Gammage Issues Challenge Of Funk

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This hurts. Really hurts. But we gotta say it.

Grady’s right. Rats.

Grady Gammage this week brought his distinctive ruminations on growth and development in Arizona back home to the Rim Country at a forum sponsored by the Northern Gila County Economic Development Corporation and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Gammage has been coming up to his Rim Country house every weekend for decades. He loves it here: swishing pine trees, gurgling trout streams, clean air, laid-back lifestyle.

But he pretty much never comes to town — just stocks up with groceries and chills, making little contribution to the local economy.

Gammage says he’s got little reason to drive into Payson, with its strip malls and highway frontage — nothing to match even downtown Pine for funky pleasures.

Ouch. Unfortunately, the man does have a point.

Of course, community leaders have been struggling for years to create a pedestrian-friendly focal point along Main Street, to turn the rodeo grounds into a year-round site for trade shows and to use Green Valley Park as a staging ground for community events.

All good ideas. All mostly blunted and incomplete.

So, we’re ruefully grateful for Gammage’s dose of cod liver oil, hoping it’ll prove good for us.

In truth, Payson and the rest of the Rim Country stand uncertainly at a crossroads. That’s why the upcoming council elections in both Payson and Star Valley matter. We desperately need visionary, creative leaders right now.

Consider some of the opportunities — nearly within grasp. First, the town has secured enough water from Blue Ridge to lay long-term, ambitious plans.

Second, ASU may actually build a campus in Payson on 300 acres of now-vacant land. That project could offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create just the sort of setting Gammage has described, together with a couple thousand students and faculty members to provide the foot traffic and buzz needed.

Third, the need to put a share of the Blue Ridge water back into the water table could offer another priceless opportunity. Why not run a river through town, perhaps connected eventually to the American Gulch. Such a project could transform Payson the same way Austin’s River Walk has defined it.

So we hope the candidates will take up the challenge of offering Rim residents a true vision of the future — and that voters hold them to it.

Whispering Pines takes big step

The brave residents of Whispering Pines have entered into deep waters.

We applaud their initiative — and fear for their fate.

Specifically, the property owners in that small subdivision on the banks of the East Verde River this week formed a Water Improvement District.

They hope that the district can convince the Salt River Project to assign them a share of the 500 acre-feet of Blue Ridge water set aside for roughly 15 communities that lie along the pipeline.

The county manager warned the organizers of the district to brace themselves for “heartbreak,” predicting that many of their present-day friends will now turn, by degrees, into latter-day enemies. He had in mind, no doubt, the convulsions that have seized Pine and Strawberry as a result of their long struggle to gain control of their water destiny.

Whispering Pines faces some unsettling parallels —since Brooke Utilities already provides water service in that community — as it did in Pine before the district bought out the private company.

The organizers of the water district in Whispering Pines say they just want to secure the water rights and prod Brooke to provide for the future.

We certainly support the intention — although the details remain murky. We’re afraid the Whispering Pines homeowners may discover they’ve formed the wrong sort of district or that SRP will prove remote and intractable. But we congratulate them on becoming the first of the communities to take action.

Unfortunately, the complexities and the confusion only underscore the terrible failure of Gila County to provide leadership and serve residents. The county should foster a solution, not leave it to those small communities to invent their own water wheel.

But then, perhaps Whispering Pines will start a movement by casting the first stone against the imposing walls of the bastille. For Blue Ridge holds the key not only to Payson’s future, but to the fate of all those other communities. The time is short, the need is dire — only the path remains unclear.

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