When he was first elected, Woody Cline, District 3 Gila County supervisor, went looking for office space in Young.
At the time, staff from the Pleasant Valley Ranger District were moving to the new offices in Payson, leaving the Pleasant Valley administration site with minimal staff. The move cost the community of Young approximately 60 jobs — a big loss to a community of just over 650 people.
Cline asked the district ranger if he could rent space in the building for an office. He was told the Tonto National Forest didn’t want to rent out space, but the county could have the entire building.
So that began the process — it was 2017. The entire building was too much for a single office, but looking around it and the surrounding property, Cline thought it was perfect for a veterans center and potential veterans retreat — something not available anywhere in northern Arizona.
Cline went down a lot of different roads before getting to a special use permit.
Approval of the special use permit makes it possible to organize and provide services to veterans, not just from Gila County but also from across the state. The permit is for 20 years, but it makes access for maintenance and use possible until ownership of the site is transferred to Gila County — something that requires an act of Congress. Rep. Paul Gosar and Sen. Mark Kelly are working together on the legislation, Cline said.
TNF Supervisor Neil Bosworth proposed the idea for a special use permit in early 2020. Obtaining the permit required a consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office because historic buildings are located on the site and it would include those buildings in the permit. They held an on-site consultation with SHPO staff, a TNF archaeologist, and county staff. A plan was developed for future building upkeep and immediate concerns and submitted for approval. In addition, county staff developed an operating plan and submitted it in February 2021 as a supplement to the permit application.
Buildings and facilities in the permit are Ranger’s House, Assistant Fire Management Office House, Historic Ranger’s Residence, Historic District Office, Historic Barn, Paint Shed, Recreation Shed, Flammable Storage Shed, Seed Storage, Crew Quarters #1, Crew Quarters #2, District Office, North Well Pump House, Water and Wastewater System, Roads within the site and 80 acres of land.
The annual permit fee is $36,157; 100% of that fee is to offset the cost of government maintenance and reconditioning projects. Cline said with the county managing the reconditioning and maintenance on the property the fee would be a wash.
A nonprofit board will handle the day-to-day operations of the facility. The board will also be tasked with working with veterans organizations, conduct outreach, and perform fundraising events.
The TNF will continue to maintain firefighters at the ranger station during fire season to allow quick response to any fires in the vicinity. The fire office, fire storage unit, and the fire warehouse are not included in this permit and will be retained by the TNF for fire administration.
The permit is from December 2020 to December 2040.
Cline said the biggest thing that impressed him was the fact that there has been no opposition to the proposal. However, there was also no mechanism in place to make it happen until Vicki Christiansen was brought in as 19th chief of the United States Forest Service. Coming from Washington state, she had been working on three similar projects, so could provide a guideline to get to the permit.
See the BOS complete discussion of the facility at YouTube.