Watershed coalition honors river partners

The Kohnen family was honored as "Landowners of the Year"  for their efforts in removing a large stand of Arundo/Giant Reed, and a healthy dose of Tamarisk.

The Kohnen family was honored as "Landowners of the Year" for their efforts in removing a large stand of Arundo/Giant Reed, and a healthy dose of Tamarisk.

CLARKDALE - Friends of Verde River Greenway hosted the fourth Annual Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition Stakeholder Meeting to celebrate a year of accomplishments for VWRC. The meeting brought together stakeholders of VEWRC, a public private partnership dedicated to improving riparian habitat throughout the Verde Watershed.

Public land managers from Arizona State Parks, Coconino National Forest, Prescott National Forest, AZ Game and Fish Department along with private landowners, community volunteers, non-profit representatives, conservation corps and veteran riparian habitat restoration crews, representative from the Town of Clarkdale and Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens and others came together in the Clark Memorial Clubhouse Men's Lounge to share the activities of the partnership for the last year.

Each year VWRC celebrates the partnership that this making great strides to improve the riparian habitat along the Verde River and its tributaries.

This year's awardees are:

Private Landowners of the Year: The Kohnen family

Embracing the spirit of VWRC, especially the ethic of work, the Kohnen family welcomed three crews on their property to remove large stand of Arundo/Giant Reed, and a healthy dose of Tamarisk. The family not only gave the crew a warm welcome each morning, but they turned the habitat improvement project into a living classroom ensuring that the four Kohnen children learned the value of a healthy riparian corridor and river system.

Volunteers of the Year: James Quinn and Ron Condon

Starting out as two of Friends of Verde River Greenway Board Member Marsha Foutz's "Dirty Dozen" volunteers clearing Tree of Heaven regrowth at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Jim and Ron continued their volunteering by trail building and revegetation at Big Spring.

Ron and Jim are now part of a trained group of Friends and Town of Clarkdale staff and volunteers that are part of the Spring Stewardship Team that is monitoring the health of Big Spring.

Partner of the Year: Town of Clarkdale

There are many individuals that contribute to any partnership, and VWRC's partnership with the Town of Clarkdale is a wonderful demonstration of this.

Gayle Mabry Town Manager, Art Durazo, Public Works Superintendent, Doug Von Gausig, Mayor, Wayne Debrosky Utility/Public Works Director, and Dawn Norman, Community Services Supervisor all contributed to bring the Big Springs Natural area project to life, improving this stretch of riparian habitat for wildlife, children and the general public.

President's Award: Lynda Zanolli VERDE NRCD-ED Center, Retired

A lifelong educator, with a wealth of knowledge, a love of science and a hands-on teaching style, Lynda was the founding Director of the VERDE-NRCD Ed-Center.

Her dedication, along with a team of specialized teachers, brought a love of the Verde River and a respect for nature into K-12 classrooms reaching over 10,000 children across the Verde Valley.

One of the key learning tools developed by Lynda was the Top 10 Wanted: Dead or Alive Series that teaches students about economic, social and ecological impact of native and invasive species educating young minds for a healthy Verde River.

VWRC is guided by The Verde River Cooperative Invasive Plant Management Plan (CIPMP) a five-year management plan which lays out a strategy to manage invasive plants with stakeholder participation and improve riparian habitat on a watershed-scale. More than 220 private landowners are participating with our public land agencies to improve habitat, despite property boundaries.

Since the project began in 2012, 6,500 acres affected by invasive plants have been treated.

This brings the project goal of 9,600 acres treated to within reach by the conclusion of the initial five-year plan.

CIPMP is currently under review to assess how new goals and objectives can be incorporated for greater riparian health.

Friends of Verde River Greenway is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) located in Cottonwood. Its mission is to restore, preserve and promote the natural, cultural, scenic and recreational resources of the Verde River and its tributaries. Friends is the lead non-profit of VWRC.

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