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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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11/23/2012 8:19:00 AM
How can I reach the River?
52 new signs will lead to Verde Valley recreational sites
Betsy Hilgendorf with the Prescott National Forest shows off one of the signs symbolizing river access that will be going up around the valley. In addition there will be signs for horseback trails, hiking trails, ATV trails, picnicking and fishing, plus mile signs and directional signs. VVN/Steve Ayers
Betsy Hilgendorf with the Prescott National Forest shows off one of the signs symbolizing river access that will be going up around the valley. In addition there will be signs for horseback trails, hiking trails, ATV trails, picnicking and fishing, plus mile signs and directional signs. VVN/Steve Ayers
Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig used grant money from the Walton Foundation to supplement contributions from the Forest Service to begin placing signs showing the way to access points along the river. VVN/Steve Ayers
Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig used grant money from the Walton Foundation to supplement contributions from the Forest Service to begin placing signs showing the way to access points along the river. VVN/Steve Ayers

Steve Ayers
Staff Reporter


CAMP VERDE - A study released just over a year ago noted that the Verde River was an underappreciated and underutilized economic asset to the valley.

The same study concluded that if the river's potential revenue stream was to be tapped, more people needed to be aware of it. And the best way to be aware of it was to go see it.

But, the study concluded, few knew how to find the river. The notion seems silly, but with the exception of the more prominent crossings the riverbank can be difficult to find.

A year or so before the Verde River Economic Development Study went public, Prescott National Forest officials were working on a recreation plan.

At public meetings they were told time and again that what the Verde valley needed most were more signs, for residents and visitors alike, leading the way to already existing recreation sites.

Over the last year the PNF and the river advocates have been working together on the problem.

The first signs went up in Clarkdale this month, thanks to the community's active participation in the project and the infusion of about $2,000 toward the signs.

The other 52 signs will be going up around the valley this winter and probably into next spring, according to Ann May, forest landscape architect for the PNF.

"It's a combination of signs that will be placed along ADOT and county roads. ADOT only allows us to put up a symbol, say for picnicking or kayaking or fishing. There will be a number of those signs along [State Route] 260.

"But before we can put those signs up we have to install signs on the roads once you turn off the highway, onto a county road, telling you where you are going," said May.

Some of the lesser-known river access points that will soon be marked are Bignotti Beach, Black Canyon, Skidmore, Prairie Lane, Sheeps Crossing, Beasley Flats and Clear Creek Day Use area.

There will also be signs directing travelers to the Copper Canyon Trailhead, Hayfield Draw OHV park, White Bridge, Gap Creek, wilderness areas and other valley treasures.

Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig, who has been at the forefront of the effort to direct residents and visitors to river access points, said he is excited about the possibilities the new signs will offer.

"We started looking around a few years ago and noticing we had all these access points but no one knew where they were," said Von Gausig. "They are official Forest Service access points, paid for by state grants, and some were impossible to find.

"So we got a grant from the Walton Foundation and used a portion of the money to buy some of the signs the Forest Service is putting up, along with the ones in Clarkdale. I think it's pretty cool. Hopefully, now that they can find their way, more people will go down to enjoy the river."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012
Article comment by: Danny Smith

Ok Verde River Native Try an experiment. Go put a fence across the river and see how long it takes before you are told to take it down. I bet not very long. Educate yourself before assuming you know what you are talking about.

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Article comment by: Dan McLaughlin

re Verde River Native

I defer to your defiance, you have proved just how ugly people can become over so very little.

The states laws governing river usage and ownership of said rivers are different than any other state in the country.

People can float their boats south of the Tuzigoot bridge, past dozens and dozens of landowners and with no problems. If you try to float the Verde river south from where Sycamore Canyon runoff trickles into the Verde, past only 5 or 6 property owners, you are entering a time warp where people still cling to the values held near and dear by the first pioneers and settlers.

