CAMP VERDE -- The Verde Valley Archaeology Center has announced that there will be a “soft opening” of the new Native American Heritage Pathway during the annual Verde Valley Archaeology Fair as part of the Camp Verde Spring Heritage Festival March 17-18.
The Festival includes the Verde Valley Archaeology Fair, the Pecan and Wine Festival, and the Verde River Runoff. The Festival has become a Sedona/Verde Valley area favorite and will again take place in Camp Verde.
In 2006, property in Camp Verde known as the Simonton Ranch was investigated for archaeological identification as part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit requirement prior to a planned residential development.
During the investigation, two prehistoric burial sites were discovered. Both sites were excavated and the remains removed and reburied on property donated by the developer, Mr. Scott Simonton of Gilbert.
In the final report, the investigators noted that within a parcel north of Homestead Parkway, were several relatively undisturbed pit houses that would benefit from additional study.
In early 2013, Simonton was contacted by the Verde Valley Archaeology Center to seek permission to excavate the features before any development was undertaken. In October 2013, Simonton visited the Center and offered to donate “up to six acres” of the property to the Center that contained most of the features but he asked for a “conceptual document” as to what the Center would do with the property.
The document was developed with the help of the Design Group Architects of Sedona who donated their services. A conceptual plan for the six acres, plus the adjoining 9.28 acres to house a future archaeology campus, was developed and submitted to Simonton. He realized the potential of the plan and negotiations began for the entire 15.28 acres.
As negotiations continued, Simonton agreed to donate Parcel A (9.28 acres appraised at $800,000) and to donate/sell Parcel B (6.0 acres appraised at $570,000) for $250,000 with Simonton carrying the note for this amount for five years. The title transfer papers were prepared and title was received on July 16, 2015.
The archaeological investigation established that the property contains a prehistoric pit house village dating to about 600 A.D, with one feature dating even earlier. The Center decided to not excavate the site but to set aside that portion of the property as a Native American Heritage Preserve.
With the assistance of a grant from the National Park Service River, Trails and Conservation Program, the Verde Valley Archaeology Center developed an interpretive trail on the Preserve. The gravel for the trail was donated by the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
Much of the work on the trail was performed by Center members with the assistance of the Camp Verde Old Guys, a community service volunteer group.
A half-mile loop trail with interpretive signs was developed to inform visitors about the people who lived there 1,400 years ago. The trail is nearly completed and will be opened during the Archaeology Fair as a “sneak peek” of the final trail. The Center will have regular free shuttle service from the Fair on Holloman Street to the trailhead during the Archaeology Fair.
Visitors may drive to the Pathway located on Homestead Parkway which is the first stop light east of Interstate 17 off Highway 260. The portion of Homestead Parkway that fronts the property and trail is currently a dirt road but is scheduled to be paved during June.
Once the road project is completed, a formal dedication and grand opening is being planned. The free pathway will then be open on weekends.
The Center is located at 385 S. Main St., Camp Verde. The museum exhibits are open free to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm. Additional information on the Center the Fair or the Pathway is available at www.vvarchcenter.org, or by calling 928-567-0066.