Riverside: Friends are needed to watch over it 2014.05.07

The battle for Riverside continues, as it has for decades. Morenci's nature park has been a subject of controversy for many years, and city council's recent decision is no exception. Not everyone is pleased with the choice.

A common desire expressed by several people is to see Riverside just like it was when they were a kid. That's what they knew and it's what they want for their own children. The problem with that notion is that Riverside when they were a kid may be quite different from Riverside when someone else was young.

The oldest members of the community knew Riverside as the Tourist Camp, a popular park that drew hundreds of visitors most every day of the summer during hot weather. A huge swimming area offered area residents the opportunity to cool off in the days before air conditioning and private swimming pools. 

Since then Riverside has varied from a manicured park to a natural area—its current status—plus various states in between those two extremes. One year spring wildflowers take over the property; another year someone mows them down. One year it abounds with wild raspberries; another year they're declared a mess and clipped.

City council's recent decision should bridge the gap between those who want a third manicured city park and those who want the unique feature of a wild area inside the city. A portion of Riverside Natural Area will be set aside for picnics and easy access to Bean Creek. The remainder will be allowed to become a natural area—a place for people of all ages to explore and encounter nature.

For Riverside to succeed as a natural area, a couple things are needed. Barriers need to be restored to keep vehicles from the back area of the property. Second, Riverside needs some friends—people to check in frequently to see how things are going. If someone is dumping trash, call the police. If vehicles are driving off the road or purposely making ruts in the loop drive, let the police know. This is city property that needs to be protected.

Most visitors we've encountered at Riverside are not there to destroy and deface. It's a small minority of people who don't respect the property. Don't hesitate to let them know that Riverside is a city park that needs to be treated as such.