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River rides take a plunge

Cottonwood Journal Extra of Cottonwood, Arizona

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Last year, the Clarkdale Town Council started to regulate the amount of commercial boating activity on the portion of the Verde River that runs through its town limits.

As it turns out, the amount of commercial boating was drastically reduced.

The peak boating season is denned as lasting from April 1 to Sept. 30, when 85 percent of commercial river activity typically takes place.

River outfitters started operating in Clarkdale in 2014, when there were nearly 6,400 customers who signed on to enjoy the river. That's when Clarkdale opened two access points along the river, points where river outfitters provide trips down the river.

One access point is named for the old TAPCO power plant and sits on the river off of Sycamore Canyon Road.

The other is downstream and named after Tuzigoot, the Sinaguanruins.

After developing a process for how to regulate commercial activity, the town created a committee which recommended that four outfitters be offered permits to take people down the river.

Only two of those businesses actually acted on those permits, according to Town Manager Gayle Mabery, which led to a reduction of commercial trips during this year's peak season.

Based on the amount of river activity this year, the Clarkdale Town Council voted unanimously at its Oct. 27 meeting to keep the numbers in place for the 2016 river season.

The rules continue to allow for 9,200 commercial customers to use the river for recreation.

That includes 1,380 spots to be set aside for educational trips down the river.

A guided trip will allow for a maximum of 16 people at a time, including guides.

Up to 36 people will be allowed to take unguided commercial trips per day.

"We're the only public agency that has done that on the middle Verde River," Mabery said. "We broke new ground here."

Mabery said that there are regulations regarding boating on the portion of the Verde River below Beasley Flats near Camp Verde, a portion that has been designated "wild and scenic" by the federal government.

The wild and scenic designation provides special federal protections and the Verde River is one of only two waters in Arizona to receive it.

The other is Fossil Creek.

There are no regulations in Clarkdale regarding private boating, Mabery said.

With much of the allowed capacity on the river unused, Mabery said that it's up for grabs for river outfitters.

Mabery said that the town expects to have bids back in from businesses that want to operate on the river by Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Vice Mayor Richard Dehnert had questions about why the number of unguided commercial trips was limited to 20 percent of total capacity.

Mabery said that in 2014, 45 percent of the commercial trips down the river were unguided.

"We tried to structure the capacity," Mabery said.

Mabery said the idea was to keep the river free from congested masses of boaters The town also withholds 10 percent of the commercial capacity allowed on the river in case there are special events during the year.

"They have the opportunity to experience nature as they do to have fun on the river," Mabery said.

Some of the revenue from commercial boating goes to pay for "river ambassadors," part-time employees who work with visitors in an effort to balance public recreation access with protecting the natural qualities of the river.

Mabery said that if the demand for river use increases, the regulations can be reviewed by the Town Council at any time.

Copyright 2015 Cottonwood Journal Extra, Cottonwood, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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