Will Camp Verde be selected <br>as new home for USFS?

Land across from Camp Verde High School is one of four sites the U.S. Forest Service is considering for a future ranger station-administrative building.

The three other locations include a site near Interstate 17 and Arizona 179; one on Cornville Road a few miles off Interstate 17; and one close to Cottonwood on Arizona 89A near Bridgeport, according to USFS Ranger Ken Anderson of the Sedona Brewer Road office.

All four sites are currently owned by the USFS, he said. The Forest Service is going to sell some of its ranger stations in order to co-locate Coconino and Prescott Forest administration employees into one facility.

Tom Bonomo, Anderson’s counterpart at the Verde Ranger Station in Camp Verde, said the new building could provide offices for about 40 people. Along with a work location, one component at the new building would be a full range of visitor services.

There is preliminary discussion, he said, about a partnership for the use of the building with the National Parks Service, the Yavapai County Extension Service and the Natural Resources’ Service.

Under a recently passed bill, "The Arizona National Forest Improvement Act," sometimes referred to as "the Kyl Bill," the USFS has received the authority to dispose of its Sedona Brewer Road Ranger Station, the Verde Ranger Station in Camp Verde along east Arizona 260 and three other parcels, Anderson said.

Anderson cautioned that the Camp Verde and Sedona properties will not be disposed of until the USFS has its new administrative location selected.

He said one option being considered by the USFS is a turn-key exchange; that one or both parcels be swapped in exchange for a new structure.

"It won’t go until we have an alternative location. The plan of attack is to dispose of that land conditioned upon an administrative facility being ready to occupy," he said. "We have to optimize the resources we have. We will try to put together a transaction that will yield the greatest amount of resources."

He said it could mean selling or swapping them separately or as a package.

Bonomo has been discussing the possibility of an outright sale of all or most of the Verde Ranger site to the Town of Camp Verde. The approximately 200 acres could be used for a regional or community park.

The Sedona ranger site is 21 acres.

Camp Verde Town officials are looking for a commitment from the USFS for the outright sale of the Verde Ranger parcel and gave their parks and recreation director a directive to get one.

Parks Director Bill Lee told the council earlier this month that USFS was not ready to commit, but he was hopeful that a decision would be made by January. That would allow the town to receive a letter of understanding in time to apply for a Heritage Grant at the end of February.

The town has not officially agreed to the purchase of the USFS land but has given Lee the go-ahead to get a legal description and pre-appraisal.

Bonomo said the outright sale would probably be honored, but cautioned that the regional USFS Albuquerque people are beginning to take a much closer look as to how dollars will be spent in Northern Arizona than they had initially. He said there had been anticipation that the Camp Verde unit would handle its own disposal with little oversight, but his decision for an outright sale could be overridden.

"We will have to work through some stuff with them before we can start working with the town again," he said.

The USFS also has plans to build a visitor’s center near Sedona that will include some administrative offices. He said they are looking at a site south of the Village of Oak Creek.

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