Yuma, Arizona

Yuma, Arizona

Greg Wilkinson
City Administrator, Yuma, Arizona
http://www.yumaaz.gov

YUMA – RICH HISTORY AND A BRIGHT FUTURE

Home to more than 93,000 year-round residents – and nearly as many seasonal visitors and workers in the winter months – the City of Yuma anchors the southwestern corner of Arizona as the state’s third largest metropolitan area.

Yuma’s population boasts diverse origins. Located across the Colorado River from California with the nearby Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California to the south and southwest, a majority of city residents report they are of Hispanic origin. Two Native American tribes are located in the Yuma area. And a large number of retirees who originally came just for the winter sun have decided to make Yuma their year-round home.

Born as the region’s only safe location to cross the once-untamable Colorado River,Yuma used its chief assets – water, sunshine and winter warmth – to become a hub for agriculture, tourism and military training. If you eat lettuce in the United States during winter months, it most likely came from the Yuma area.

With nearly ideal aviation conditions almost every day of the year,Yuma is home to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, the busiest air station in the United States Marine Corps. MCAS Yuma supports 80 percent of the Corps’ air-to-ground aviation training. It is home to the Marines’ version of the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the AV-8B Harrier and also is expected to increase the number of tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft. MCAS Yuma also is the only joint-use air station in the Marine Corps, sharing facilities with Yuma International Airport.

North of Yuma, the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground serves as a major test site for equipment that has served our armed forces well during operations in the Middle East over the past decade. At 1,300 square miles, YPG today is one of the world’s largest military installations, hosting up to 100 tests simultaneously. YPG is Yuma County’s largest single civilian employer.

Yuma is rich in history. First incorporated as Arizona City in 1871, the city was renamed Yuma in 1873. It is home to the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, a site of Western folklore with walls and buildings still standing from its days as a home to some of the West’s most dangerous – and sometimes just plain most unlikely – bad guys.

Despite its connections to the Old West,Yuma was once a thriving river town, visited by riverboats that traveled up and down the Colorado River, where they dropped off and brought back goods from ships that traveled the Gulf of California and up and down the U.S. Pacific coast.

Today, Yuma is showing success in its process of reclaiming its downtown riverfront. The Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, the first federal heritage area west of the Mississippi, was established in 2000 as a way to facilitate this restoration effort. New parks now line the Colorado River shores from downtown to the west, while work in the East Wetlands continues to weed out the invasive species that took root (and over-absorbed precious water) and replace them with the native trees and plants that freely adorned the riverfront in the days of the riverboats. The first private investment north of 1st Street in downtown since the 1920s brought a new riverfront hotel and conference center. A new federal courthouse near there is on schedule to open in 2013, and more is planned.

Through Yuma’s history, a common theme has been taking initiative and building community. Yumans rise to the occasion to look after their own. In the 1940s, following the departure of the U.S. military after World War II, community members didn’t merely sit and wonder why Yuma’s year-round flying weather didn’t keep the military there – they set out and succeeded in setting the record for the longest continuous flight, a catalyst leading to the establishment of what is now one of the military’s busiest air stations. The Aeronca sedan used in that endurance flight now looks down upon the lobby of Yuma City Hall.

And in recent years, with state budget cuts bringing the threat of closing the downtown area’s two state parks, the citizens of Yuma rallied together to raise the necessary funding to keep the Territorial Prison and Quartermaster Depot state parks open. Now under local control, visitors and events at these parks are rising. With the help of grants, community fundraising and capital funding from Arizona State Parks, major improvements to the grounds, buildings and museum exhibits have been completed and historic adobe structures have been re-roofed and restored at both parks. With the relocation of the Yuma Visitors Center to the Quartermaster Depot and aggressive regional advertising, both state parks are now in the black and have a bright future.

BIG AND GROWING

The county seat and largest city of Yuma County, one of Arizona’s original eight counties, Yuma is now the 11th largest city in the state, with an estimated population (2010 Census) of 93,064, up 16.7 percent from the 2000 Census count of 77,515.

MORE INFORMATION ON YUMA

City of Yuma:  www.yumaaz.gov
Yuma Visitors Bureau:  www.visityuma.com
Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp:  www.greateryuma.org
Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area:  www.yumaheritage.com
Arizona Western College:  www.azwestern.edu
Yuma County:  www.yumacountyaz.gov
Yuma Regional Medical Center:  www.yumaregional.org