Payson Applies For Easements For Roads Needed For Campus

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The Forest Service may move in geologic time, but the Payson Town Council continues to take spritely steps to acquire land for a university campus here.

The long-suffering plan to build a four-year university here on 260 acres of land owned by the U.S. Forest Service is currently stalled by the torturous process required to buy land from the federal government.

However, the Payson Council on Tuesday complied with a Forest Service request to apply for easements to extend Mud Springs and Granite Dells roads as part of the plan to eventually build a university in Payson.

Portions of Mud Springs Road and Granite Dells Road cross Forest Service land — and have ever since the town incorporated. However, the town doesn’t actually have a legal easement from the Forest Service for those roads — or extensions that will be necessary if the Rim Country Educational Alliance does build a 6,000-student university on a Forest Service owned parcel south of Highway 260 and west of Rim Club Parkway.

So the council last week formally applied for the necessary easements.

Assistant Town Manager LaRon Garrett explained in a memo to the council, “When Mud Springs Road was constructed between 500 N. Mud Springs Road and Granite Dells Road it was done so with a Decision Memo from the Forest Service granting a right of access for the construction of Mud Springs Road and the roundabout at Granite Dells Road. However, no roadway easement was issued at that time. When Mud Springs Road is constructed between Granite Dells Road and Highway 260 an additional easement will be needed at the southeast corner of Highway 260 and Mud Springs Road to properly align the intersection.”

Meanwhile, the Rim Country Educational Alliance SLE continues to negotiate with the U.S. Forest Service for an agreement to buy the 260 acres on which Arizona State University wants to build a 6,000-student campus. Community donations paid for a $160,000 environmental assessment, which discovered suspected pottery scatters in 11 locations on the property. Some of those shards could be rock flakes. However, the Forest Service has suggested the Alliance do another study to come up with a plan to protect more artifacts, which would include a more complete excavation of the areas around where the initial survey revealed pottery fragments.

The Alliance hopes the Forest Service will accept an agreement to protect any artifacts uncovered during construction of the campus. The Forest Service’s initial position required more studies and development of a recovery plan before the sale goes through.

Several backers of the university plan have started investigating large private parcels as alternatives if the Forest Service land sale process imposes more delays.

But hey: If the Alliance does buy the land — at least the easements will be all tidied up.

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