Commentary: Verde River is lifeblood of our communities

Marsha Foutz & Peggy Chaikin

Marsha Foutz & Peggy Chaikin

In this 10th anniversary year of Friends of the Verde River, it is good to look back on all that has been accomplished. Friends of the Verde River began with river enthusiasts who came together to develop a community wide response to stresses on the Verde River.

This outstanding resource is one we all depend on and enjoy. This group was formed to be a “boots on the ground” organization as the founders wanted more for the river than attending meetings and policy discussions.

In 2007, concern was growing about the effect that invasive plants were having on the river.

Offering “hands-on” labor, we started with clearing invasive plants. Our focus was on the giant cane, (Arundo), “Paradise Trees” (ailanthus), and Tamarisk that out-compete native plants and affect the quality of the river flow. We set out with great enthusiasm, but our early attempts as volunteers eradicating ailanthus trees at Dead Horse were disappointing.

As interest grew, we were joined by consultants and a talented, paid staff. The addition of Veterans, Vista volunteers, and the Coconino Conservation Corp made a huge difference and it is wonderful to see many of them starting career paths from skills learned on the river. With all the work that has been done, it is hard to imagine how far things have come with our humble beginnings.

Public outreach has been a big priority. We set up booths at Verde River Days, the Birding Festival and Farmer’s markets. Although our work on trails was often wiped out by floods, we learned patience.

Our trail work has not only created recreational opportunities, but has also increased visibility and awareness of the river basin and wildlife.

More people are enjoying the river than ever before. It has become a rare day when a we don’t see a car with a boat on top.

Over roughly 30 years, the number of river stewardship groups steadily rose and then have dropped dramatically. Forces such as economics and a drop-in volunteerism have forced a “banding together” to stay alive.

Friends of the Verde River has taken up the daunting challenge of keeping the energy and missions of the older organizations continued while developing exciting new programs to “keep the river flowing.”

These incredible challenges are being met by an incredibly talented and dedicated staff, consultants and board of directors. So much is going on, it makes our heads spin!

A headline in 2011 proclaimed “Verde River: Who Cares?”

This river is the lifeblood of our communities bringing prosperity, adventure, and a sublime wholeness to our lives. In 2018, the answer to “who cares” has grown to include all of us.

Marsha Foutz and Peggy Chaikin are founding board members of Friends of the Verde River.


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