Helping To Bridge Troubled Waters

Fund-raiser and plea for volunteers at Tonto Natural Bridge seeks to bolster Rim Country’s top tourist attraction

Tonto Natural Bridge

Tonto Natural Bridge Photo by Andy Towle.

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The Friends of the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park will present “A Taste at the Bridge” from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4. This early evening setting will present the Tonto Natural Bridge at its finest, as well as western art by local artists, wine, light finger food, music, raffles and door prizes.

The state park ranks as Rim Country’s best-known tourist attraction. One recent study concluded out-of-area visitors to the soaring travertine arch interject $26 million annually into the local economy, although the average number of visitors has declined by about a third since the study was done, thanks in large measures to closures and the recession, which cut into visitation.

Now that Tonto Natural Bridge has resumed seven-day-a-week operations, the fund-raiser will help rally additional support.

Come and tour the historic Tonto Lodge, see the rooms as they were, with in-room sinks, old photographs, iron beds and down-the-hall toilets. Even the Roof Room will be open for spectacular viewing of the bridge and the canyon.

Only 200 tickets will be sold at $50 per ticket for an evening at Rim Country’s premier natural location. A very limited number of the tickets are still available at the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. They may also be purchased from the Friends board members or online at www.tontobridge.com.

This is the Friends’ first attempt at a large benefit, but it may become an annual event. The group sought sponsors for the program, including the Town of Star Valley. The Star Valley council agreed to give $1,000 toward the event.

Proceeds will benefit the Tonto Natural Bridge in operations and areas not funded by the state of Arizona.

Projects the Friends support include: a monument sign at the turn onto the road to the Tonto Natural Bridge from Highway 87; rebuilding the informational kiosks next to the trails; and installing two directional signs in Payson, at both the north and south ends of town, directing incoming traffic to the park.

For more information, call the chamber at (928) 474-4515.

Bridge needs volunteers too

The state cuts in funding for Tonto Natural Bridge have made it necessary to turn some of the operation duties over to volunteers, especially when it comes to maintaining the grounds and running the gift shop.

A good many of the maintenance volunteers have had to give up helping and there are now only two or three people, all senior citizens, who come in on Monday morning to take care of all of the grounds, empty the trash and keep the park in order.

Donations have made it possible to keep the park open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Labor Day, but the volunteer corps is getting on the thin side.

Volunteers are involved in interpretive services, visitor services, landscaping, gardening, monitoring for safety considerations, lodge housekeeping and other duties.

To learn more, call (928) 476-4202

or (928) 476-2261 and ask for Pat Roth or Courtney Rogers or leave a message.

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