sedona-Verde Valley region of Arizona wanted to learn as much as they could about the Grand Valley experience.

The group is launching a similar effort in northern Arizona to create recreation areas along the Verde River, one of Arizona’s two rivers that flow all year round, said Stacy Beaugh, an event organizer and Riverfront commissioner.

“They came up here to learn about how the Riverfront Project could be a model for their valley,” Beaugh said.

The elevation, climate and terrain of the Grand Valley and the Verde Valley are so similar, group members started calling them sisters during the visit, she said.

For example, it was at a Tamarisk Coalition meeting in Colorado where Friends of the Verde River, a group that battles tamarisk infestations along the Verde, heard about the Riverfront Commission and asked for the meeting, Beaugh said.

Tamarisk is a threat to habitats for both the Colorado and Verde rivers.

The Arizona delegation’s tour started at Palisade Riverbend Park, continued on to Connected Lakes State Park, Walter Walker Wildlife Area and finally the new construction portion of the Monument View Trail that is expected to be completed this fall, she said.

The group then gathered for seminars and workshops at the Lincoln Park Hospitality Tower.

There was a lot of interest in how permitting for development took place and how the local governments were involved, Beaugh said.

“They also commented on the importance of having local government out front in planning and making sure that they’re engaged in these processes,” she said.

There were a few surprises, Arizona officials said.

“I did not expect to learn that the main reason people here were successful was because of their tenacity,” said Chip Norton, chairman of the Verde River Institute. “I just thought they had a good process and it worked. I think the reason it worked was because they refused to quit.”

The lesson stuck with Yavapai County Supervisor Tom Thurman.

“Never give up,” Thurman said. “What they accomplished shows diligence.”

Thurman said he would report back on the visit to other Arizona elected officials and recommend his group look at ways to market river recreation areas to make them more appealing to people who own property along the Verde.

“Our group is especially interested in learning how the Riverfront Project has contributed to local job creation and become an economic asset, how it has enhanced the tourism benefit for the region, and how a community-based approach has changed the hearts and minds of the public to support the continued life of the river,” Thurman said.

“The not-in-my-backyard crowd — that’s a real hurdle for us. It’s not coming from the industrial interests like it did here. Most of it is coming from private residents,” Thurman said. 

“Most people don’t want traffic down their river.”


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