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RIM COUNTRY 2013 RELOCATION GUIDE
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TABLE OF CONTENTS RIM COUNTRY VITALS P 4: Falling in Love P 6: Housing P 10: The Economy P 12: The Weather P 14: University Plans P 16: Recreation P 20: Attractions P 22: Entertainment P 24: Schools P 26: Businesses P 31: General Plan P 32: Water P 34: Medical P 35: History P 36: Telecommuting P 38: Organizations
NEIGHBORHOODS P 40: Regional map P 42: Payson map P 44: Payson P 48: Star Valley P 49: Houston Mesa Road communities
P 50: Pine & Strawberry P 52: Christopher Creek P 53: East Verde River communities P 54: Tonto Basin
When n thee weatherr turnss HOT it’ss timee too flee!! Stay y forr a Night… … a week… … Orr Three!!
N RENTALS S IN N THE E COOL L COUNTRY Y - PINE E AND D STRAWBERRY,, AZ Z VVACATION
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WHY WOULD YOU MOVE HERE?
Falling in love ... finding your place
STORY AND PHOTOS BY PETE ALESHIRE ROUNDUP EDITOR
I fell in love with her at first sight on that very first day. It was just past a bleak Christmas on my first day on a new job in Payson, after what felt like the collapse of my life. I had no sooner settled into my office, then the snow started drifting down onto the parking lot — big, lazy flakes with all the time in the world. So I grabbed a camera and headed out of the town to which I was a stranger. Veering onto Flowing Springs Road, I parked and tromped through the gathering snow to an overlook. Below, the East Verde River wandered past the ridge. She took my breath away in that first, heart-stopping moment. I was stream-struck, my heart thudding, my breath coming in white puffs. That moment overlooking the East Verde changed my life — and I wanted to launch this effort to convince you to move to Rim Country by recalling the day I fell in love with this place. I’d been passing through Payson for 20 years on assignments for Arizona Highways, barely stopping. But in the past five years, I’ve learned all its secret places — and found the place I belong. After hiking, camping, photographing and lingering in every corner of the state — I have found the most beauty and joy and peace right here. Perhaps you will too, which is why we’ve pulled together all this insider information on our favorite place in the world. I’m especially fond of the East Verde, for such cottonwoodwillow habitats produce the greatest diversity of species of any system in North America. There on that ridge in the snow with a hint of steam rising off the glistening surface of the East Verde River, my new life began. After a bruising tumble through the cataracts and boulder-choked canyons, I’d come down now to this wide, quiet space in the humming silence of the snow. The river saved me by letting me love her, for love binds up every wound. The Payson Roundup offered me sanctuary, introduced me to the river and then gave me the gift of the thing I had always sought, never knowing. Rim Country — and the East Verde — have taken me in. Now I love
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RIM COUNTRY 2013 RELOCATION GUIDE
her — without judgment or expectation. I have cast my life upon her waters, for she is helplessly beautiful, utterly reliable, effortlessly graceful. I study her features, savor her moods, smile at her quirks. After a lifetime spent in California and the Sonoran Desert, I live now for the first time with seasons. The giant, deep-barked cottonwoods dominate, along with the sensuously white-boled sycamore. More different trees crowd the river’s banks than almost any other stream in the West. I am still learning the trees like you memorize the years of your children’s births. I wander along beneath Arizona walnuts and Arizona ashes and happily greet the lonely ponderosas towering above the pinons. I look for the Arizona cypress and the Arizona alders and always respect my box elders. I aspire to distinguish at a glance the white, Emory, Gambel and Palmer oaks, not to mention the oneseed, Utah and alligator junipers and both the desert and Goodding willows. And when I have mastered all of those, I shall take care to learn the leaf shapes of the soapberry, mulberry, hackberry and chokecherry. Three years into my relationship with the East Verde River, I still marvel at her moods. I am learning the angular austerity of winter, the green haze of the first leaves, the riotous green of August, the brilliance of fall, the ritual mourning of the fallen leaves, the exhilarating rush of summer floods, the cold, sullen fury of winter storms, the smell of damp earth and new grass and decaying leaves and approaching storms. So I go down to the still waters now every morning with my sharp-nosed, gold-eyed dog to watch the magic of the first light. I have seen soaring eagles and scarlet summer tanagers and hunting herons and startled elk and bristling javelina. I have swum with the otters — but that’s a whole other story. The river, she pays me no mind — but does not mind me. I’m fine with that. I just want to watch her — how she moves, the rustle of her dress, the gleam of light in her hair, the sound of her sighs. And I bless the near-drowning that brought me to this place — where I can learn everything that matters hidden in the sound of the river. John Naughton, Publisher • Peter Aleshire, Editor in Chief
708 N. Beeline Highway • PO Box 2520 • Payson, AZ 85547 (928) 474-5251 • payson.com No portion of the Rim Country Relocation Guide may be used in any manner without the expressed written consent of Roundup Publishing, a division of WorldWest Limited Liability Company. © 2013
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Rim Country housing REBOUNDING Region offers country clubs and mobile home parks in surprisingly mixed neighborhoods â€” with prices on the rise BY ALEXIS BECHMAN ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER
After being thrown from the bucking bronco of a housing collapse for several years, the Rim Country real estate market finally climbed back into the saddle in 2012. While the local economy is nowhere near achieving a perfect score, economic and real estate experts report a noticePayson median able boost in second home home sale price: sales in Pine-Strawberry and a stabilization of the market 2005 - $223,400 throughout the region. 2006 - $247,500 If the Rim Country housing 2007 - $243,800 market continues its long-time 2008 - $211,900 habit of trailing the sharply re2009 - $191,500 covering Phoenix real estate 2010 - $221,600 market by a year, 2013 should 2011 - $173,000 bring more good news. 2012 - $165,900 Ray Pugel, a designated Source: Zillow broker with Coldwell Banker Bishop Realty, said 2012 yearend statistics from the Central Arizona Board of Realtors indicate the market may have bottomed out and he is hopeful things are turning around. Cliff Potts, designated broker with Prudential Arizona Realty, agreed, saying the area is rebounding.
