High Desert Park, a Gift that Keeps on Giving
by Beth Cothern
In 1981, The Phoenix Gazette reported: “If their origin is somewhat of a mystery, their continuity is even more so.” In 2016, things are pretty much the same for the High Desert Park in Black Canyon City (BCC).
The organization, once known as “The Filthy Five,” founded what is now the High Desert Park in 1974. Some people thought they were a motorcycle gang. Not so. “Filthy Five” founders, Roger L. Williams (first president), Doug Thompson, Dave Davis, Gerry Martin and Jim Welch (who never officially became a member) were a group of fun-loving construction workers. They were eventually joined by their wives and some 40 others. They incorporated in 1975. “To look at them,” said BCC resident Bill Sapp, “You wouldn’t think they could get a damn thing done. All they ever do is fight, fiddle and fool around.”
The “Five,” as they were known, were what we would call community activists today. They recognized community needs and tried to meet them. They raised money for projects with raffles; they lived with a roll of raffle tickets in hand. The prizes were always donated by members, or created by the ladies who established an auxiliary. Once, a brand new car was raffled. The operators of the Black Canyon Greyhound Park were benefactors. Recipients of their generosity included the Little League, the volunteer fire department and even motorists stranded on the highway.
The group developed the land that became High Desert Park by buying an old tractor and rehabilitating it. They carved a ball park out of what had been a garbage dump on federal land. They were offered a $10,000 grant to expedite the re-development, but they turned down the money and only accepted the land.
Signs in their clubhouse read: “To Live, to Give, to Love, to Help, to Work” and “The Hand of the Working Man Ready to Serve his Community.” The “Five’s” motto is: “We Help, Not Hurt.” In 1984, the High Desert Park changed hands. The title to the six-and-a-half-acre tract passed from the Bureau of Land Management to Yavapai County.
Fast forward to 2000. Bill Beckman’s name has become synonymous with High Desert Park. He joined in 1996 when the “Five” were still in charge. In 2000, High Desert Park became part of the county park system. High Desert Helpers, Inc., was formed and became the managing partner for the County. Bill became President and remained in that position until 2007. Stan Cothern, current President, is fond of saying that “Bill Beckman has done more unselfish good for our community than anyone else I know!”
Those accomplishments include: a playground; picnic ramadas; an annual Easter egg hunt; an annual Thanksgiving dinner; Breakfast with Santa; annual food collections and distribution; an annual clothing exchange; and 2.7 miles of hiking trails. In 2005, the trail system was officially dedicated and named the “Bill and Kay Beckman Trail.” Kay, who was club secretary for most of the years Bill was president, produced a yearly photo-calendar as part of the fund-raising effort.
In the past few years, many new events have been established. The Park absorbed the “Braggin’ Rock Club” and now hosts the annual Rock-a-Rama Gem and Mineral Show. The Harvest Moon Dance with its annual quilt raffle has also been a huge success. More renovations have been completed recently to update the facilities. The pleasure the membership takes in their activities veils the quantity of sacrifice, sweat and equity that has been put into creating this community haven. It has become a vital part of BCC and it takes a small army of dedicated volunteers to keep it going for the next generation. The history of High Desert Park, which is celebrating 15 years this year, proves what can be accomplished when a group of citizens band together for the good of the community.
To learn more visit; http://www.highdeserthelpers.org/