The untrained eye might see a lot full of rocks strewn randomly on the ground.
But to Penny Minturn, the resident archaeologist with a recently earned doctorate, the site is one of hundreds in the Rim Country that sheltered prehistoric culture known as the Central Arizona Tradition.
She also sees the signs of neglect. Without protection and stewardship, the 10-acre ruin has fallen into disrepair and decay.
"It's really a beautiful site," said Minturn, "It would be a great place to ride your horse, take a walk or have a picnic."
The Payson Town Council, at its Nov. 16 meeting, voted to allow the Rim Country Chapter of the Archaeological Society of Arizona (RCCAAS) to become the official ambassador of these prehistoric remnants. The society, in conjunction with Gila Community College, the Forest Service and the Town, will work together to preserve and develop the site with minimal impact to taxpayers.
GCC Dean Harry Swanson said he's looking forward to providing the research resources needed to move the project forward.
The site, named after a nearby drainage canal called Goat Camp Creek, is tucked away off Tyler Parkway. With a trail already established, it's slated to serve as one of the urban trailheads that will lead into the proposed Community Trails Network system.
The Town of Payson took ownership of the land in 1995 after a federal land swap.
Archaeological evidence shows that people have been traveling through the Rim Country for thousands of years. The Goat Camp Ruins site is just one of hundreds of plots in this area, such as the Risser and Shoofly ruins, that people of the Central Arizona Tradition called home.
"There are quite a few ruins in this area," Minturn said. "A lot of what we're going to do is some clearing and stabilization."
Minturn said the ruin was once a 30- to 35-room prehistoric pueblo that housed the Central Arizona Tradition in the early 11th century. Although the origins of that culture are still unknown, Minturn said the inhabitants were most likely relatives of the nearby Sinagua, Anasazi, Mogollon, Salado and Hohokam natives.
But modern man has been trampling over the remains of Payson's local history.
The Forest Service owns land adjacent to the ruin and to help with the trails program, it constructed a path around it to avoid disturbance.
Interim Parks and Recreation Director Mary McMullen outlined the issues in a memo to the council. She said off-road vehicles enter the site to the north and to the south and instead of staying on established paths, drivers plow through the ruin.
"Protection of the site is essential to preserve what archaeological remnants are left," she said.
As the preservation effort progresses, stakeholders will work toward securing grants to preserve the area. Minturn's goal is to transform the trailhead into an interpretive site accessible to the public and a source of education for students and adults.
For more information about the Goat Camp Ruin, or to help RCCAAS with its preservation projects, call (928) 474-3483.