This view of Payson after a brief winter storm illustrates the dramatic views even modestly priced homes can offer. The year-round sunshine also makes solar popular.
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Rim Country remains one of the few places in Arizona where you can buy streamfront property at reasonable prices — in this case a winter scene in East Verde Estates. On the other hand, Payson proper offers amenities like Green Valley Park (at right) and Rumsey Park, with playgrounds and a host of events.
“The market has been very active last year,” he said. “We actually feel like we have turned the corner. Prices have stabilized and in fact, I think they have gone up a bit. We are hoping we get back to some reasonable appreciation in the near future.” Even with economic downturn, Payson home values remain above the national average, with the average Payson home selling for $169,400 last year, a 2.8 percent increase 2010. The one area that still concerns many experts is the commercial front. While a number of big box retailers have recently moved in, many smaller storefronts remain empty. Potts expects a much slower turnaround in the commercial area compared with residential. “(Commercial sales) took such a hit that it has quite a ways to recover,” he said. “There is a little hope on the horizon, but I think that will be a little longer recovery.” Data from the Central Arizona Board of Realtors shows that home prices in 2012 were about the same as the year before, indicating the market is stabilizing. Roughly 420 homes sold in both 2012 and 2011, the average selling price $188,000. Average days on the market for a home sale went from 182 in 2011 to 196 days in 2012. The Pine-Strawberry area north of Payson showed a considerable improvement. The number of home sales increased by almost 19 percent from 2011 and the average selling price increased 17 percent to $182,500 in 2012, even though homes sat on the market slightly longer. Real estate agents say anything that is priced appropriately is selling the best. “People are still searching for bargains,” Potts said. That means homes priced under $100,000 are selling the quickest with homes up to $200,000 selling the second fastest, often within 30 to 45 days. Homes priced up to $300,000 take 60 to 90 days to sell and those over $300,000 are sitting stagnant the longest. The Rim Country market has an enormous range of home prices, with a selection of smaller, older homes in Payson and Strawberry priced under $100,000 to mini-estates in the country club neighborhoods price well over $500,000. The region also boasts a wide range of second-home and vacation-home options, including some of the only real stream-front property in the state, plus lots of horse properties on rural acreage. Potts said there is a tremendous amount of competition for the higher-end homes. Rental homes remain in demand, with many new residents opting to rent until they solidify their employment situation and find the right home. The bread-and-butter of the residential real estate community remains the retiree, Potts said.
FAST FACTS • 2012 home value rise: Payson: 2.8% Star Valley: 5.7% Pine: 4.8% • Average price : Payson -- $205,000 Arizona -- $189,900 • Homes with children: Payson -- 22% National -- 32% • Household size: Payson -- 2.3 National -- 2.6 • Commute: Payson -- 15 minutes National -- 28 minutes • House size: 1,500 square feet • 77% owner-occupied • Average property tax: Payson -- $1,600 National -- $3,000
Photo by Andy Towle
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In 1997, the Arizona State Legislature passed a law allowing residents to deduct, as a tax credit, money given to schools for extracurricular activities. Any household that pays Arizona taxes can donate up to $400 for married taxpayers filing jointly, or $200 for individual taxpayers. Since itâ€™s a tax credit, you get your money back by claiming the same amount, dollar-for-dollar, as a tax credit when filing your state tax return. Please help strengthen Rim Country education through the CREDIT FOR KIDS tax program.
