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Contact: Duane Hubbard, (928) 467-2241
Roosevelt, AZ - Tonto National Monument Staff gave the Gila County Sheriff and his office a VIP tour of the Upper Cliff Dwellings, February 11, in an effort by the two agencies to strengthen the relationship between local and federal services.
Sheriff Adam Shepherd and a small contingent, including Undersheriff Mike Johnson, were given a 3-hour interpretive program led by Lead Ranger Eric Schreiner. Tonto management has begun a concerted effort to strengthen their relationship with local partners as the Monument celebrates the National Park Service Centennial and looks toward the future with a renewed emphasis on community engagement.
"The relationship between the Sheriff's office and Tonto is key to protecting the fragile resources [here]," Schreiner explained. "My goal during the tour was to show how incredible Tonto National Monument is and how protecting it helps to enrich our community."
The Sheriff's office also felt it was helpful and necessary to tour the Monument. The tour provided them a better understanding of the location in the event Monument staff called upon the Sheriff's Department for help. Due to the Monument's remote location, the Sheriff's Department is often relied upon to provide law enforcement needs, which further emphasizes the need for a strong partnership.
"We feel it is important to maintain a good working relationship with the employees and be as knowledgeable as possible with the property should there be a need for a law enforcement response for either criminal activity or in a search and rescue application," Johnson said. "Having had the opportunity to meet Caleb certainly allows us to put a face with a name making the process that much more efficient should we need to coordinate a response or investigation with the Park Service."
Caleb Kesler, the Chief Ranger at Montezuma Castle National Monument and Tuzigoot National Monument, is the lead law enforcement officer for Tonto, Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot. Kesler's work with the local law enforcement agencies has provided the Monuments the ability to interact directly with those agencies in the event of an emergency.
"Tonto National Monument is located in a remote area, which requires a strong partnership with local authorities and communities" said Duane Hubbard, Tonto National Monument Superintendent. "By working effectively with the Sheriff's Department, it allows the Monument and the staff to complete their mission with the knowledge that they can do so safely. I would like to make this tour a yearly event, so that it will continue to strengthen our partnership with the Sheriff's office, and provide the Sheriff and his deputies with a closely acquainted knowledge of the Monument's grounds."
The tour wasn't all business, after all the Sheriff's Department was given a guided tour to a 700 year-old cliff dwelling by the Monument's most experienced ranger. By seeing and understanding the beauty and significance of the Monument's cultural and natural resources, it was a great reminder to the Sheriff's Department, and Tonto staff, of why the Monument's protection is of utmost importance.
"The tour was great," Johnson said. "I think my favorite part was simply the history of the ruins [and] the tribes who inhabited the ruins, as well as the surrounding area. The park employees were very informative and provided knowledgeable answers to a broad spectrum of questions concerning the park, not to mention the day we hiked to the ruins was perfect."
A renewed effort toward community engagement and local partnership building will provide Tonto National Monument the momentum to build on the Park Service's Centennial. The park staff looks forward to another hundred years of successfully educating visitors, and the nation's youth about the significance and beauty of the country's natural and cultural resources.