Hard Times Forge The Tie That Binds

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

The Tonto Apache Tribe presented Payson with a $51,000 check Thursday. Councilors Lanell Hooke and Vivian L. Burdette were on hand to watch Chairman Ivan Smith (right) hand Payson Mayor Kenny Evans the check.

What’s the cliché? Ah, yes: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And maybe — it’s the hardships you survive together that really bind you.

Well, whatever your motto — members of the Tonto Apache Tribe this week demonstrated what reliable partners they can be for their Rim Country neighbors.

Make no mistake, the tribe’s casino operation has suffered right along with the rest of the businesses in Rim Country in the course of the current downturn.

Still, the casino remains one of the most important employers in all of Rim Country — and the facilities the tribe has developed remain critical to the region’s future.

This week the tribe went above and beyond.

So Thursday, the tribe handed Payson a no-strings-attached check for $51,000, as the town struggled with yet another bleak budget. The tribal chairman suggested the money might help get Tonto Natural Bridge reopened — another recent victory in Payson’s effort to bolster the faltering tourist economy in Rim Country.

That generous support of its neighbor came in the wake of the great success the casino had in providing a crucial venue for a tournament gathering of professional bass fishermen — who interjected $600,000 into the economy before and during the three-day event.

Of course, that developing partnership goes both ways. Payson Mayor Kenny Evans recently played a key role in helping the tribe snag a $1.8-million federal stimulus grant to finish what might have been a white elephant sewage treatment plant unable to operate for lack of a way to handle the treated wastewater. The grant will enable the tribe to discharge the treated water into a new lake near the Payson Event Center — benefitting both the town and the tribe.

If we come out of these hard times with a deeper, more cooperative relationship between the town and the tribe, then we’ll truly have used all that pressure to turn coal into diamonds.

Something wonderfully fishy going on here

Who’d a thunk it? Turns out, 300 bass fishermen and a couple hundred friends, family and hangers-on pumped $600,000 into the local economy during a roughly one-week stay to participate in a nationally ranked bass tournament at Roosevelt Lake.

Kind of makes you stop and think. Could Payson fish for a living?

That alluring possibility emerged from an assessment of the economic impact of the recent, three-day FLW Bass Tournament, which inspired lots of spending at restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and bait and tackle shops.

We applaud the organizers, both for privately raising the $8,000 fee needed to host the event — and for deploying volunteers who ran the event with such professional competence that they managed to launch some 150 bass boats in a 47-minute window.

The event went so well that the Rim Country was invited to host an even more ballyhooed bass tournament next year, with a $125,000 first prize, the top bass fishermen in the world and an hour-long sports channel special featuring the region and the lake.

Payson Mayor Kenny Evans has already vowed to raise the $20,000 fee required to host the event.

Clearly, Payson’s economic future depends in large measure on the tourist industry. The town has done a great job of lining up festivals and special events, but we must also promote the great range of outdoor activities here, including the most diverse opportunities in Arizona. Close at hand, we have the rainbows of Tonto Creek and the East Verde and the wild browns of smaller streams running off the Rim. Only a little farther away, Roosevelt Lake offers some of the best warm-water fishing in the country.

Maybe we didn’t realize how much money can flow into the local economy when those 125-hp bass boat engines open up with a roar. But now we do — and we’d be foolish not to act on that knowledge.

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