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| Move to RIM COUNTRY | 9
Photo by Andy Towle
As Rim Country recovers, its economy diversifies Photo by Pete Aleshire
BY ALEXIS BECHMAN
Plans for a university, industry, year-round jobs, build on foundation of tourism, vacation home and retirement living
ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER
After a long struggle to recover from the real estate crash, Rim Country had turned a corner with new stores, stabilization of the real estate market, rising tax revenues — and progress in establishing a fouryear university campus with its spin-off businesses. The area relies heavily on tourism, with a large population of retirees and second-home owners. Payson has about 400 hotel rooms, but sits at the intersection of three national forests that draw millions of visitors annually. Some of the state’s most popular trout fishing streams lie within 15 miles of Payson, with a host of campsites and hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Home construction played a leading role in the economy before the downturn. At its peak, Payson was adding 300 homes a year to its housing stock. The town has made major strides toward diversifying its economy, with several light industrial businesses opening up in the past two years and plans to build a 6,000-student university, a 500-room conference hotel and solar panel assembly plant, among others. On the employment front, while Gila County has lagged behind Maricopa County, the county’s unemployment rate in early 2013 remained well behind most other rural counties in the state, with a steady decline in the past year. Most of the county’s job woes remain concentrated
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GILA COUNTY GROWTH IN PAY 40,000
THE ECONOMY STARTING A BUSINESS IN RIM COUNTRY
Photo by Andy Towle
Resources for new businesses: • Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce: www.rimcountrychamber.com • Arizona Commerce Authority • Department of Economic Security employment services: 100 N. Tonto Street, (928) 472-9339
in the south, where the mining industry has struggled. Although at the start of the year construction remained minimal in Northern Gila County, the unemployment rate in Rim Country remained a percent or more below the county’s overall 8.8 percent rate in January of 2013. While Maricopa County sets the pace for the state with a 6.4 percent unemployment rate, Gila County falls somewhere in the middle of the pack compared with other rural counties throughout the state. Among those other rural counties, Graham County had 8.4 percent unemployment, tiny Greenlee County had an enviable 5.4 percent, Yavapai 7.9 percent and Yuma a still-awful 27.5 percent. The impact of the recesGILA COUNTY sion on the tourist and conFAST FACTS struction-oriented economy of Rim Country Avg. household income: has resulted in an intense Payson, $33,640; focus on diversifying the Nation, $44,500 economy in Payson, which Average weekly wage: is the largest town in Gila Gila County $740; County — almost twice the Arizona $840; size of county seat Globe. National $890 At a meeting to discuss Largest employers: a revamp of the town’s genPayson School District, eral plan, almost 150 people Mazatzal Hotel/ Casino agreed the town should inPayson Medical Center. tently focus on reviving — Civilian labor force: and then diversifying — the 22,230 economy of a town that once relied on new construction and tourism. By contrast, a decade ago the general plan focused on managing rapid growth without outstripping the water supply. Today, concerns about water and rapid growth have been replaced by an almost single-minded focus on jobs and the economy. Revenue wise, the Town of Payson saw a modest increase across the board in 2012, with nearly every source making gains from the depths of the recession. Everything from local sales tax, state-shared income, vehicle license tax and building permit revenue rose — even the town’s share of gas tax money from the state for building and maintaining roads jumped. On the business front, a surge in building is giving many business owners and residents hope things have started to turn. New businesses include Big Lots, PetSmart, Little Caesars, Big 5 Sporting Goods, the Journigan House restaurant on Main Street, THAT Brewery in Pine, Mountain Top Brewery, Lady D’s Wine, Chocolate and Art Bar, Pine Smokehouse and Sweet Nostalgia.
Payson has worked to attract year-round businesses to bolster the job base, including a successful bullet-making firm. The town has a mentoring system for new businesses that allows the economic development director to help move projects through the permitting, zoning and approval processes.
FAST FACTS • No business/payroll tax. • Up to $3,000 state income tax credit for each new employee over a three-year period for a maximum of 200 new employees in any given year under the Income or Premium Tax Credits Enterprise Zone Program. • New business license fees Home based: $40 Out-of-town: $90 Commercial: $70 Peddler: $90 2013
Photo by Pete Aleshire
The Arizona Game and Fish Department helps sustain the thriving tourism industry by stocking Rim Country lakes and streams every week.
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Rim Country Weather: Picture Perfect JUST RIGHT: Average high: 73 Average low: 39 Average rain: 22 in. Average snow: 22 in.
BY PETE ALESHIRE ROUNDUP EDITOR
Perfect springs, adorned with wildflowers. Lazy summers spent at the swimming hole. Crisp falls, saturated with golden sycamores. Mild winters, with the chance for a White Christmas. Nope — not some perfect storybook setting for magic dragons — just the year-round drama — in moderation — of Rim Country’s weather. In truth, Payson enjoys a Goldilocks climate — not too hot, not too cold — just right. Year-round, the temperature averages a balmy 73 degrees. January’s the coldest month, with average highs of 54 — and average lows of 25. June’s the hottest month, with average highs of 90 and average lows of 49. Compare that to summer highs often topping 115 down in the Valley and you can understand why visitors flock to Rim Country in Payson the summer. Moreover, Rim Country averages about 22 inches of rain annuJanuary ally — three times the total just 100 miles south in Phoenix. February On average, the wettest month is August, with 3 inches — delivMarch ered in spectacular monsoon thunderstorms brewed in the Gulf of April California that break against the ramparts of the Mogollon Rim. June May remains the driest month, with about a third of an inch. June When it comes to snow, Rim Country keeps it chill. At Payson’s July 5,000-foot elevation, winter storms move through periodically — August leaving 2 to 6 inches of snow, which usually melts away after a couple of days. However, up on the 7,500-foot-tall Mogollon Rim, the September snow lingers all winter — perfect for folks who want to go snowOctober shoeing or cross-country skiing, but don’t want to shovel the drive- November way. December Rim Country offers the perfect balance of seasons, enough to soothe the souls of desert rats and stimulate the seasonal nostalgia Annual of the snowbirds.
