The Slower Pace Of Tonto Basin


Tonto Basin is located 35 miles south of Payson on State Route 188.

The Basin's population continues to grow steadily. It has been growing for the last 5 years since the 700-acre land exchange with the USFS.


Tonto Basin residents Walt Surrett and Joyce Brunson at the newly remodeled Tonto Basin School. Brunson celebrates her 25th year with the school district this year.

The main attraction is Roosevelt Lake where the best fishing in the state prevails most of the year. Bass, catfish and crappie are the main species. Hunting in the area continues to draw lots of folks for deer, javelina, quail, dove, rabbits and other small game.

The area has around 2,000 full time residents. In the winter, the number of area residents swells to around 5,000 with all the RV parks at or near capacity. There are five parks fully developed.

The new Picture Mountain RV Park will be up and open for business in early 2003 with 90 spaces and an additional 90 spaces ready in 2004.

Tonto Basin has 963 registered voters, with 65 kids in the K-8 grade school, and about 12-15 high school kids who go to Payson daily.

Truly, the big news this year in the Tonto Basin was remodeling of the school through the state school facilities board.

The 12,500 square-foot school was built in 1980 by the people of Tonto Basin and Gila County. It was built for $125,000, with no debt service or bonds. To this day, the Tonto Basin school remains in the one percent of schools in the state with no debt service or bond issue.

Now back to the big news, the remodel cost about $625,000 and the school is still debt free. The school now has its own cafeteria, air conditioning, new gym floor, heating and cooling in the gym, new restrooms, new computer lab, new septic system, new special education classroom, new electrical-lighting upgrades, and much more.

The three-member board and Principal Johnny Ketchem were some of the state's early birds, jumping on the offer when the school facilities board was established in 2000 just for schools like the Tonto Basin School. Ketchem jumped through all the state hoops and never took no for an answer thus the Tonto Basin school got most all its needs served.

Many school districts in the state dragged their feet and when the dollars got tight and funding dried up, Ketchem was watching his school get most everything on its original list of needed improvements.

Tonto Basin School also has a new lighted ball field, thanks to a school board that let Walter Surrett head up and ramrod the entire project. Surrett organized the volunteer effort, worked with Jim Spencer, APS Payson manager; the Kiwanis Club of Tonto Basin, the Marine Corps League, the VFW, the Tonto Apache Tribe and many others to make the dream come true.

Gila County was a big player in the project, helping with the dirt work, grader, Cat, etc. Surrett laid the field out and, without a square foot to spare, made it fit.

The Earl Stephens Medical/Community Center is coming along, slow but sure. When it opens, the Tonto Basin will have a first-class clinic and community center. A distraction or two is expected; however, with wings and halos and the good folks of Tonto Basin, this project will become reality - according to Dr. Mark Ivey, Jr., MD, who is president of Punkin Center Charities, Inc. Dr. Ivey works at the clinic on a regular basis along with Sandy Dina, R.N. Together, they dedicate the time necessary to bring health care to the Tonto Basin.

The new Tonto Basin Chamber of Commerce building is now under construction south of Punkin Center on State Route 188, at approximately mile post 261. The building is being erected with almost all volunteer labor and is being overseen by Walter Duke of Duke Development.

Duke also donated his time to the Earl Stephens Medical/Community Center, and the building of same. The Chamber hopes to be in their new building by early 2003. The Stockmen's Bank of Payson is providing construction funding. This building would not be possible without many, many volunteer hours and the dedication to Tonto Basin by Walter Duke.

Retail services in the Tonto Basin: the Butcher Hook complex offers gas, general store with everything, food 7 days a week, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., beauty shop, ice, liquor, beer, etc., and fun bar. The Butcher Hook is the closest service on the north end of Roosevelt Lake. Going farther north, visitors will find the new Big Daddy's Pizza and Sub Shop, then the Cactus Flats Bar, the Punkin Center Bar, the US Post Office, and then Punkin Center RV & Marine Repair Shop. Many other services are available in the Tonto Basin, and they are all listed with the Tonto Basin Chamber of Commerce. There are also two motels. One has 24 rooms; the other has 10 rooms.

Upcoming events include:

October's annual Halloween Carnival at the school on Saturday, Oct. 26th.

A busy November has the USMC Annual Birthday Ball on Nov. 10; Veterans' Day Parade Nov. 11, Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast also on Nov. 11, and the Annual Arts and Crafts Show on Nov. 16 and 17.

March 1, 2003 will be the 7th annual Chamber Camaraderie.

May 10, 2003 is the 9th annual All American Beanoff at the Butcher Hook.

On a weekly basis:

Every Thursday is Bingo, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Tonto Basin;

The Kiwanis Thrift Store is open Wednesday through Saturday, located behind the Tonto Basin Dental Clinic and the Earl Stephens Medical Center.

The Tonto Basin Dental Clinic is a full service office. Call for more information at 479-3055.

It's a short drive down to the Basin. Come see our growth , and how a small community can offer a great lifestyle. There are three, family-owned real estate offices that can show you what you're missing.

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