It’s almost time for the annual visit from the Hashknife Pony Express Riders to our area. The riders are expected to be in Pine between 1 and 2 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 27. The time, of course, is only an estimate and is totally dependent on the conditions that they encounter on the way.
Last year, a very festive crowd including the Pine Strawberry Elementary School band gathered at the Pine post office to greet the riders, take pictures, and encourage them on their journey. If you haven’t had the opportunity to participate in this inspiring event, why not come down and be part of the welcoming committee?
Finally, we seem to be catching up on our moisture. Steady rain and snow flurries arrived early Monday and continued unabated throughout the day. Later, a heavy fog descended on the area reminiscent of S.E. Alaska. Although Payson appeared clear and downright pleasant on Tuesday morning, everything north of the Control Road was still covered in a snowy bed.
The Isabelle Hunt Memorial Public Library is gearing up for Valentine’s Day by offering See’s Candy for you to purchase your sweetheart. The candy will go on sale Wednesday, Jan. 20 and supplies are limited, so don’t miss this great opportunity to bless your loved ones and support library programs.
Also taking place right now at the library is a special See’s Candy Gift Basket Raffle. The basket is laden with sweet goodies of all sorts with tickets are selling for $1 each, $5 for six, or $10 for 15. The retail value of the basket is $125, so some fortunate soul is going to be very blessed. Best of all, the drawing takes place on Feb. 13 — just in time for Valentine’s Day!
There are still spots available for the upcoming genealogy class at the library’s activity room. The class takes place Wednesday, March 10, and again on the following Wednesday, March 17 from 10 a.m. until noon. The fee for both classes is $20 and you must register no later than Wednesday, Feb. 10 by stopping in the library or calling 476-3678.
The Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction Committee has begun utilizing a portion of a $420,000 state grant that they were recently awarded by helping to clear the 40-acre Krebs property. One of the purposes of the grant was to increase the effective area of the existing fuel break by treating large sections of private acreage that directly abuts the break.
Originally, Captain Mike Brandt was instrumental in writing and applying for the fire department’s 50/50 grants to help homeowners treat their property in order to prevent fire starts as well as to provide protection from outside wildfire. Many homeowners already utilize these grants which pay 50 percent of the cost to have their property cleared, providing a huge incentive to make their properties safe at a substantial savings. This worthwhile program has been on-going since early 2005. Because of Mike’s innovative ideas, vision for a safer forest plan, and hard work, the Pine/Strawberry area has set the standard for many other Arizona communities in the area of fire mitigation and preventive measures.
Unfortunately, for extremely large parcels, even with the 50/50 grant, the cost may still be quite prohibitive. That is why the PSFR committee sought the additional 90/10 grant to help defray the exorbitant clearing costs, not only benefiting the property owners, but ultimately, each and every homeowner in our community. After all, these large properties will either serve as a protective buffer to our town in the event of a catastrophic wildfire, or they may provide an entrance for sparks to make their way across the current fuel break. With the new program, the property owner is required to cover 10 percent of the cost of clearing the large acreage, while the other 90 percent is covered by the grant.
Another parcel that is slated to be cleared in Strawberry is the area where the Cave Creek Complex Fire nearly made its way into town. The Nature Conservancy is working closely with PSFR on this project to help identify other areas that have the same potential to do great damage, in addition to contributing financial support.
In addition, keeping in mind the state of our current economy and the tremendous impact on local businesses, area contractors were encouraged to put in bids in an effort to support our community. The bid was ultimately awarded to Tree Pro who began the work last week.
I just learned of a horrible incident that happened to a wonderful man who happens to cook for the Senior Citizens Center. In early January, Scott fell from his roof and was knocked unconscious for approximately seven hours before he was discovered. He spent six days in a Valley hospital at an exorbitant cost before finding out that he did not qualify for AHCCCS medical insurance. (Scott and his wife both work at Walmart). As medical bills continue to arrive, Scott and his wife are doing their best to resume their lives, but Scott remains in a tremendous amount of the pain and the cost of medication is beyond his financial means. The Pine/Strawberry Senior Thrift Shop has placed a container in the store for donations and they are planning a series of fund-raisers to help out during this time of duress. The Thrift Store hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., or you can call 476-4633 to find out how you can help out.
That’s it for another week in Pine and Strawberry. Hope you are staying warm and enjoying the much-needed moisture.