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Photos by Pete Aleshire
Average Average High Low
54 58 63 71 80 90 93 91 85 75 63 55
25 27 31 35 42 50 58 58 51 40 30 25
2.3 2.3 2.7 1.2 0.7 0.4 2.4 3 1.8 1.9 1.7 1.75
4.8 5 4.7 3 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 2.2 3.6
77 80 89 91 99 106 107 104 103 94 8.3 76
-8 1 3 15 22 31 39 37 33 16 6 -7
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Steve Coury Ford in Star Valley would like to Welcome you to the Rim Country and invite you to come by and let us introduce ourselves. Our Accomplished Service Department is capable of servicing any of your vehicles no matter the make or model. We are part of the Steve Coury Automotive Family which has three dealerships in Arizona. The one here in the Rim Country and two more in the Verde Valley: Steve Coury Ford and Steve Coury Buick GMC both located in Camp Verde. At Steve Coury Ford in Star Valley our Certified Factory trained staff has set the mark for Quality Service and Competitive Pricing. From a basic service to the complicated electronic repairs Steve Coury Ford keeps you’re overall Satisfaction in mind as we complete each task. Knowing each vehicle has one or more individuals that we are accountable to. The Service Department at Steve Coury Ford in Star Valley is able to care for all your vehicle needs. We are Looking forward to serving you and making you a part of the Steve Coury Automotive Family at our Steve Coury Ford store in Star Valley. Be sure to watch for our monthly specials in the Payson Roundup.
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UNIVERSITY PLANS Tyler Parkway
y Valle r a t S 7 to 8 . y Hw
Rim Club Parkway
Waiting for the college to come This year backers will close the deal on a university campus that will transform economy, housing market
BY PETE ALESHIRE ROUNDUP EDITOR
Get in on the ground floor. Sometime this year, Payson will finalize a deal to build a 6,000-student university, a 500-room convention hotel, research parks and a host of other spin-off businesses. This will ultimately inject $150 million annually into the economy and transform the amenities, demographics and housing market of a rural town long dependent on tourism and secondhome owners. After four years of diligent, sometimes frustrating effort, backers hope to sign a deal with Arizona State University or one of three other interested institutions this spring. That could result in the start of construction on the first, 1,000-student phase of the campus in the summer of 2013 or early in 2014. The towns of Payson and Star Valley partnered to set up the Rim Country Educational Alliance Separate Legal Entity, which will actually build the campus and own the facilities. The Alliance will then lease the facilities to the university and to other related businesses, using the
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lease payments and sales tax money generated to keep the cost of the university facilities as low as possible. The plan calls for tuition 30 to 50 percent lower than the three existing public universities in the state, ensuring a ready supply of students. The campus will offer key areas of study and undergraduate degrees, including topics like nursing, business, rural health care, forest health, alternative energy, education, fire science and other topics. Moreover, the Alliance plans to build a creative, state-of-the-art campus that will turn the whole town into a high-speed, wireless Internet site. The Alliance has already enlisted corporate partners, like Corning, which wants to install computer screen walls and counter tops that will connect the dorms, classrooms and offices to a central system. The design will let students interact with teachers all over the world in real time and access research materials and class sites from anywhere in the community. The campus will blend into a hilly, forested 260-acre site on the boundary between Payson
UNIVERSITY PLANS and Star Valley. The campus design firm — which decades ago laid out the University of California at Santa Cruz — will create a forested campus designed for walking and biking. The dorms will create a campus community, with half-disguised parking garages, shuttles and a layout that will minimize the impact of cars and leave as much natural open space as possible. The designers will match the layout to the purpose of the campus, to create a sense of community blended into nature. Moreover, the campus will rely on solar and geothermal power, advanced energy-efficient design and materials to make the campus itself a sustainability showcase. Backers have labored for four years to turn a visionary dream into a high-tech reality, which required creatively surmounting many problems — all of which have delayed a final deal for more than a year past the original timeline. At this writing, the timing of a final deal with a university partner rests on the last few steps in the U.S. Forest Service’s land sale process. Congress earmarked a 300-acre parcel south of Highway 260 and fronting Tyler Parkway for sale about 12 years ago. But the Tonto National Forest had to complete an environmental assessment of the sale before it
could proceed. With the assessment done and the Forest Service working on a plan to protect several archaeological sites on the property, officials predict they’ll finalize the sale in the first half of 2013. The university will provide a major economic boost to the community and likely boost housing prices as soon as the deal gets signed. The addition of 6,000 students and several thousand new workers at the university and spin-off businesses will increase the housing demand throughout the region. Moreover, the campus will bring in many new high-skill jobs. Perhaps most important of all, the university and related businesses will boost economic activity during the normally slow winter months, making the region’s economy more diverse and more resistant to the economic shifts that can have such an impact on a tourist-based economy. Finally, the university will bring with it a host of new amenities — like a performing arts center, playing fields, a boost for the already diverse community of artists and a flush of regional and national publicity. So don’t wait too long. It’s time to get in on the ground floor of the creation of a college town.
