“Blackmail!!!” Just one of the comments at the March 3 meeting at the Best Western in Payson regarding the unbelievable closing of the Tonto Natural Bridge.
As a member of the Pine/Strawberry Take Pride Project and a frequent visitor to this wonderful park, I had to attend the meeting to get the facts.
Here are the facts:
1. The Tonto Natural Bridge is the largest travertine bridge in the world.
2. It was visited by 87,600 people in 2007.
3. The estimate for 2008 was 90,000 visitors, with people from all over the world, including most states in the U.S. and Canada.
4. The revenue for Rim Country, generated from the park, is estimated at $3.62 million. (And this figure is considered low.)
5. The ripple effect for our ailing economy is overwhelming.
6. If New York City closed the Empire State Building for repairs, there are a million other sites in NYC to visit.
7. The No. 1 attraction in Rim Country is the Tonto Natural Bridge.
8. Gas stations, restaurants, small businesses of every kind would be adversely affected by this closing. They are already being affected.
9. At a time when the national government is concerned about the economy and losing jobs, the state park board is closing one of the most popular state parks in Arizona.
10. The excuse for closing is repairs to the lodge. They are closing a 162-acre park for a half-acre building, that is not critical in operation of the park!
11. Supposedly this is just temporary. Only five to six months. These five to six months, (March-August) are the lifeline for Rim Country. And the closing could last longer since the repairs are just a political smoke screen.
12. The opening of the park is supported by Democrat Jack Brown and Republican Bill Konopnicki, who are great supporters of rural Arizona and spoke at the Best Western meeting. Many other representatives attended, including county supervisor, Tommie Cline Martin, a real champion of Rim Country.
13. The bridge’s revenue supports the park. There are no savings to close the Tonto Natural Bridge.
14. There are also 34 dedicated volunteers who work at the park and more volunteers if needed to reopen the park.
15. Fact: Rim Country needs to reopen the Tonto Natural Bridge now, not later.
E-mail the governor, the park board and your legislators.
Ira Gibel, member
Take Pride Project in Pine and Strawberry