The bronze roundabout elk, left for dead on the side of Highway 87 at Tyler Parkway, has been resurrected.
The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), which called the elk a "distraction" and killed it last month, has reversed its position in a letter to the town, according to LaRon Garrett, town public works engineer.
"Basically what it says is go ahead and submit a permit application to ADOT with the landscaping and elk in it, and as long as it meets the other criteria as far as sight distance and all that -- which it should -- then it looks like they will approve the elk," Garrett said.
When the project was shut down, a group of volunteers calling themselves the Payson Gateway Project was in the process of trying to raise $65,000 in private donations to put a larger-than-life bronze elk atop a rock outcropping, with native landscaping and the Payson town logo inside the traffic circle. After ADOT nixed the project, the money was returned.
Payson Gateway Project will meet next week to launch a new fund-raising effort, according to Jeanie Langham, who is leading the effort.
"We're excited about it," Langham said. "We're glad this is finally coming to some fruition. We're going to go forward."
ADOT gave several reasons for killing the elk.
"First they were afraid that people would crash looking at it," Langham said. "Then the next thing was they thought pedestrians would want to have their picture taken with it and get killed."
The state agency now admitted that the elk and the other design elements the committee wants to put in the roundabout make it actually more safe.
"What they want is something there that you cannot see through," she said. "That's why ADOT wanted that (mound of) dirt there, for safety reasons, and that's why we're back on.
"You want to block the sight distance in the center island to opposing traffic, as well as headlights. That's part of the safety in it."
Langham, a longtime advocate of town beautification, said the town should take landscaping into consideration when making decisions about future roundabouts.
"You need to budget for landscaping," she said. "We're not going to just have 105-foot circles of dirt in our town."
The landscaping planned for the town's first roundabout will include at least three ponderosa pines, some other native trees, and drought-tolerant shrubs. Bids are currently being accepted from several artists for the bronze elk.
The elk is particularly appropriate for this roundabout because elk used to frequent the meadow where The Home Depot now sits, according to Langham.
Payson Gateway Project is working under the umbrella of the 501(c)(3) of the Friends of Payson Parks and Recreation. Diane Enos is the co-chairperson, and town Councilor John Wilson is the treasurer. The Rotary clubs and the Payson Xeriscape Council are providing support.
Checks should be made out to Payson Gateway Project and mailed to P.O. Box 1525, Payson, AZ 85547. Contributions are tax deductible. For more information, call (928) 474-6610.