FAST FACTS • Economic impact: $150 million annually • Students: Up to 6,000 in phases • Projected opening: Fall of 2015 • Spin-off developments: 500-room hotel Research park Incubation center Student housing Solar cell assembly plant • Additional benefits: Performing arts center Townwide Wi-Fi Year-round job base 600 high-paying jobs • Likely partners: Arizona State University Possible private college • Location: 260 acres S. of Hwy. 87 96 acres N. of Hwy. 87 • Who’s doing it: Rim Country Educational Alliance SLE
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Recreation for all seasons
Photos by Pete Aleshire
Spring flowers, summer swimming holes, fall colors, winter snowplay: Rim Country offers year-round recreation
BY MICHELE NELSON ROUNDUP STAFF WRITER
Four-season recreation surrounds the Rim Country nestled in its miles of forest, acres of lakes, and leagues of rivers and streams. With more than 300 average days of sunshine and an altitude ranging from 4,000 to 7,000 feet, terrain that ranges from Sonoran Desert to the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world and more streams and lakes than just about anywhere in Arizona, Rim Country offers a tremendous variety of things to do.
Spring: Busting out all over Unlike many mountain towns in higher latitudes that suffer endless days of rain in the spring and fall, the Rim Country enjoys the best weather of the year during those months â€” with wildflowers thrown in for variety. Spring bursts with new foliage, birding, and wildflower photography. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the Rim Country hosts more than 300 species of birds, with the riparian areas along the East Verde River and Tonto Creek especially rich. Wildflowers cover slopes in shades of orange, purple, and red, offering photographers a chance to capture some great shots.
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Forest Road 300 (top) offers a 40-mile jaunt along the edge of the Mogollon Rim and the East Verde River offers lots of summer swimming holes.
Bear Canyon Lake atop the Mogollon Rim lies 30 minutes from Payson and offers the most popular fishing areas in Arizona.
Backpackers, mountain bikers, hikers and off-road vehicle enthusiasts enjoy clear skies and cool days on hundreds of miles of biking and hiking trails. Payson has a 50-mile network of trails in town, which connect to Forest Service trails of all difficulties. To find out about hikes, meet up with the Payson Packers each Tuesday morning for a half-day guided hike or see the Payson Roundupâ€™sVisitors Guide. Payson, along with the towns of Pine and Strawberry in the Rim Country, are gateway communities to the Arizona Trail, which runs from the Mexican to the Utah border. Fishermen can catch bass in Roosevelt, Apache or Saguaro lakes. The Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks the East Verde River, Tonto Creek, Haigler Creek, Christopher Creek and a string of lakes atop the Rim as well.
Tonto, Christopher and Horton creeks are favorite fishing holes for the fly-fishermen of the area. To learn their secrets, attend a meeting of the club held monthly in Payson. The Game and Fish Department also stock the East Verde River with trout. Just minutes from town, many visitors enjoy the river for its numerous water holes. The Rim lakes, Willow, Woods, Bear Canyon, Black Canyon, Chevelon, Knoll and the Blue Ridge Reservoir sit at an elevation of 7,000 feet. Cooler than the lower elevations, they offer the perfect place to fish or swim for the day or camp in the campgrounds. A 30-minute drive from Payson yields camp sites on the edge of the 1,500foot-tall Mogollon Rim, with a 100-mile view.
Summer: Living is easy
As the heat of summer fades, cooler nights emerge and the leaves change. By October the bugle of elk in the rutting season permeates the early morning air. Hunters converge on Payson decked out in fatigues and driving ATVs. Photographers pull out their cameras to capture the vibrant yellows and blazing reds of the sycamores and cottonwoods. The riparian corridors offer some of the best displays of fall color in the state. Birders head out with binoculars to watch the birds returning to the tropics.
In the summer, visitors escape the heat of Phoenix or the humidity of their home state to enjoy splashing about in the numerous waterways. The Rim Country enjoys numerous rivers and streams created by the Mogollon Rim. Fossil Creek, a federally recognized wild and scenic river, formerly could be accessed through the trailhead off Fossil Creek Road in Pine. To drive to the pristine waterway, go through the Verde Valley off of 260.
Fall: A riot of colors
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FOUR-SEASON RECREATION Winter: The silence of snow Winter has a subtle magical quality many overlook. The Payson area has mild winters with three to four snowstorms that drop enough white powder on the shrubbery to create a winter wonderland without requiring constant shoveling. Yet, take a drive up to the Mogollon Rim and experience drifts waist deep. The 2,000-foot difference in elevation offers a chance to cross-country ski and snowshoe. Drop down to the Rye area and hikers have numerous options to hike.
