By Elizabeth Zach, RCAC staff writer prosperity11

Arizona’s rural leaders seeking to improve their local economies might have a strong role model in the Verde River, which overcame pollution and now serves as a recreation hub in the central part of the state.

The Verde Valley is less about desert and saguaros. These days, it’s better known as a wine region, and its river has gradually attracted tourists from nearby Phoenix following a local effort to clean up the river for outdoor recreation.

The project was recently showcased during the Arizona Rural Policy Forum as a model of what’s possible in the rest of rural Arizona. One participant, Royce Hunt, director of a nonprofit in Safford, Ariz., said her town might benefit from a similar strategy.

“Seeing (the Verde River project) work here really encourages me to go back home and see what we can do to copy this example and have the same level of success that they’ve had here,” Hunt told The Daily Yonder.

The forum focused on several strategies to build wealth in rural Arizona such as stopping the brain and wealth drain as both young people and charitable dollars move to urban areas; attracting rural funding sources for rural projects; collaboration between small communities; and encouraging rural residents to shop locally and keep dollars in local economies.

For more on the forum and Arizona’s rural economy, go here: