Gila County is asking a Camp Verde tribe to help make needed repairs to a popular trail outside Strawberry to cut down on the time it takes rescuers to reach dehydrated and injured hikers.
On Oct. 9, Gila County District 3 Supervisor Woody Cline, chair of the Gila County Board of Supervisors, held a meeting about the Bob Bear Trail (formerly known as the Fossil Creek Trail) in Pine. Attending were Gary Morris from the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department, Yavapai-Apache Nation Tribal Council Chair Jon Huey, the Yavapai Apache Nation archaeologist, Forest Service staff, and Gila County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue.
Cline reminded the BOS at its Nov. 6 meeting the Bob Bear Trail is an old two-track road constructed by the Forest Service in 1962. The road has deteriorated over the years due to a lack of maintenance and needs some repairs. It takes emergency responders five to seven hours to conduct a rescue mission using this access, in the past it only took 90 minutes.
The group meeting on Oct. 9 visited the Bob Bear Trail to get a firsthand look at the repairs needed to make the trail more accessible for emergency responders, Cline said. It was determined at this meeting that Gila County needed to provide a letter to the chair of the Yavapai-Apache Nation Tribal Council requesting its help with this project.
Cline read the letter, which states, in part, “We all appreciate your interest in working with us to resolve this serious issue regarding our rescue efforts and the improvements needed on the trail to be able to provide a more expedient response to medical emergencies.
“The purpose of this letter is to request assistance from the Yavapai Apache Nation Tribal Council to allow the Bob Bear Trail to be improved to allow UTV side-by-side vehicle access to the trail by public safety agencies ... Such emergency access by only public safety agencies will reduce the current 5- to 7-hour rescue effort to about 90 minutes. This reduction in time will provide a better outcome for patients that could face additional health issues due to the length of time it takes first responders to arrive on scene.
The lengthy rescue missions remove Gila County sheriff’s deputies from patrol duties elsewhere in the county and Pine-Strawberry Fire District paramedics from protecting their communities for long periods of time.
“We are proposing that the trail improvements will be kept to a 62-inch width that will allow the passage of a side-by-side vehicle used only for rescue efforts. The narrow width will not accommodate full sized vehicles such as pickup trucks. Only public safety vehicle access will be permitted on the Bob Bear Trail. In addition, a locked gate will be installed to prevent any public vehicle access.”
Cline asked the board of supervisors to approve his signature on the letter requesting assistance from the Yavapai-Apache Nation Tribal Council to make improvements to the Bob Bear Trail.
“This letter of request ... is the first step in the process,” he said.
The BOS approved sending the letter to the Yavapai-Apache Nation Tribal Council.