The Payson Town Council wants to investigate the possibility of building a gazebo for weddings and other special events in Green Valley Park — despite the misgivings of Payson Mayor Kenny Evans.
Counselors Su Connell and Fred Carpenter supported the idea, in the hopes that an additional gazebo people could reserve would foster the use of the park for special events and ceremonies, which would boost the town’s struggling tourist economy.
“People could rent it for weddings or whatever,” said Connell at last week’s council meeting. “It sounds like a feasible idea that could bring in additional revenue. The park is an ideal place for a wedding.”
However, the town built the park with bond money in a partnership with the Northern Gila County Sanitation District. As a result of that agreement, people cannot reserve the existing gazebo or other areas of the park ahead of time. People have used the gazebo for various family events — including weddings — but only if someone shows up early to occupy it. This sharply limits the ability to plan events in the existing facilities.
Councilor John Wilson noted that people use the existing gazebo for 20 or 30 events annually, despite the existing restrictions. “If we had something like this that could be reserved, that would be an enhancement for people to come visit us and spend a little money here.”
Councilor Carpenter agreed, noting that he has served as the musical DJ for several weddings at the existing facility. “It’s a crap shoot now” in using the gazebo without a reservation, he said.
However, Mayor Evans had his doubts.
“I have considerable reservations because of the layout of the park.”
He noted that a large wedding party could make it hard for walkers and bikers to use the trail that loops around the park. Moreover, developing a facility at Green Valley Park for weddings and similar activities could interfere with a longer term plan to develop Tonto Natural Bridge State Park into the premier regional site for such events.
The state parks system is currently seeking a private contractor to run the Natural Bridge, after having restored the historic inn to rentable condition.
“I would worry about some of these ideas,” said Evans.
In addition, he noted that it was likely the sanitary district would veto any such reservation-based facility, based on the joint operating agreement that made it possible to build the park — which centers on several lakes filled with reclaimed water that can then soak back down into the water table.
Finally, Evans noted, a popular facility hosting special events would “exacerbate the already difficult problem we have with parking.”
In the end, the council directed the town staff to first determine whether the Northern Gila County Sanitary District would object to such a facility and then to present a proposal at a future council meeting.