Recreation right in town Residents also take advantage of bountiful opportunities for year-round recreation without leaving town. Payson has two major parks, which host town sports leagues in soccer, basketball, baseball and other sports. The area also has a thriving Little League operation and the Longhorns high school teams draw big crowds and often advance into the state playoffs. Several hiking clubs lead weekly hikes and the local archaeological society leads outings to 800year-old Indian ruins. Meanwhile, the Payson Flycasters introduce people to the best fishing spots and drum up volunteers for cleanYoung and old alike enjoy splashup projects and ing about every summer at Taylor stream renovaPool located in Rumsey Park. tions. Rumsey Park remains the crown jewel in Payson’s parks system, with a swimming pool shaded by 400year-old ponderosa pines for a taste of those evocative small-town summers. The park has playing fields that remain in use all day long and under the lights on those long days of summer. Green Valley Park offers a chance to fish in lakes stocked year-round and serves as the setting for most of the big, town events during the tourist season. That includes the big July 4 blowout, concerts in the park, events connected to the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo, a classic car show, a wildlife festival, Memorial Day ceremonies at Payson’s treasured war memorial and a host of other events. Most of the surrounding communities have their own summer festivals, including popular, small-town events like quilt shows, crafts festivals and a jazz festival in Pine, Beaver Valley Days, July 4 celebrations in East Verde Estates and an array of other events that capture a sense of Americana celebrated by Norman Rockwell, but increasingly hard to find in the real world.
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Photos by Andy Towle
The amphitheater in Green Valley Park makes for great sledding after a winter storm.
HELPFUL RECREATION TIPS BICYCLE-ADVENTURERS (MOUNTAIN BIKING)
201 W. Main St., Suite B, Payson, AZ 85541 Shop number is 928-474-2308 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web site is www.bicycle-adventurers.com
CHASIN A DREAM OUTFITTERS (HUNTING)
612 S. Beeline Hwy/, Payson, AZ 85541, 928-468-6181 Web site: www.chasinadreamoutfitters.com email: email@example.com
RIM COUNTRY OUTDOOR/RECREATION CLUBS: Friends of the Mogollon Rim Rim Country residents working together to improve the quality of the forest. email: Christine@thevitamart.com Rim Country Riders ATV Club Jeep, ATV and OHV enthusiasts who gather to celebrate off-roading. email: firstname.lastname@example.org Pine-Strawberry Fuel Reduction, Inc. Dedicated volunteers committed to reducing the threat of wildfire through fuel reduction programs. Hosts annual Fire on the Rim Mountain Bike Race. Web site: http://psfuelreduction.org - email: email@example.com Payson Flycasters and Trout Unlimited Fishing enthusiasts who organize fly-fishing trips, discuss ways to assist the Game and Fish Department restore area streams, and conduct classes in fly-fishing. www.paysonflycasters.org. Call: 928-472-7396 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Payson Packers (meets every Tuesday morning for three levels of hikes). Call: 928-474-3040 Payson Daily Walking Group Call: 928-468-6842. email: email@example.com
Special Membership Offer You’re invited to become a member of Desert Schools Federal Credit Union – the largest Arizona-based credit union. We’ve been serving members at our Payson Branch since 2005 and would love the opportunity to welcome you and your family to Desert Schools. Please bring this ad only to our Payson Branch to receive this special offer when you open a new Desert Schools checking account. • Bonus after 6 months • Free box of checks • Additional member discounts (ask a representative for details)
Open a new Desert Schools checking account and receive free checks plus a cash bonus! Offer available only at our Payson Walmart Branch: 300 N Beeline Highway, Payson. Weekday Hours: 10:00 am to 7:00 pm Saturday Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Learn more about Desert Schools by visiting desertschools.org, or by calling (928) 468-1392 Certain restrictions apply. See representative for details.
Desert Schools Federal Credit Union | Federally insured by the NCUA
Rim Country Health & Retirement Community
Local people making a local difference.
Skilled Nursing • Rehabilitation • Apartments
Serving Payson and the Rim Country Kiwanis International isLocal a global organization - made of people like you. people At your Kiwanis Club of Zane Grey country, members improve children’s making a local difference. lives. They take part in community service projects. They raise money Kiwanis International is a global organization - made of people like you. for great causes. And they enjoy the company of friends and fellow At your Kiwanis Club of Zane Grey country, members improve children’s lives. leaders.They take part in community service projects. They raise money for great causes. And they enjoy the company of friends and fellow leaders. Check us out!
Join us Thursday mornings, 7 am Check us out!at Tiny’s Restaurant
Zanegreykiwanis.com Join us Thursday mornings, 7 am at Tiny’s Restaurant Zanegreykiwanis.com 928-978-4323
Skilled Nursing Rehabilitation Long Term Care Respite Care Behavioral Health Advanced Dementia Delicious Meals Fun Activities Transportation Apartments Meeting Facilities Dialysis
Hometown Healthcare in the Heart of Payson since 1985
(928) 474-1120• www.RimCountryHealth.com 807 W. Longhorn Rd. • Payson, AZ • 85541 2013
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REGIONAL ATTRACTIONS Rim Country often feels remote and pristine — miles from anywhere. Don’t be fooled — it’s more like 90 minutes from everywhere and crowded with nearby attractions. It takes years to explore the attractions within an hour’s drive — and a lifetime to cover the scenery, history and adventures within a 200mile radius — which includes most of Arizona. Take it from me, I’ve spent 30 years taking notes on the hidden treasures here — first as a writer for Arizona Highways and more recently as editor of the Payson Roundup. We could offer an extensive list of in-town pleasures, like the music at the Buffalo Bar and Grill, the year-round fishing at the Green Valley Lakes, the Fossil Creek Creamery’s goat cheese fudge or brunch at the historic Randall House in Pine, the creekside cabins overlooking Tonto Creek at Kohl’s Ranch, the wealth of antique shops in Pine and Payson, the view of the Rim from the picture windows of the Crosswinds Restaurant for Sunday morning’s brunch at the Payson Airport, the gourmet Thai food at the Ayothaya Cafe, the summerlong concerts in Green Valley Park, the expert advice on mountain biking at Hike, Bike and Run, the steaks at the Diamond Point Restaurant in Star Valley and the excitement of the whirling slot machines at the Mazatzal Casino. But for now, I’ll focus on natural wonders — and quick day trips. So here’s my personal list of top-10 attractions you can visit in a day if based in Payson.