Apparently these people are just like our govenor and attorney general, and they only choose to adopt certain federal laws they agree with, and ignore the rest. I would bet they all agree with the 'make my day' law, and in their minds it includes being able to shoot anyone they consider tresspassing on any part of "their " property.

Yes I defer to your defiance because as I have said earlier it isn't me, or anyone like me you really need to worry about. The person you need to worry about shares your conservative values and feelings of ownership and being able to use, protect, and profit from anything on 'his' property. He is just like you, except he is wealthier, has more land, more influence and he owns the water rights we are argueing about.

Fred Ruskin is making all our complaints threats and wishes concerning the upper Verde river from the big Chino, all the way to Camp Verde a mute point. So the last laugh will probably be his, and you thought we were the enemy.


Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: Verde River Native

Win mentioned it - NO LAW MENTIONS RIGHTS OF PASSAGE ON THE WATER. So, for those can't imagine this: the same tract of land runs on both sides (including the bottom) of the river. So, if I want to fence my entire property, I am well within my private property rights to build the fence across the water body to the other side and back again so my property is fenced. There isn't a thing you can do to stop me. If you get out, or while floating, cut my fence, you are now both trespassing and destroying property.
And everybody: The Verde River has been declared non-navigable by the Arizona Navigable Stream Adjudication Commission (powered by the State of Arizona) on March 29, 2005 - see for yourself: http://www.ansac.az.gov/UserFiles/File/pdf/finalreports/Verde%20River.pdf
And to whoever mentioned SRP and water rights: if you have a water right - you own the water, plain and simple.


Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: Gene Pool

National Organization for Rivers has a great explanation of law re: river navigation and property ownership that will always be pertinent, no matter what state laws or local deeds try to claim.
http://www.adventuresports.com/river/nors/us-law-public.htm


Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: Suzy Burnside

Read about a new group under Public Notices that just incorporated in October, calling themselves Verde River Institute, Inc. The website is www.VerdeRiverInstitute.com and has a lot of information that readers may find interesting.

We sure do have lots of diverse opinions throughout the valley, and I just hope we all continue to balance private property rights with mantras.


Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: Danny Smith

Sorry Win, I have been using the river for over 20 years and NO ONE can stop you from floating by. It has been asked and affirmed many times. You may not be able to get out of the water but you can stay on it.

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: Ron R. Harvey

I think good clear signage is a great start for responsible use. As someone who has spent 30 years paddling on the Verde, I have seen it in nearly every state, and have always wished that access was easy to come by and well-marked to eliminate confusion and trespassing. If boaters have a clean and easy to use access point, they will use it. I have rarely encountered hostile property owners. I think that most folks along the river understand that the Verde is used by boaters, and they enjoy watching them drift by. The more responsible boaters the river has (without straining resources), the more boater's rights will be upheld. We can all use and enjoy the river together.

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Article comment by: Angela White

Maybe it is time for the promoters of this new venture to enlighten us on the trespassing issues.3VKLK

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Article comment by: Anthony P

This is what an old Forest Service Police Officer told me several years ago. "You can own the ground but not the river". He was speaking about meander land or land that is plotted under a river. As I was planning a raft trip on a different river in Arizona. He told me that you can block access but if you enter the river at a legal entry then once on the water, no one can trespass you. If you stop on a beach and it is legally owned, you can be trespassed. So when someone claims or actually does own land under the river, they own the land only and not the water. Do you really think SRP would let you divert the river if you owned the water?

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Article comment by: Win Hjalmarson

Danny and all

To the best of my knowledge, Arizona recognizes no right of passage in waters above privately owned streambeds.

An old friend owns several acres that include the streambed of the Verde. He allows passage of recreational boats but gets real concerned when people stop to picnic or potty or even build a campfire. He's remains angry over the campfire. It's obvious that floaters must be respectful of private land if they wish to use the river.


