CAMP VERDE - Two days after Dorothy FireCloud arrived to take over as superintendent of the Verde Valley's national monuments, she received a letter from Sam Whittington, the director of the National Park Service's Denver Service Center.
The letter explained a new initiative of the Department of Interior called "Follow the Flow," that called for establishing a national water trail system. The letter suggested that managers of park service properties form partnerships with local groups to help build the trail system, wherever possible.
A water right attorney by training, FireCloud saw it as a rare opportunity.
"When I first read about it I thought it would be really cool to build a trail connecting Tuzigoot with Montezuma Castle through the Verde River," she said in an interview this week.
But where she had just come from was not a place where the federal government was seen as a partner.
"Devil's Tower is in Crook County, Wyo. It's one of the most sparsely populated places in the lower 48. And the few people who live around it are not real keen on the government," she said.
But it didn't take long for her to realize that the Verde Valley was not Crook County, Wyo. The idea of connecting the national monuments with one another, via the river, was a concept that fit squarely with the efforts of several groups advocating on behalf of the Verde.
At her official installation last Friday at Tuzigoot, she made a point of expressing her gratitude to the community for their support of the monuments and in return promised to make the river trail system a priority.
"It's so nice to see so many people so interested in what we do. And interested in a friendly way," FireCloud said. "I am looking forward to not only this idea but several other opportunities where we can work together."
FireCloud also gave credit to her predecessor, Kathy Davis, for having built relationships she will rely on.
"She laid the ground work. The partners here really love the park; they are loving a lot of the things we are working on, and I have Kathy to thank," FireCloud said.
FireCloud is the 11th superintendent (previously called the custodian) of Montezuma Castle since it first opened in 1906 and the 13th at Tuzigoot since it opened in 1939. The two monuments were put on a single superintendent in 1975.