Closing Of Natural Bridge Big Disappointment

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Jodee Smith/Roundup

Alice Natale entertains young people with her storytelling at the Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library in Pine.

As I was driving home last week, I saw a worker posting a large “closed” plaque over one of the Tonto Natural Bridge signs.

What a huge disappointment for those of us in the Rim Country who have enjoyed the amazing beauty and rarity of this unusual treasure.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the bridge. We had just shown my dad and his wife the property we were in the process of purchasing in Pine.

While approaching the bridge, I had a sudden whim and said something to the effect of, “I wonder what this is?” We’d only been in the Rim Country about a month at this stage! We pulled onto the innocent-looking side street, and within a few minutes found ourselves descending a very steep, very windy, very narrow, road before reaching a beautiful sprawling valley.

Who would have guessed? After arriving at the parking lot we worked our way down one of the steep trails and found ourselves in a refreshing tree-lined creek bed with giant boulders and something I’d already discovered was sorely lacking in Arizona —water.

Unfortunately, my husband, who had been complaining of a toothache, began to show signs of real distress, so we cut our trip short in order to hurry back to Payson for a visit to the dentist.

My next trip to the bridge came during a homeschool field trip. On that occasion, we were blessed to have as our guide a wonderful resident of Pine by the name of Bill Armbruster.

Bill gave us an absolutely thorough and engaging history of the bridge, including how Mr. Gowen first accidentally stumbled on the unique area and then convinced many of his relatives to come all the way from Scotland to Arizona to help him homestead the property.

Under Bill’s guidance I quickly realized that we had not even seen the most beautiful side of the natural bridge on our first trip! With water rushing over the travertine bridge to the pools below, we stood in awe of this natural wonder. Later we discovered something I didn’t think was possible in the arid Arizona climate, a small, but beautiful, “fern grotto.

Of course after that we had to bring my husband back and show him what we had missed the first time around.

We spent an absolutely wonderful afternoon hiking, picnicking and enjoying the beautiful treasure that is Tonto Natural Bridge.

Somehow it just doesn’t seem practical to see it being closed due to finances. Don’t get me wrong, I agree wholeheartedly that the best solution to our current fiscal situation is to cut back wherever possible.

I actually applaud the state for making the right, although hard decisions to rein in spending. Just as we as individuals must modify our lifestyles and live within our means, so must the government. It’s just that Tonto doesn’t seem to be in the same league as most of the other state parks that were chosen to be closed.

For one thing, while many of the parks on the chopping block reportedly served between 5,000-10,000 visitors last year, Tonto saw an amazing 94,000. This is clearly a popular site for many, many folks.

I recently read that the bridge experienced a loss of about 53 cents per visitor. So why not simply raise the fee a bit? What about partnering with the county or local governments, or even private investors to see if there is a solution that could help keep this wonderful treasure accessible?

It seems that this closure goes beyond common sense.

I will be submitting this article before the results of Tuesday’s community meeting takes place, but let’s hope that a reasonable solution can be found soon, and once again we can enjoy this wondrous place.

Meals for school

To help deal with the tough budget cuts ahead, several local restaurants have partnered with the Pine Strawberry School to offer folks special meals at great family prices.

A percentage of the proceeds from certain specials will go directly into an account to purchase basic necessary items such as paper, crayons and anything else that the kids may be lacking during next year’s budget cuts. When ordering, be sure to tell your wait staff that you are there to support the “schools fund.”

So far the participating restaurants and businesses are: Uncle Tom’s — Order any large pizza at any time, the more large pizzas you order the more you help!

Nifty 50’s — Omelets ordered on Monday will help support the fund.

Strawberry Lodge — is introducing Thursday Family Pasta Night. Enjoy pasta with meatballs, salad and garlic bread, enough to feed a family of four for $29.99.

Pine Deli — has a Friday lunch special, two delicious fish tacos with three sides for $6.50.

Other restaurants that will be participating in the near future are The Pine Grill, Mama Mia’s, HB’s and The Randall House. I’ll keep you posted on this generous partnership as details continue to unfold.

Movie Madness

For all the kids who will be off for spring break for the next two weeks, Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library will be hosting another round of “Movie Madness.”

On Thursday, Feb. 12, at 11 a.m. they’ll be showing “Madagascar Escape 2 Africa,” Rated PG, and then on Friday, Feb. 13, “Space Buddies,” Rated G, will be showing, also at 11. There will also be movies available during the following week.

Also at the library, back by popular demand, the “Getting to Know Your Computer” senior computer classes for Vista users will take place in mid-May. The first series filled up very quickly and classes will be limited to 20 participants, so sign up now to ensure your spot.

To register or find out more information, please call the library at 476-3678.

The next homeschool art class takes place Thursday, March 12 at the library activity room from 12:30 p.m. until 2 p.m. These free classes are taught by Robyn Bossert.

I recently saw some of the work the children had done on display in the library and I was very impressed.

Take Pride Project

Take Pride Project of Pine and Strawberry has set up a memorial fund in honor of Louise Anslow, a dedicated member who recently passed away. Louise loved music and she shared that love with people of all ages through her volunteer efforts at school and community music organizations in our region and beyond.

Members of the Take Pride Project believe a fitting honor to this lovely woman is to raise funds to purchase a new piano for the students at the Pine-Strawberry Elementary School. Individuals or businesses who would like to be part of this effort may make donations to Take Pride Project, P.O. Box 1204, Pine, AZ 85544.

Please make checks payable to Take Pride Project — Louise Anslow Memorial. Organizers ask that you include your e-mail address with your donation so that they can keep you posted on the progress of the project. Donors will also be notified when the piano is presented to the school.

If you have any questions, please contact Christy Powers at 476-2239 or e-mail cpowerspak@gmail.com. You may also contact Pat Burke at 476-2099.

For those of you who wish to contribute information to the column, please feel free to e-mail me at smithster5@msn.com or call 476-3561.

Thanks and God bless!

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