Posted: Monday, November 26, 2012
Article comment by: Danny Smith

@ Verde River Native, actually you cannot stop someone from floating down the river. You can only stop someone from crossing private property to get to it. The river is not owned by you if you have property next to it. Once on the river you can follow it as far as you want. My son was trapped in his kayak by a strand of barb wire an idiot rancher had strung across the river right in the middle of a rapid. I agree to respect private property rights but the river itself is public.

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2012
Article comment by: Win Hjalmarson

Re--Dan and others,

Strongly suggest you folks read about ANSAC at the site I gave previously. You will find what navigable means according to the US Constitution. So, the Verde has not yet been legally declared navigable or non-navigable.

Yes, the proposed Big Chino pipeline to Prescott and Prescott Valley along with other development will wipe out a significant part of the base flow in the Verde River. If the present irrigation practices in the Verde Valley continue, there will be dry reaches in the Verde River during the summer. Because of development in and above the Verde Valley there will be significant impacts on the riverine environment and recreational navigation all along the Verde River.

The AZ Superior Court has given two rights to the same water when it allowed Prescott to take water from the Big Chino aquifer. That's one example why I say that I don't understand civil law in AZ. Frankly, it seems criminal to give two rights to the same water.

It's nice to see Dan get up to speed on this complex and important issue. The Verde Valley needs to get up to speed on this issue because the Tri-cities are kicking our butt in the AZ legislature.


Posted: Monday, November 26, 2012
Article comment by: Dan McLaughlin

It is true that people tend to be their own worst enemy when it comes to trash, illegal fires, damage caused by 4-wheel drive vehicles, and whatever else. What is also true is that people can be the biggest ally to keeping things healthy.

It is amazing to me that the accepted "navigable" part of the Verde River in the Verde Valley is from Deadhorse state park to Camp Verde and it passes dozens and dozens of people that own animals and property along the river. It also passes several areas where the ditch association have built gravel dams directing flow into their ditches that require portaging. Almost every river, even the Colorado have places where boaters have had to 'portage' in order to continue downstream.

I guess my reasoning being, is that the Freeport McMoran mining company is exercising a lot more influence over the upper Verde river than anyone realizes, and it has given all the other landowners and leasees along that particular stretch a sense of entitlement with a feeling they can do anything they want with the stretch of river they think they own.

If the landowners would open their land to more people those very people would become more aware of the Verde rivers importance and would help fight to protect the health and flow of rivers water year round.

What I see as a bigger threat to the Verde river than boaters and hikers is Fred Russkin and the Yavapai ranch. If he starts pumping and selling to Prescott and supplying his proposed developement, then no one living downstream all the way to Camp Verde will have any river to own or fight over.


Posted: Sunday, November 25, 2012
Article comment by: River Acess

Has anyone stopped to think why those no trespassing signs are posted or access areas are fenced off? There are many reasons. First off, land owners are afraid because of the sue happy generation we now have. Secondly, people are pigs and won't clean up after themselves. Sorry but if I owned land with access to the river I'd fence it off also, sad it has to be that way but land owners are tired of getting shafted by no fault of their own.

Posted: Sunday, November 25, 2012
Article comment by: Win Hjalmarson

The issue of river access is not simple as sometimes thought. Present law, among other things, gives landowners the right to keep others out of their property. Where private property includes a stream channel, present Arizona law allows the land owner to restrict access. This exclusion of use includes recreational navigation. The exclusion right may be difficult for river runners to understand and is a slippery problem when multi-uses of the river are considered.

The issue of navigability of the Verde River presently is being considered by the Arizona Navigable Stream Adjudication Commission and this issue is important to both recreational navigation enthusiasts and property owners. It seems that Arizona did not enter the union under the equal footing doctrine by ignoring land ownership along navigable rivers. Under federal law, land beneath navigable rivers is public and Arizona ignored this issue when it became a state. So the issue of river access and use is in a state of flux. See http://www.ansac.az.gov/ .

Itís great that property owners allow recreational navigation along the Verde River. Itís also obvious that the rights of property owners should be respected. Also, I do not profess to understand civil law in Arizona partly because some of it seems screwy and also because it makes me think differently.



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