Louise Congdon - US Forest Service
United States of America

There are very few areas near metro Phoenix where residents can spend time by a flowing river. Arizona is HOT during the summer and it is difficult to find cooler outdoor activities.

Spending time barbequing or camping in your own private spot by the river provides a chance to get outdoors without suffering from the tremendous heat. The lower Verde River runs south from the Bartlett Dam and joins the Salt River. The only part of this river that is accessible to residents is named Needle Rock and is about 2.5 miles long. Currently about 1/2 the area is completely sealed off from vehicles and is accessible only by walking and not after dark.

The other 1/2 of this area is currently accessible by a car, truck, camper, or ATV 24 hours a day. This seems like a fair balance of use. A lot more residents appear to make use of the drive-in area than the walk-in area.

People have their preferences of how they would like to access the river. Some prefer parking in a fenced off lot and hiking into the river. Others prefer to drive their vehicle with their grill, cooler, and chairs to a private area to enjoy the river, or camp overnight. Some campers are disrespectful and leave behind trash; however, many campers are conscientious and respect the land. The Forest Service Rangers get weary of patrolling the area and dealing with disrespectful residents. Thus they have decided that the easiest way to avoid dealing with these disrespectful people is to close the area down.

Because of this, the Forest Service plans to fence the whole lower Verde River area off and allow only walk-in access during daylight hours. It seems very unfair to keep residents from being able to picnic or camp by the river because of the few that are disrespectful. Handicapped residents will have no chance of enjoying the river if it is fenced off. The Forest Service conducted environmental study which was used to start the shutdown. The Forest Service held a public meeting in 2009 to get input on the shutdown plan. Some neighboring property owners were notified of the meeting, but it would be impossible to notify more than a few of the users of the area since many live in various locations throughout the valley. The Forest Service received little input from the actual users of the area because they were un-aware of the shutdown plan and the meeting. A large sign posted at the entrance explaining the shutdown plan and meeting would have generated a lot more opposition.

Picture of the walk-in day use only area:

Pictures of the current drive-in picnic, camping access that will be fenced off:

Please do not close the last section of the lower Verde River area to campers and vehicles.

Please consider other less drastic options such as signage to keep people from driving in the water or on the bluffs above the river, additional patrols and clean up efforts.

Once a plan is formed, hold a well advertised public meeting in order to get a representative sample of interested parties.

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The Keep The Verde River open petition to Louise Congdon - US Forest Service was written by Erik Bevan and is in the category Government at GoPetition.