Arguably the most iconic image within the city limits of Coolidge, and here long before the city was even a city, the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument has a group of reinforcements that plan to ensure it’s future.“We’re not affiliated with the park service or the federal government in any way,” Craig explained. “We really are just a non-profit support group and one of the things we’re trying to do is bridge that grey area between the government and private groups.
The Casa Grande Ruins Friends Group is a non-profit group that received certification about two years ago. It is led by President and founder, archaeologist Doug Craig, Ph.D, who was urged by former park Superintendent Jason Lott to form the group.
“A lot of what we want to do is get input from members of the Coolidge community, as to some of the things they would like to see with the monument and how it can benefit the community as a whole. My attitude is that it’s a win-win for everybody.”
The group is actively seeking and welcoming new members, who can find all the necessary information to join at www.friendsofthecasagranderuins.org.
“We would love to see more people check it out and consider joining,” said Craig who noted donations are tax exempt.
Craig is no stranger to the ruins. A Pinal County resident, he has lived in Arizona since 1979 and first visited the park as a tourist.
In the late 1990’s, Craig spent a year and a half in the field during the Grewe Excavation. The Grewe Site was abandoned some 900 years ago as the largest settlement in the American Southwest, it covered about two square miles and encompassed thousands of dwellings, to include the Great House.
Following his field work Craig spent another three and a half years analyzing and publishing his findings.
Considering, his knowledge of the site is extensive and with the Friends Group he hopes to spread his passion throughout the city.
“One of our goals with the friends group is to just bring greater awareness to the monument,” he said.
With that in mind, a signature event, now in its fourth year of planning, was born.
“I think the music festival is a strong step in that direction,” Craig said about the American Indian Music Festival, which was born several years ago and has welcomed thousands during each event.
“It’s a classy event,” he said.
People from all over the state and country attend the show, which typically spans two days and spotlights some of the country’s most talented Native American musicians.
The Friends Group supports the event and helps wherever necessary, but park staff can be credited with the bulk of the load.
The festival is scheduled for Feb. 11-12, and only costs regular park admittance. More information can be found at www.nps.gov/cagr/.
The festival is a step in the direction Craig hopes to go, bringing more people to the area, and jump-starting the local economy.
“Right now, the Casa Grande Ruins is the top tourist draw in Pinal County,” Craig said.
“We would like to get people to stay around longer, to do more things in the community,” he explained. “It’s something that can be taken advantage of a lot more.”
With such tough economic times a group of this kind is becoming more and more common throughout the National Parks Service. With Federal funds continually being cut, a revenue generator like the Friends Group is becoming more and more important, too.
The all-volunteer organization illustrates its goals on the web site and now also has the capability of accepting online memberships.
“We’re there as a support group,” Craig said. “The bottom line is that we’re there to support the monument.”
Permission granted to reprint this article on the Friends of Casa Grande Ruins website.