CLARKDALE -- Founded in 2002, the Verde Valley Land Preservation Institute packed the Men's Lounge of the Clarkdale Clubhouse Thursday night to reflect on its successes. In a multi-media event, the organization showed its accomplishment to date to preserve open space and watershed of the Verde Valley.
The crowd enjoyed a display of A River Runs Through Us, the artist challenge that emerged from a two-day three-night float of artists down the Verde River. In all, 39 art works have resulted from their experiences.
An ongoing auction will sell the art works for the highest bid, a way to generate funds for the VVLP projects. Bids are collected at verdeartistchallenge.org.
Steve Estes, the organization's Outreach Coordinator; Bob Rothrock, the VVLP President; and Board member Chip Norton updated the crowd on the successes of the organization.
Estes said the Cliff Rose Trail is a public-private collaboration of the organization, the City of Cottonwood and Yavapai County that protects public land from abuse.
Another public-private partnership developed between the organization and the Verde Village Property Owners Association, to clean up the trash strewn along a seven-mile section of the Verde River. The project employed seven workers from Vetraplex, the business that finds and trains returned veterans for projects. The effort blocked wildcat trails with boulders to prevent ATVs and other motorized vehicles from scarring the habitat. They also picked up trash and removed invasive species.
Margaret Paddock, a former president of the property owners group, said neighbors had worried about trespassing, fires and vandalism. She says neighbors have greatly appreciated the work of the VVLP.
President Bob Rothrock showed plans using clustered housing in subdivisions and ranches to preserve the greatest amount of open space. He says it provides benefits for both the homeowners and the developer. Yavapai County has built on that principle to write into code density bonuses for water saving features and other environmental protections.
Rothrock also hailed the organization's mapping and planning tools, which originally sprang from a grant thanks to Jane Whitmire, through the Arizona State Parks organization. And when State Parks funding collapsed during the recession, the program was linked to the county GIS mapping system. The result is an Overlay Model program that allows the group to track agricultural land, cultural habitat, endangered species or any needed variable.
VVLP Director Chip Norton says the organization has instituted a stewardship program to improve riparian habitat on properties adjacent to the river. There are now 170 property owners on the river that have joined the program and 17 miles of rivers and stream have been restored.
Norton says the Verde River Paddle Guide was developed to fill the 31-mile gap between two existing paddle guides, which cover the Wild and Scenic River section and the Verde River Greenway. The downloadable guides now span 90 continuous miles of the Verde River.
A new program would add more strength behind the monetary support for protection of Verde River Preservation is called One for the Verde. A voluntary contribution, participating businesses often call for 1 percent of sales to be collected for preservation projects. The program is patterned after 1 percent for Open Space, a program developed for Crested Butte and Gunnison, Colo., which has preserved over 5,000 acres since 1998.
County Supervisor Chip Davis said the progress has been amazing over the past 20 years, since sand and gravel mining was plugging up the Verde River. But, he warned that there is still a lot of work to do. When you look toward Mingus Mountain, much of the hillside that is now forested around Jerome is actually private land.
Back to the Verde, Davis said Yavapai County owns property on both sides of the bridge and he hopes that land can be included in the Verde River Greenway with a picnic area placed on the north side.
He said the county recently placed a sign beneath the bridge to identify it as the Mingus Avenue Bridge, since boaters often are not aware of where they are on the river otherwise.
For more information on the Verde Valley Land Preservation see http://www.verdevalleylpi.org