Animal park's time was up - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Animal park's time was up

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Posted: Thursday, June 3, 2004 9:08 pm | Updated: 5:53 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

That the wild animals who inhabit the former Out of Africa Wildlife Park on tribal land northeast of Scottsdale must endure the difficult experience of a move to Camp Verde with more haste than park operators planned is regrettable.

Several Valley individuals and firms’ willingness to help them vacate the property by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation’s deadline of June 30 is praiseworthy; it’s hoped that the animals endure their travels with few ill effects.

Yet those who would blame the tribe for the park’s relocation are acting too hastily themselves. At its heart is a simple landlord-tenant agreement the tribe is correctly following.

Those who have enjoyed Out of Africa since the park opened in 1988 should know that, according to the Tribune’s Erin Reep, it operated for most of its existence on a month-to-month tenancy. Moreover, park operators had themselves planned the departure since 2002. And when park officials previously announced plans to leave by this July the tribe asked for copies of exit plans and financial arrangements to restore the land to a more natural state.

Tribal officials say they never received such plans, though park owners Dean and Prayeri Harrison say they did.

Since their 2002 announcement, however, the Harrisons have had trouble ensuring the Camp Verde site was ready. In February they said they'd like to leave a year later, in July 2005. But the tribe, which expected Out of Africa to leave this summer in accordance with the Harrisons’ original plans, gave notice to the park on May 10 to leave by June 30.

Landowners — whether the land in question is on a reservation or off — have a right to determine the future of that land, however popular the tenant. The tribe has plans for the land where the park was built; it is part of a corridor tribal officials want to consider for future business ventures.

The Harrisons are to be commended for their devotion to animals the Valley has enjoyed for 16 years. They have earned this area’s best wishes for success in their park’s reincarnation in northern Arizona. However, their tenancy with the Fort McDowell Yavapais has legally, rightfully run.

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