Camp Verde Town Council could approve trail system connected with Simonton land acquisition

Council regular session scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday

CAMP VERDE - On June 24, a deal that has been in the works for almost two years between the Town of Camp Verde, the Verde Valley Archaeology Center and developer Scott Simonton could become finalized.

During Wednesday's regular session, the Camp Verde Town Council will discuss and possibly approve the deal that would allow the construction of a trail system as well as the construction of the new Verde Valley Archaeology Center on a few parcel of land at the end of Homestead Parkway.

The deal will consist of Simonton donating nine acres of land to VVAC, and selling six more acres that is valued at $570,000, to the VVAC for $250,000.

Simonton will also give the title for a 2.68-acre strip of property to the Town to extend Homestead Parkway from Davison Drive to 80 acres of public land.

VVAC would agree to remain in Camp Verde for the next 50 years, making it the center's permanent home.

VVAC would also agree to pay the Town for construction of a waterline along the extension of Homestead Parkway that will serve all the properties along the corridor by the end of fiscal year 2018.

To conclude the deal, the Town of Camp Verde would pave, curb and gutter the Homestead Parkway extension from Davison Drive to the Verde Ditch, including construction of a trailhead at the ditch end of the road by the end of fiscal year 2018.

Though Economic Development Director Steve Ayers, developed the idea for the trailhead and trail system, VVAC Executive Director Ken Zoll contacted Simonton to see if VVAC could excavate eight pithouses that were found on the land.

Zoll and Simonton contacted Ayers about the possibility and he believes that it could be great for the development of Camp Verde.

"As a Town we have been trying to develop, we've been trying to grow legs," Ayers said.

"This will help us grow wings, and it makes a statement to anyone wanting to build a business in Camp Verde."

The conversation between Zoll and Simonton started when eight pithouses were found on a piece of Simonton's land in 2013. Zoll sent Simonton an email asking if the center could excavate the land to get data and possibly use them as a type of education for the center or close by universities.

Zoll said Simonton answered back awhile after he sent the email saying he just wanted to know what the VVAC would do with the land and what their intent was to do with things they found in the pithouses. In October of 2013, Zoll contacted a lawyer and together they wrote up an eight-page document that stated their plans for the sight.

It wasn't until February of 2014 that Simonton came to the Archaeology Center, located on Main Street in Camp Verde to have a conversation with Zoll.

Simonton considered just giving the six acres of land to VVAC, but he wanted Zoll to write up a conceptual plan for the land, saying what they would be doing with the land and what they would do after they were done.

"Instead of writing him the plan for the six-acre parcel, I wrote him a plan for the whole 15 acres, which included a nine-acre parcel that was next to his six-acre parcel," Zoll said. "I thought it could be a unique feature to have for the center, and I knew Scott liked history."

Zoll said by April of 2014, Simonton said he could make all 15 acres available - and they have been working out the details for the past year, trying to get it finalized.

"I saw the vision of what the center wanted to do for the sight," Simonton said. "I was taken by Ken's passion for archaeology and for the center. I give all the credit for me deciding to donate the land to Ken."

In addition to the 15 acres that Simonton would make available to VVAC, there are 40 acres of land owned by the State Park and 40 acres of land owned by the Prescott National Forest in the same area. This would make for an 80-acre riverside park and natural area. The area as it is now is being impacted by illegal dumping, off-road vehicle traffic, transient campsites, invasive species and habitat degradation. The 80 acres of land is unmanaged by the State Park and the Prescott National Forest, and is in danger of further impact by nearby residential area.

"It is a huge opportunity because of everything that is down there," Ayers said. "It is also something that could become a major attraction for our town, and it could bring more people to the downtown area."

The 80 acres also brings about an environmental benefit, as it gives the town a place where parents can take their kids. Zoll says along with the center and the trail system the benefits will be great for the town.

"First of all we will be able to retain any artifacts that are found locally," Zoll said. "Secondly, there is a great educational aspect that could come with this center, there could be training with students from universities involved in archaeology or anthropology, and it is also a job creator, the center will employ 10 people which will generate two indirect jobs for shops in Camp Verde."

Todd Willard, the Prescott National Forest's Verde District Ranger, spoke at the June 10 Camp Verde Town Council work session and said he is an advocate for using the land. Willard said that a large issue with the land is the lack of public access to the forest service land. He also said that it is a very important resource and having a trail system on the Verde River would help better manage it.

Town Council will discuss and possibly approve the agreement between the Town, The Verde Valley Archaeology Center and Developer Scott Simonton on Wednesday, June 24 at 6:30 p.m. at 473 S. Main St., suite 106.

-- Follow Greg Macafee on Twitter @greg_macafee


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