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Rim Country Attractions Filling up the weekend or wowing out-of-town visitors poses no challenge
Story and Photos by Peter Aleshire This page: The view from inside the world’s largest travertine bridge in Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.
REGIONAL ATTRACTIONS TONTO NATURAL BRIDGE STATE PARK:The world’s largest natural travertine bridge remains a marvel of geology and a touchstone of history. A vast dike of dissolved limestone deposited by ancient springs created the massive wall of travertine. Pine Creek then cut a cavernous tunnel through the center. The creek now flows through the grotto-like arch of the massive natural bridge. TONTO NATIONAL MONUMENT: This 600-year-old Sinagua Indian ruin perches beneath an overhang at the base of a soaring cliff overlooking Roosevelt Lake. The Sinagua built a series of fortress-like settlements some 800 years ago, but occupied it for less than 200 years before vanishing mysteriously. FOSSIL CREEK:This spring-fed creek tinted tropical-seasturquoise creates a chain of deep, crystal clear pools and waterfalls in a deep canyon just east of the little hamlet of Strawberry. It also serves as the premier refuge for native fish in the state and a year-round adventure. EAST VERDE RIVER:This trout-stocked stream starts in springs beneath the Mogollon Rim then runs past the secondhome and retirement enclave of Whispering Pines, the historic, laid-back refuge of Beaver Valley, the hidden delight of Flowing Springs and the leafy paradise of East Verde Estates. Undeveloped along most of its length, it offers one of the few places in the state you can buy riverfront housing. TONTO CREEK:This treasure lies about 15 miles north of Payson, close by the subdivisions of Christopher Creek and Tonto Village. The spring that makes it one of the best, yearround streams in Arizona also feeds into the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery, which provides the trout used to stock lakes and streams in the whole region. VERDE VALLEY: An hour down West Highway 260 you’ll find the Verde Valley, with the lazy, leafy, fishable Verde River and fascinating Indian ruins like Tuzigoot and Montezuma’s Castle. The low valley offers plenty of camping, fishing and splashing about — with easy access to the funky mining town turned art colony town of Jerome and the red rock charms of Sedona. MOGOLLON RIM:The mostly dirt Forest Road 300 threads along this 200-mile-long chain of 1,200-foot-tall cliffs that marks the southern edge of the uplift that created the Colorado Plateau. A 40-mile meander between Highway 260 and Highway 87 skirts the edge of the cliff and offers stunning views. RIM COUNTRY LAKES: A series of man-made lakes atop the Mogollon Rim provide some of the most popular fishing and camping spots in the state, most of them a roughly 40-minute drive from Payson. Bear Canyon, Willow Springs and Woods Canyon lakes all have boating, camping and fishing facilities. The state stocks them heavily all summer long with trout. ROOSEVELT LAKE:This giant reservoir captures the Salt River, which makes Phoenix possible. The first federal reclamation project in the West, Roosevelt Lake also offers terrific fishing opportunities for bass, catfish, buffalo fish and other warm-water species, plus campgrounds and boat launching ramps.
MILES FROM PAYSON TO ... Phoenix: Sky Harbor Airport: Flagstaff: Grand Canyon: Globe: Petrified Forest: Sedona: Prescott: Show Low: Winslow: Mesa: Glendale, AZ: Tucson: Kingman: Safford: Gallup, NM: Needles, CA: Las Vegas, NV: Los Angeles: Albuquerque: Santa Fe: Salt Lake City: Denver:
93 83 91 172 82 98 96 99 90 91 78 102 183 234 159 192 299 337 459 330 390 625 774
Fossil Creek (top) offers the best swimming holes in Arizona and Tonto National Monument offers clues to an ancient mystery.
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Low key fun No crazy club scene. Just the one movie theater. No bars open until dawn. Then again, Rim Country offers a just-enough selection of places to hang out, listen to music, enjoy a good meal, meet fellow wanderers. Rim Country has more than its share of bands, musicians and artists — including some big-league talents like songwriter/performer John Carpino (at right), who have made a career out of making music in Rim Country. So, here’s a list of places Rim Country residents entertain one another. MAZATZAL CASINO: Operated by the Tonto Apache Tribe, the resort includes an array of slots and card games, a convention hotel, two restaurants and a long succession of special events. The casino regularly lands touring acts. BUFFALO BAR AND GRILL: Repeatedly named the No. 1 place to meet singles by readers of the Payson Roundup, the Buffalo has a small dance floor, plays music most nights and offers live music most weekends. Every Sunday, the popular local country band Junction 87 hosts a countrywestern jam session. SIDEWINDER’S SALOON: This relaxed bar in Pine offers live music most weekends, where locals and visitors mingle on a big dance floor. The weekend music provides a great way to cap a day of hiking or browsing the Pine antique shops. THE AYOTHAYA THAI CAFÉ: This Payson restaurant offers gourmet Thai and Japanese food at surprisingly reasonable prices. On the weekends, the restaurant offers live music by local musicians including folk, rock and jazz.
