We, citizens of Payson, all of us immigrants from other places, live in what I dare say is the most beautiful and exciting place in the state of Arizona.
It all began with a United States military action that opened these central mountains for settlement in the late 19th century. It continued with brave families coming here to make a life for themselves, and from the beginning there has been a vibrancy and eagerness to life in Payson. Local folk struggled for decades to achieve a town site carved out of government land.
Citizens rose up to form the Womans Club, the Junior Woman's Club and the Chamber of Commerce to produce a hospital, medical care, a library, and bring the Beeline Highway over the mountains.
At no point did the pioneers and their children raise a red flag and say they wanted to sit back on their laurels and allow the town to recede into the shadows. They established and built upon traditions like the community Christmas trees, high school sports, rodeos, 4th of July celebrations, festivals, outstanding schools -- on and on goes the list of treasures that make Payson a great place to live and raise a family.
That enthusiasm for this special place set amid the mountains is continuing today in the revival of Old Town Payson, that is its Main Street. Thanks to the foresight and leadership of previous town councils, our town has become one of several "Main Street Communities," making it eligible for grant monies that build our economic base. Some folks cannot seem to get this matter straight, that indeed the grants are from tax money, but at a state level those same grants will go somewhere else if not to Payson. Still some believe that businesses on Main Street should not be given the advantage of physical face-lifts for their property. This totally ignores the fact that the increased economic activity on a revived Main Street will ultimately alleviate every citizen's tax burden because of the increased property and sales taxes collected.
Now our town council deals with another opportunity to forge ahead with community spirit and economic development in Payson. It is the acquisition of the American Gulch, its flood plain and meadow, as well as the property once settled along Main Street by Green Valley's first real developer, August Pieper, in the 1880s and 1890s. What investment taxpayers are asked to make now, through the action of the council, will be more than repaid by the economic development of that meadow, an extension of the beautiful Green Valley Park, and the control of potential flood waters.
Of course, from this historian's point of view, it would be great to save several landmarks for fixing up as showplaces, including the oldest standing house in Payson and the Pieper "mansion." Woe the day when they are bulldozed because they were not preserved.
This is a moment of truth for the future of our town. We need to urge our council to do the right thing and acquire that property so that the revitalization of Old Payson can move forward.