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Sat, Dec. 07

Rockin’ River Ranch: Arizona’s newest State Park

With his signature last week on the state of Arizona’s fiscal year 2017-2018 budget, Gov. Doug Ducey directed $4 million to help develop Camp Verde’s Rockin’ River Ranch as the next Arizona State Park.

On June 1, Arizona State Parks and Trails hosted an open house to solicit public feedback on the development of the approximately 209-acre park.

According to Sue Black, executive director for Arizona State Parks and Trails, it’s important that the public is involved on the front end of the project.

“When you look at the view of the green, I want to keep that same essence of the park and that it stays with the design,” Black said. “These aren’t my state parks. They are our state parks.”

Black said the $4 million allocated from the budget is revenue from other Arizona State parks.

“Because our parks are doing so well, the money could be earmarked to this park,” Black said.

At this time, Black was not able to specify a start date — nor a finish date — for the project that would create a state park from what has been a horse boarding and breeding facility for more than 20 years. But she did say that she envisioned the project being completed in phases.

“We look at this as a corridor-type park,” Black said. “If you go through the Verde River valley, if we program it right, it could be a special trip.”

Rockin’ River Ranch, a picturesque place — and meant to stay that way

Folks involved with the upcoming conversion of Rockin’ River Ranch into one of Arizona’s State Parks have made one thing clear since Ducey signed off on the new budget that allocates $4 million to the project.

Rockin’ River Ranch will continue to be a place where less is more.

“I want to preserve the ranch’s atmosphere and integrity,” said Elaine Theriault, owner/operator of Camp Verde Ranch, LLC, the horse boarding and breeding facility that has operated on Rockin’ River Ranch for more than 20 years. “And the planners seem to be on board with that.”

Theriault is one of 10 members of the Technical Advisory Committee that serves as a “voice of the community and the agencies they represent,” said Black.

Maintaining the ranch’s integrity

For Black, Theriault’s participation on the committee is important.

“She’s been on the property for [22] years,” said Black. “If anybody knows [Rockin’ River Ranch], she does.”

Surely working the ranch for more than two decades, it would be understandable if Theriault was slow to change. But as long as the park is able to “maintain the integrity of the ranch,” she would be pleased with the outcome.

With anywhere between 60 and 100 horses on the ranch at any one time, including retired horses, mares and their babies, and riding horses, Theriault hopes to “to stay in some capacity here, as far as the equestrian part.”

“My blood, sweat and tears and have gone into this place,” Theriault said. “This ranch has always been a working ranch, cattle ranch or horse ranch. I understand that change is inevitable. If it’s done right, this will be a very nice place.”

Serving the community

Though Rockin’ River Ranch would likely be a destination for out-of-towners, Town of Camp Verde’s Economic Development Director Steve Ayers said his hope is that the park could “serve the community of Camp Verde as much as the visitors.”

However, the way the park is designed — and ultimately used — is “essentially a state parks question, because it has to generate revenue to make it worth the investment and to make it sustainable,” Ayers also said.

Though a design plan has yet to be created, Black said that Arizona State Parks and Trails is “working diligently, in coordination with the community, to keep the park a picturesque place for all to explore.”

According to a press release from Arizona State Parks and Trails, Rockin’ River Ranch State Park would “provide visitors access to one of Arizona’s most unique and pristine natural landscapes, as well as enhanced opportunities for outdoor recreational activities.”

More than a mile of riverfront provides access for fishing, kayaking and wildlife viewing; hiking trails and stables connects visitors to Prescott National Forest; camping grounds and cabins provide lodging for overnight guests; previously cultivated field lend space for community events.

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