My Turn: Volunteers are the lifeblood of National Parks

As superintendent of Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot national monuments, I am writing to clarify for our Verde Valley communities the challenge we face because of the national "sequestration" budget cuts for federal agencies. These reductions at Montezuma Well were the subject of two articles in the Bugle last month ("Worst-case scenario; Montezuma Well faces closure from sequestration" on April 16 and "My Turn: The Rodney Dangerfield of national monuments" on April 11).

Ancient, historic and sacred, Montezuma Well is a key part of our Verde Valley monuments. It also is a vital element in the life, culture and economy of the valley. As both Bugle articles correctly noted, the well site has been a focus of our planning to absorb the 5 percent budget cut required at each of the National Park Service's 401 park units across America.

It is not accurate, however, to say that we must close Montezuma Well. Although closure is one option on a list of possible measures that we prepared in case of sequestration, we are working hard to do exactly the opposite. I am asking today for the community's help to make this happen.

The cutbacks at Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, and Tuzigoot include staff reductions, mainly because we cannot refill several vacant positions. This complicates our effort to keep the less-visited well site properly staffed and open. We already must rotate our small staff among the three monument locations. Now, however, we are literally taking concrete steps to accommodate more park volunteers at the well. We are pouring three parking pads for volunteers to park RVs or trailers for extended periods. We also will provide a small Park Service trailer for volunteers in one of the parking slots.

Our park partners are part of the lifeblood of the National Park Service. It is no accident that we call the "Volunteers in Parks" program "VIP" for short. National park volunteers are, indeed, Very Important People. With their help - with your volunteer help - the "worst-case scenario" of that Bugle headline will never have to be.

Montezuma Well is important for many reasons. It is an educational resource for our school children. It is a natural and scientific wonder in the middle of our high desert home. It is sacred to the Yavapai, Apache, Hopi and other Native American neighbors. It is a tourism destination for thousands of Arizona visitors. If Montezuma Well is important to you, I invite you to join us as volunteers. Help us keep it open and alive as we work to live with the new reality of budget sequestration. Thank you.

Dorothy FireCloud is the superintendent of Montezuma Castle National Monument and Tuzigoot National Monument

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