Payson residents interested in the kind of welcome visitors receive when entering the community created the Payson Gateway Project, to develop an inviting landscape at the north end of town.
When The Home Depot was planned for Payson, the Arizona Department of Transportation required a roundabout be built for traffic on Highway 87 in front of the store.
The group saw this as an opportunity to create a "gateway" to the community and the Rim Country.
Gateway Project members plan to landscape the roundabout with an outcropping of boulders, ponderosa pines, oak trees, grasses and other native vegetation. The centerpiece will be a life-size bronze elk by artist Jim Keller of Payson.
A scaled-down, limited edition model of the sculpture, called a maquette, was revealed at a private reception April 29 at Classic Log Homes. A public showing is planned for the future.
Maquettes will be sold for $5,500 apiece to raise money for the project.
In addition to the maquettes, desk-size replicas of the sculpture will also be sold for $2,250.
The proceeds from the two replicas will help the Payson Gateway Project raise $31,000 for the labor and rental of heavy equipment and an irrigation system. The bronze will cost approximately $58,000.
Twenty-four of the large replicas will be made along with 48 of the desk-size, according to Nancy Cox and Kortni Hage, who are handling publicity for the project. Once those limited pieces have been sold, the molds will be broken, Hage said.
Almost all the hardscape/ landscape has been donated by local businesses, including boulders, soil, decomposed granite and most of the plants.
Much of the equipment needed for the project has also been donated.
Labor for planting will be provided by the High Country Xeriscape Council of Arizona, with the two Rotary Clubs of the area paying for three ponderosa pines to be planted in the roundabout landscape.
The hosts for the reception were Steve and Diane Stevens of Classic Log Homes, Beverages and More, Chaparral Pines, Plant Fair Nursery, Natural Elegance and D. J. Craig.
The Payson Gateway Project is a nonprofit organization. Donations may be made to Payson Gateway Project, P.O. Box 1525, Payson, AZ 85547. For additional information, contact Jeanie Langham, (928) 474-6610, or see the group's Web site at Inpayson.com/Payson-Gateway-Project.htm.
The Payson Gateway Project is dedicated to establishing a visual "sense of place" along the community's business corridors to celebrate Payson's unique history and the superb natural beauty of the surrounding Mogollon Rim.
Future projects will be identified and addressed and all residents of the region are invited to participate.