Wed, Feb. 26

Commentary: Birding Festival another way to share your love for Verde River

Laura Jones, MY TURN

Laura Jones, MY TURN

When I decided to move to Clarkdale 13 years ago, I was hoping to find meaningful work but wasn’t sure what it would be.

In an effort to give to my community and to connect with new people, I declared 2011 the “Year of Volunteering.” This declaration led to my work on behalf of the Verde River, one of the last perennial flowing rivers in the State of Arizona.

In the Spring of 2011, as a volunteer for Friends of the Verde River, I removed invasive Tree of Heaven at Dead Horse Ranch State Park and then helped organize the first community outreach events for our habitat restoration program the Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition.

When I was hired as a full-time employee, I was tasked with connecting Friends to private landowners across the Verde Watershed. This gave me the enviable task of visiting properties mostly along the Verde River and Oak Creek and meeting more than 200 private landowners all with wonderful stories about their properties and their love for the rivers and creeks that nourish them.

For the last year and a half, I’ve been taking on a new challenge, coordinating our community events including the Verde River Runoff and the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival.

This work has connected me with a new group of people that love the Verde River, especially the amazing volunteers that give countless hours to support these events.

As we get closer to the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival, April 25-28, I’ve taken a moment to reflect on the value of the Verde River to our communities.

When I moved to Clarkdale, I joked that I couldn’t find the river, even though it practically runs right through town.

So this year, as I reflect, I am grateful for the accessibility to the river, through new river access points and improved signage; I am grateful to see kayaks on top of cars, knowing that the more people that personally engage with the river the more likely we will be able to preserve it; and I am grateful for the Spring migration of birds that come through our valley making it one of the top birding destinations in the Southwest.

This year’s Festival will bring hundreds of birders to visit places along the Verde River and its tributaries including Dead Horse Ranch State Park, the host sight of the Festival, Bubbling Ponds at the Page Springs Hatchery operated by Arizona Game and Fish Department, and several locations across the Coconino and Prescott National Forests where they will catch a glimpse of the more than 260 species of birds that will summer in the Verde or that are passing though on their way North.

On Saturday, April 27 we will share our love for birds, wildlife and the river with families of the Verde Valley at the Family Nature Festival. This free event will give kids a chance for hands-on fun centered around nature.

So, if you love the Verde and the habitat it provides for us and our birds, or you have kids that love to learn about wildlife, or you want to go on your first birding field trip, join us.

Laura Jones is Community Engagement Coordinator for Friends of the Verde River. For Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival and Family Nature Festival details visit Verde

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