Adot Has Pine By The Throat

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Normally, the Arizona Department of Transportation is pretty delicate about the way they grip us all by the throat.

But now and then the mailed fist twitches and we go all purple and bug-eyed.

The long-suffering residents of Pine this week got a demonstration in death grips, when ADOT’s contractor set about to put a layer of rubberized asphalt atop Highway 87 through the heart of town.

Residents reported long delays — nearly half an hour in many cases and reporting an hour in some cases. Some reported the signalmen had no communications and that the pilot car leading long lines of fuming drivers through the construction zone crept along at 5 miles an hour.

Moreover, the contractor didn’t put up signs to warn of closures on side streets and contract workers directing traffic often had no idea what to tell drivers seeking an alternate route.

ADOT says it had to make all this mess in the midst of the tourist season, because they can’t put down rubberized asphalt after mid-September due to cold night-time temperatures.

Perhaps, but we can’t believe ADOT could not have softened the blow on downtown Pine. Could crews work at night in the downtown area? Could they do the downtown last instead of first, pushing work into September? Could they use a different asphalt mix in the downtown area, so they could postpone the work until after all the tourists go home?

Certainly, we appreciate and depend on ADOT’s diligent maintenance of the highway. The recent $3.7 million project to widen the highway and add guardrails at the entrance to both Payson and Pine made deadly stretches of road much safer. Overall, ADOT has a good record of gathering input from the community before making major changes in the highway that holds the Rim Country’s economy hostage.

But then again — sometimes the arrogance of a multi-billion-dollar state agency shows through.

Lots of us are hanging onto the frayed end of a long rope, waiting and praying and hoping that the economy will finally turn around and we can resume our lives.

We don’t need ADOT drizzling oil on the rope to keep it supple while we’re dangling by one, weary hand.

Educate a camper save the forest

What a weird bunch. What a strange species. We’re the only creatures smart enough to make a fire with a couple of pieces of flint —or to manufacture matches.

But also the only creatures stupid enough to burn down our own houses — or the forest that sustains us.

So far this year, wildfires have charred some 40,000 acres in northern Arizona. Literally hundreds of small fires have started since January in our precious forests — three quarters of them as a result of human foolishness.

Every weekend, forest rangers and volunteers making the rounds of the places in Rim Country where people camp come across dozens of untended fires — the hot, smoldering ashes and embers left from campfires.

Most of those fires smolder out, without doing any lasting damage.

Some of them get loose — like the Schultz Fire, which will inflict lasting harm on the forest.

Some of them run wild — like the Dude Fire that claimed the lives of six firefighters.

But all of them bear witness to human foolishness —that careless stupidity that refuses to pause to consider the consequences of the impulse of the moment.

Those who pay attention to fire season may at this moment feel tempted to relax their guard. After all, the monsoons have gathered on the tip of a meteorologist’s tongue. Granted, so far they’ve produced more lightning than rain. But surely, we’ve made it through another year — beaten the odds once again.

Not necessarily. We could end up with another dry monsoon season like last year, with the maddening, unfulfilled promise of rain. Remember, the Water Wheel Fire started near a camping area last year in August and could have easily consumed Beaver Valley or Whispering Pines had the winds not changed their pitiless but fickle minds.

So do not relax your guard. That means you must not only follow the simple, but profound rules on putting out your fires — dead out, so that you can touch the coals with your bare hand. It means you must help safeguard the forest we all love and need and not hesitate to make sure others follow the rules as well.

Because sometimes, people need to be reminded of even the most common sense rules.

We are after all a strange species.

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