Commentary: Rodeo grounds should be a natural fit for Camp Verde

Linda Buchanan

Linda Buchanan

An enthusiastic and resourceful group of dedicated volunteers, through the newly organized Camp Verde Arena Association (CVAA), have undertaken the task of bringing a town-funded rodeo grounds to the planning forefront. Their time, talent, and treasure will be a driving force.

Recently the CVAA president explained to me on social media that “White Hats” are people who (in her words) “can see [rodeo grounds] as an asset, and see past and into the future.”

The CVAA president went on to explain that “Black Hats” are those who “only see things right in front of them; they don’t care to see the full circle effect.”

Rarely (if ever) is a community development issue simply black and white, good or bad. Typically, there is significant gray area where cost benefit analysis, long-term planning, and a broad support base with both private and public funding platforms come under consideration.

Due diligence requires policy makers and community as a whole to thoughtfully and thoroughly consider the risks and benefits of operating a rodeo grounds.

If the Town dedicates taxpayer resources to funding an equestrian center, are they doing so at the peril of private investors and businesses such as Nashwa Farms, Jackpot Ranch, Anchor Cross, and Arena del Loma? When should government be in direct competition with private industry?

CVAA touts the multi-million dollar impact of rodeo in Prescott, Payson, Wickenburg and Cave Creek. Arguably, each of these towns or cities have a 100-year plus history of promoting rodeo. Camp Verde, as an upstart, would face a tremendous investment in infrastructure to reach this stature.

Perhaps a better comparative model is nearby City of Cottonwood. They invested heavily in an established equestrian venue, only to fold their hand and turn operations back over to the Verde Valley Fair Association. What are the lessons to be learned? What would Camp Verde need to do differently to ensure success?

I grew up enjoying the benefits of 4-H membership, with equine and beef projects. I’ve lived and worked on ranches from Skull Valley to Kingman, rode for years with a mounted drill team, was one of the founders of the annual RVR (trail) Ride, and a business sponsor of the Bull-a-Rama when it launched in Camp Verde and expanded regionally.

I love Camp Verde’s authentic ‘western’ roots and believe that the topic of equestrian events belongs in a thoughtful discussion of recreational priorities, from river access to ball fields, and beyond.

Let’s not initiate this planning process by dividing ourselves into White Hats and Black Hats. This isn’t an 8-second bull ride; it’s a serious economic and ‘community values’ discussion.

I strongly recommend the Town of Camp Verde bring back its citizen-based Parks & Recreation Commission to help vet the competing requests for resources. Good people are ready to volunteer their time to ensure Camp Verde is a good place to live, work, and PLAY.

Linda Buchanan is a resident of Camp Verde.

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