The Jan. 27 front page article written about the upcoming closure of the Roosevelt Lakeview Park is very disturbing. I appreciate Pete Aleshire’s in depth summary of what is going on with the U.S. Forest Service and Roosevelt Lakeview Park, but I have to tell you, it made me upset with the way the Forest Service is planning to treat these residents on Tonto National Forest land.
This little community of 167 mobile homes in Roosevelt has been at this location for almost 40 years. Yes, while there are some permanent residents, it is also the summer vacation home for many from throughout Arizona. These owners come from all over the state of Arizona to spend their time and money in Gila County. Yet, the Forest Service wants to remove them as this use does not fit with their plans for the Tonto National Forest.
On Sept. 21, 2010 the Gila County Board of Supervisors amended the Gila County Land Use Resource Policy Plan (LURPP). This document outlines the policy of Gila County to preserve, perpetuate and grow its cultures, customs and traditions of land use on federally managed land which are essential to the culture, economy and tax base of Gila County. This potential closure of the Roosevelt Lakeview Park and removing 167 homes in my view violates this policy. It not only disrupts a 40-year economic base in the small Roosevelt community, it will likely cost the remaining entities in the area more dollars to remain viable.
What do I mean by remaining viable? The leaseholder, David Buckmaster, has spent several hundred thousand dollars in upgrades and improvements in the park over the years, including major upgrades to the water and waste water treatment plants that service the ADOT maintenance yard, the sheriff’s sub-station as well as the marina. If the park is shut down, what happens to the water and water services to the area? But that’s not all. The leaseholder has offered in the past to supply water to the Forest Service park facilities across Highway 188 including the visitor center for “free,” but the Forest Service has refused the offer of free water. They instead have water trucked in at approximately $0.55 a gallon and spend over $15,000 of taxpayer money a month for water!
The ADOT maintenance yard will have to be removed in two to three years when their lease expires. Who will pay the estimated $1 million to move the facility? The Arizona taxpayers of course.
This closure also means the 167 mobile homes have to be removed and transported to other locations. A quick look around the area in Globe and Tonto Basin reveals there is nowhere near the number of vacant park spaces to accommodate this number of mobile homes. To add insult to injury, many of these trailers were built before 1976, which means by our very own zoning codes they cannot be moved and set up in a new location. What happens then. They have to be abandoned and destroyed. What a waste of time, material and money!
The residents of Lakeview Park contribute around $2.5 million annually to the economy of the area. They consciously spend locally for food, gas, utilities and recreation. Their homeowners association donates over $5,000 annually to local charities. Isn’t this what we want to happen in our county?
Then there is the stated goal of the Forest Service to turn the area into a full-time RV park. Are you aware there were over 800 campsites in the Roosevelt Lake area built in the 1990s? This was part of a master plan by the Forest Service which added 1,500 campsites at a cost of $42 million taxpayer dollars. The average occupancy rate at Roosevelt Lake is 50 percent, which means 400 spaces remain empty. There is no way adding additional RV spaces will be economically viable when there are so many open campsites just down the highway.
The LURPP policy requires that the Forest Service “must coordinate with Gila County any and all plans, policies or decisions that in any manner whatsoever affect land access or resource usage in Gila County.” It is time we invoke this requirement with the Forest Service. I plan on discussing this matter at the next planning and zoning commission meeting with recommendations to send to the county board of supervisors. We want to bring together all county, state and federal elected officials along with the Forest Service and the residents of Roosevelt Lakeview Park to see how we can best preserve this community which has not only been a good neighbor, but a major economic contributor to Gila County.