A young man who almost didn't enroll in Payson High School has capped his prep academic/athletic career by being named "the most improved student of the year" by the Zane Grey Kiwanis Club.
Josh Barnhart, a member of the now graduated PHS class of 1999, received a plaque, pen and a $50 U.S. Savings Bond from the Kiwanis. He was one of 50 students in the Arizona/New Mexico region to receive the honor.
At the conclusion of Josh's eighth-grade year at Rim Country Middle School, his parents relocated to another community. Josh had many friends in Payson and didn't particularly want to leave the area and his buddies.
Also, the Class of 1999 was rounding into being a very talented group and in the back of his mind, Josh wanted to be a part of any success the group attained during the four years in high school.
Among Josh's many friends was classmate Cable Morris. Somehow, Cable talked his mother, Terry, into allowing Josh to move in with them.
Now, four years later, Josh still lives in the Morris home and is considered as much a part of it as Cable. When Josh received the award at a recent Kiwanis meeting, Terry was there with him.
Many coaches and teachers, including this one, are grateful that Terry welcomed Josh into the family home and he was able to wrap up his high school days as a Longhorn.
If you're heading south into the Tonto National Forest for hiking, picnicking, camping or any other pursuit this Memorial Day weekend, remember that continued dry forest conditions and high fire dangers have resulted in the implementation of fire restrictions. The restrictions go into effect today, Tuesday, in the Pinal Mountains, south of Globe and the area north of Roosevelt Lake and east of the Verde River. The restrictions place limitations on campfires, smoking, chain saw use and discharge of firearms except in legal hunting activities. Use of petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns and heating devices are allowed within the area where restrictions apply.
In the Payson Ranger District, all areas will be closed to campfires and smoking except within the provided campfire rings at Houston Mesa Campground, Flowing Springs, East Verde and East Verde Crossing campgrounds, Waterwheel, Second Crossing and Third Crossing campgrounds. Also, campfires are allowed in the campgrounds located at Ponderosa, Tonto Creek and Christopher Creek, east of Payson.
Former Payson High School teacher and coach Bruce Sitko, now working as an Arizona Game and Fish officer near Pinetop, is keeping a close eye on the Mexico Wolf Reintroduction program occurring in the northeastern part of our state. He oversees some phases of the project.
The latest news from his office is good. The Campbell Blue Pack, as it has been designated, is thriving in a remote location and apparently learning to fend for themselves. The Hawks Nest Pack remains in an acclimation pen but has had pups. The Pipestem Pack might be thriving best. Based on radio signals, Sitko believes the pair has established a den and is tending pups.
The project is not without its critics but many say the return of the Mexican Wolf is a healthy step towards maintaining the ecosystem.