The East Verde takes care of Payson. Time for Payson to take care of the river.
That’s why a band of volunteers will spend much of Saturday in teams hiking up the river and picking up litter and trash.
The Payson Fly Casters/Gila Trout Chapter of Trout Unlimited hopes to put into the field at least 30 volunteers, divided into five teams.
The East Verde flows along the western edge of Payson, a trout-stocked series of riffles and pools. Spring-fed above Washington Park, the East Verde normally meanders, but sometimes floods.
Town officials are working with Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department to improve the river, which flows past several small housing developments, but mostly remains on public lands.
The Salt River Project recently acquired rights to some 11,000 acre-feet in the Blue Ridge Reservoir, which it must pipe into the East Verde to get the water into Horseshoe Reservoir on the main stem of the Verde near Phoenix.
As a result, advocates for the river hope to eventually create better trout pools and habitat, upgrade several campsites and increase the trout stocking — including perhaps creating a stretch where people can fish for Apache trout or a catch-and-release stretch to create an opportunity to hook monster trout.
Visitor surveys show that outdoor recreation, including fishing, remains the region’s major tourist draw — which provides the foundation for the local economy.
The river gets heavy use from campers and anglers on weekends, especially in the area around Water Wheel, with its swimming pools and waterfalls. However, visitors often leave trash behind.
Members of the local fishing group say they’ve adopted the East Verde — starting with the daylong cleanup Saturday.
Volunteers will gather at 7 a.m. on the south side of The Home Depot in Payson.