Originally Published: December 26, 2016 6:01 a.m.
The lawns at the Yavapai County Courthouse plaza flatten and turn brown from feet, vendor booths, and general use after major events during spring, summer and fall every year. It has reached the point where the county supervisors want to limit the days available for use permits between May 1 and Oct. 30 to give the grass time to recover between events.
REDUCTION IN DAYS
New contract provides for 70 event days between May 1 and Oct. 31, a 23 percent decrease (21 days) from last year.
May: 7 days
June: 18 days
July: 15 days
August: 18 days
September: 5 days
October: 4 days
Plus 3 days for Whiskey
Off Road, if approved by
The county contracts with Prescott Downtown Partnership, Inc, to manage the permits and use of the grounds for multi-day, one-day, and short activities such as weddings. The two-year contract came up for negotiation, and the supervisors unanimously approved a new one-year contract at their Dec. 21 meeting in Cottonwood. PDP has not yet signed the proposed contract.
A reduction in use is necessary for lawn maintenance and recovery, especially immediately after the major three-day shows, said Assistant County Administrator Jack Fields. Groundskeepers in the Facilities Department told him a healthy lawn has 3- to 5-inch roots. In large areas of the plaza, the root system is less than an inch, they said.
“That comes from heavy traffic without allowing for a chance to recover,” Fields said.
The Facilities Department has kept the supervisors informed about the state of the courthouse trees and lawn, and recently added PDP and City of Prescott staff in discussions.
The second part of the contract negotiations hands over enforcement of courthouse ordinances to PDP.
Vendors have not always followed the rules and regulations. Fields said he reviewed photographs showing boxes, tarps, tires, and weights resting directly on the grass, which is prohibited. Weight like that will compress the grass and deprive it of light and oxygen, he said. Staking of canopies and booths, also prohibited, has at times resulted in ruptured water lines.
In addition, the contract states, to the best of its ability, PDP will ensure that products sold during events are handcrafted and not resale items.
Representatives from the county and PDP will inspect the grounds daily during events. Violations will result in fines, which the county will deduct from the total $43,500 payment it makes to PDP for managing events.
Fines range from $50 per stake per day, $200 for crates not properly elevated two inches off the ground or weights placed on the ground and not suspended, to $300 for grounds not properly cleaned.
Reduction of days available for events falls from 91 days in 2016 to 70 days in 2017. However, the supervisors grandfathered in the eight major multi-day events in good standing: Phippen Western Art Show and Sale; two Mountain Artists Guild art festivals; Prescott Rodeo Days; three Chamber events – Faire on the Square, Territorial Days, and Fallfest in the Park; and the Williamson Valley Fire Department Arts and Crafts Show.
A ninth multi-day event, the Whiskey Off Road bike race, is not considered a “major event,” Fields said. Instead, the organizers ask the Board of Supervisors for approval to conduct the event every year.
“Anyone can ask the Board of Supervisors for permission to hold an event if their application is denied by PDP,” he said.
Smaller one-day events within the five-month period include the Whiskey Row Marathon, Summer Concert Series, Woof Down, Antiques on the Square, Bluegrass Festival, Empty Bowls, Kiwanis Kiddie Parade, Dog-Toberfest, and the Great Prescott Pumpkin Patch. Not included are Earth Day, Easter Egg Hunt, and the Courthouse Lighting, as they fall outside the time frame.
PDP Director Kendall Jaspers said he expects the reduction in days will impact people, including nearby merchants, especially the restaurants.
“Downtown is a mixed bag. There will be some that won’t be unhappy about this,” Jaspers. “I suspect most will miss the days, probably the majority. It will affect their business.”
He also said the decrease in event days could impact the nonprofits that host their fundraisers at the courthouse..
“It is what it is. This the county’s park, so they get to do what they want with it,” Jaspers said.
Fields said the county will watch what kind of effect the reduction will have downtown, as well as what kind of reaction it gets from the public.
“We’re not doing this in a vacuum,” he said. “We need to take pride in and maintain it in good condition. It shows pride of ownership in the community where the grass is green, trash picked up, and the restrooms are clean.”
It is possible, after a year or so when the grass becomes hardy again, that event days will be added back in, Fields said.