For months, a funding tangle shut down brush pits where residents can get rid of dangerous tangles of brush — a vital tool in the effort to protect Rim Country communities from wildfire.
Now, with the help of Gila County (again), the brush pits will open this weekend.
The Blattner Pit, located east of Star Valley, will open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 22. The Pine Pit, on Control Road, south of Pine, will open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, March 23.
The Gila County Board of Supervisors approved a $30,000 economic development grant from the county Tuesday, which will go to the Tonto Natural Resource Conservation District for the Regional Payson Area Project (RPAP) to administer the program.
Chairman Mike Pastor asked whether residents could support the program by paying a fee, before he voted to approve the grant.
Started in the spring of 2009 with federal money, the brush pit program provides a place for Rim residents to dispose of natural or green material to keep properties Firewise.
Backers ran out of federal money in 2011, but the county and some fire districts continued support. Some fire districts dropped out and then, last summer, the county also discontinued funding.
Supervisor Tommie Martin said the county worried that RPAP did not have a 501(c)(3) designation.
She said she hopes RPAP can partner with a nonprofit group in the future so the county can fund it directly, rather than going through the conservation district.