Roundabout Welcome Still In The Works

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Tom Brossart/Roundup

Bob Hibbert, co-chairman of the Payson Gateway Project with Nancy Cox, moves some gravel around atop the roundabout as other volunteer workers and landscapers work to plant 900 plants and install the irrigation system that will keep those plants alive.

photo

Tom Brossart/Roundup

Shawn Simmons, landscape consultant for the Gateway Project, programs the irrigation system for the roundabout.

There has not been much buzz about the roundabout in awhile. Apparently, the unique traffic control system has lost its chatter factor.

As for creating a special Rim Country welcome in the island of the roundabout; that is still in the works. And it is backbreaking work being done by about a half-dozen volunteers.

The group, the Payson Gateway Project, is planting 900 plants and will finish hooking up 900 emitters to water the plants until they become established. Decorative hardscape will be put in the circle island and eventually — if about $60,000 can be raised through donations and grants, an 800-pound bronze elk statue will be placed in the center of it all.

The roundabout project has gone through several incarnations since the idea was launched sometime ago.

In the first few versions, the island was to be landscaped in a natural fashion, with boulders and the elk statue at its center. The current version is just flowers and gravel. The sketch shows no elk.

Jeanie Langham spearheaded the initial drive, but as her schedule became crowded with taking care of her husband’s books, she asked for someone else to take over the direction of the project.

“There were only three of us at the meeting, so Nancy Cox and I were drafted,” said Bob Hibbert, who is now co-chairing with Cox.

Through the years the group has raised money through golf tournaments, raffles and donations. Up through October 2008 the group raised a little more than $20,000. That money was used to buy the plants and irrigation equipment at cost and pay for the assistance of two employees of Simmons Landscaping.

Shawn Simmons, owner of Simmons Landscaping, donated his skills for designing the landscaping the Arizona Department of Transportation has dictated for the roundabout.

ADOT rejected the earlier, naturalized landscape plans, which included trees as well as boulders because they felt the view of motorists in the roundabout would be too obstructed, Hibbert said.

He said he pointed out that it would take about 100 years for the proposed pines to grow big enough to obstruct anything, but it didn’t sway the ADOT officials. The group was told it could have nothing that is more than six inches in diameter once it grew to maturity.

After months of wrangling with ADOT, the committee was told it would have its permit to start landscaping the roundabout in April. The permit did not arrive until September, Hibbert said.

Landscaping the island has not been an easy job, a jack hammer had to be used to dig the holes for the plants and then the volunteers used shovels and iron bars to pry up the rocks that remained.

“It was elbows and knees work,” Hibbert said. Plus they had to wear hard hats and reflective vests.

Eventually the rocks will be hauled away and gravel will be placed.

The committee will monitor the emitters and in the spring, they will start weeding as needed.

Working on the project with Hibbert and Cox have been Cox’s husband, Willard, Peter and Chris Rothenbach, the artist responsible for the elk statue Jim Keller and his wife Connie, Kiwanians Bill Lee and Bob Sanders, Diane Enos, Glenn McCombs, Steve Drury, Elaine Putnam and Noble Collins.

Anyone who would like to help the project with financial support can contact Hibbert at (928) 468-2234.

In spite of everything over the years, Hibbert maintains the project is a labor of love for everyone and a fun thing to do.

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