Let's Cross This Bridge Together

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The fire is out. The evacuees have gone home. It even rained hard Monday night, and officials are talking about reopening the forest in a week or so.

But all is not well in the Rim country the Tonto National Bridge State Park is still scheduled to close "indefinitely" Nov. 1.

The State Parks Board voted 4-3 to close the park and 10 others to offset a budget cut imposed by the legislature despite the fact that Arizona's economy is tourism-based and tourists like to have things to do when they come here. For the Rim country, closing the bridge means 100,000 people will have to find some other place to go.

It's one of those decisions based on politics rather than common sense. To put it bluntly, it's a stupid decision made by people who should know better.

But there's another aspect to closing the bridge that goes beyond common sense.

Anna Mae Deming, who was married at the bridge in 1933, puts it this way:

"To me, it's a hallowed spot. There is a peace and beauty and sacredness that you can feel. It's like entering a church ... The impact would be felt throughout the Rim country if we lost it."

Fortunately, there is one last chance to reason with the state parks board Thursday at 9 a.m. when the board convenes at the bridge.

Bob Ware, executive director of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, likens the situation to the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and the home team trailing. He'd like to see us pull this out at the last minute, and he believes the best chance is for hordes of residents to show up for that meeting.

If you'd like to speak, that would be great. But just as important is the simple message that an overwhelming turnout will send.

The Rim country has so far reacted magnificently to the adversities of the summer of 2002. It's time to do it one more time.

When you arrive at the bridge, tell park personnel you are there for the parks board meeting and you won't be charged admission.

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