County News

High School Musical actress and singer Vanessa Hudgens caught the attention of area law enforcement over Valentine’s Day weekend for the alleged defacement of rocks in Coconino National Forest, but she is hardly the only person to get in hot water for allegedly damaging local natural and archaeological resources.

“Vandalism and looting are major threats to cultural resources on federal and state lands,” Verde Valley Archaeological Center Executive Director Ken Zoll stated via press release Friday, Feb. 26. “The Verde Valley has had several high-profile examples of graffiti, wanton damage and digging for artifacts at ancient ruins. These sites are important to today’s Native Americans and the cultural heritage of the Verde Valley.”

To assist land managers with such problems, the VVAC has established the Verde Valley Site Watch Program, which seeks to enhance the site steward program operated by Arizona State Parks within the Verde Valley.

In 2015, VVAC received grants from the Arizona Community Foundation of Sedona and Yavapai County for the establishment of the site watch program. By working with the United States Forest Service and Arizona State Parks, the center became aware of a grant awarded in 2015 by the National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Technology. Twelve grants totaling $427,000 were awarded to provide “funding for innovative research, training and publications that develop new technologies or adapt existing technologies to preserve cultural resources.”

According to Zoll, “One of these grants that caught the attention of the center was to the Research Foundation of the State University of New York, Syracuse, N.Y., for a project titled ‘Novel Electronic Technology for Real-time Detection of Trespass at Archeological Sites.’ RF-SUNY is a private, nonprofit corporation under contract to the State University of New York for the administration of sponsored research and programs conducted by faculty and staff at SUNY’s 64 campuses.”

What the project resulted in was a proposal to adapt anti-poaching technology to protect archeological, architectural and historic sites — in effect, creating an inexpensive way to report trespassers to vulnerable and remote areas.

“The goal of the project is to enhance the existing technology to meet the particular needs of cultural resources protection,” Zoll said. “In a nutshell, the system employs a communications base station that works with a satellite network to send messages from anywhere outside of cell phone networks where most endangered archaeological and sacred sites are located.”

The technology’s manufacturer, Irbis Solutions, markets the device on its site, stating, “RAPID systems are designed to detect intrusion into protected areas via a network of sensors and communications hubs. When sensors are tripped, users are then alerted in near-real time, through satellite messaging, to mount a response.

A wide variety of smart sensors are available to connect to a highly configurable base station. Properly installed, smart sensors will have a very low ‘false-positive’ rate of intrusion detection.”

Zoll added that the system comes in an unobtrusive package, small enough to hold in one hand. “The base station is hooked to sensors, some of which are extremely reliable — metal detectors, break beams, mechanical switches and temperature sensors — and some of which are experimental, such as face detection. Everything is hooked together by cables and buried for the most part but a wireless is being developed to do away with the cables.”

The project is already set to do its first pilot installation in the Bandelier National Monument near Santa Fe, NM. In March, the grant project directors will be visiting the VVAC to loan a unit to the center to run tests at a local site. The center, which manages six archaeological properties in the Verde Valley owned by the Archaeological Conservancy, has yet to decide upon a site.

Signage will allow visitors to sites to know about the installed surveillance technology, giving them the option to leave without being monitored.

“We’re very excited about the possibilities offered by this new technology,” Zoll said. “There are simply not enough human eyes monitoring these sites. In addition, some sites are very remote, making regular visits difficult. This could be a godsend in those situations.”

For more information on the center’s Verde Valley Site Watch Program, visit its website at or call 567-0066.

Upcoming Events

  • Where: Verde Valley Archaeology Center, Camp Verde
  • March 12: Archaeology Road Show
  • March 15: Dr. William Lipe, “The Connection between Turkeys and the People of Mesa Verde”
  • March 19 to 20: Verde Valley Archaeology Fair and American Indian Art Show
  • March 31: American Epic PBS/BBC Special Preview

For more information, visit or call 567-0066


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