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OXBOW SALOON: This historic bar on Main Street has a rambling, open space with an old-style bar, fire pits in the back, seating in front of a roaring fireplace — and an eccentric collection of ghosts, according to regulars. The Oxbow has played a leading role in the Payson nightlife for decades — with roots going back to when Main Street was just about the only action in Rim Country. One of the ghosts is reportedly an African American cowboy who got lynched somewhere in the dimly documented past.The Oxbow also hosts one of the rodeo dances. JOURNIGAN HOUSE: This historic restaurant on Main Street offers steaks, seafood and Cajun fare — not to mention live music on the weekends. The Journigan House has a big patio for summer dining, a great deal on Happy Hour specials, an eclectic menu — and lots of ghost stories of its own. Cooks report that pans fly through the kitchen and temperature changes dramatically in cold spots. Patrons say one of the ghosts is connected to the picture of a little girl in the main dining room.
CONCERTS IN THE PARK: The Community Concert Association hosts free concerts in Green Valley Park all summer long, with top-ranked acts performing in an oldstyle bandstand for crowds seated on a grassy amp theater. SPECIAL EVENTS: Special events from spring to fall offer lots of opportunities to get out of the house and mingle with visitors and locals. Some of the most popular events include a classic car show every spring, craft fairs, a mountain bike race, the giant July 4 bash, the August Doin’s during the Payson Rodeo, which includes a parade and dances. RIM COUNTRY LANES: This popular bowling alley hosts several active local leagues, has beer and a basic menu. SAWMILL THEATRES: This six-screen theater offers all the latest releases at about one-third less cost than taking in a movie in Phoenix. Located in the Sawmill Crossing next to Scoops Ice Cream and Espresso and the popular Macky’s Grill, the theater offers low-cost matinees.
Welcome to Gila County’s
What an Relocating excellent choice! to Gila County? Be sure to visit www.gilacountyaz.gov Board of Supervisors — 928-474-7100 Tommie C. Martin, District 1 Michael A. Pastor, District 2 John Marcanti, District 3 Building Permits — 928-474-9276 (for unincorporated areas only) Planning & Zoning — 928-474-9276 Septic Permits — 928-474-9276 Cooperative Extension — 928-474-4160 Voter Registration — 928-472-5340 ext 8733 Health & Emergency Services — 928-474-1210 Dog Licenses — 928-474-1210 Library District — 928-472-5340 ext 8768 www.gcldaz.org/gila/ Buckhead Landfill — 928-476-3350 Sheriff — 928-474-2208 Non Emergency 2013
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Schools: Hub of the community Rim Country offers rural schools with all the extras thanks to donations, great teachers, willing volunteers BY MICHELE NELSON ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER
The 2,300-student Payson Unified School District forms the hub of a diverse school system in Rim Country. The district operates four regular schools and one alternative high school, each with a perhaps-surprising array of top-ranked programs and activities. Like many rural school districts, Payson schools face sometimeschallenging demographics, with sizeable populations of low-income and special education students of test scores that generally come in a little bit above the state average. However, the district’s teachers have worked to offer students many extras rare in a rural school, including ski trips with an outdoor adventure club, a chance to design research projects using a satellite orbiting the planet Mars, ecology studies involving the East Verde River, a championship band and music program, college credits for classes taught in partnership with Gila Community College, a full drama program and a championship athletics program that draws in the whole community. Several other smaller school districts teach primary grades, with students transferring to Payson High School when they get older. This includes the small, well-funded Pine School District as well as the Tonto Basin School District. The area also offers several private and charter school options, including the Shelby School in Tonto Village, with one of the top chess teams in the whole country and an approach that individualizes instruction and draws in experts for other fields. The Payson School District concentrates each set of grades at a single school. Payson Elementary School covers grades K-2 and the historic but recently remodeled Julia Randall Elementary covers grades 3-5, plus a pre-kindergarten program. Rim Country Middle School covers grades 6-8 and Payson High School grades 9-12. The Payson School District has struggled with stateimposed budget cuts and declining enrollment in the past several years. The cuts forced the closure of one elementary school and an increase in class sizes. Nonetheless, test scores have held steady — remaining a little bit above the state and national average in most grades.
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Photos by Andy Towle
AWARD-WINNING TEACHERS: • Marlene Armstrong — Rural Teacher of the Year and Gila County Teacher of the Year • Daria Mason — Arizona Music Educators Association O. M. Hartsell Excellence in Teaching Award and Gila County Teacher of the Year • Shelly Camp — Gila County Teacher of the Year
PRIVATE/CHARTER: Community Christian School Shelby School Center for Success Education Center Morgan’s Creek Montesorri Payson Virtual Academy
OTHER DISTRICTS: Tonto Basin Elementary Pine-Strawberry School
PARENT ORGANIZATIONS: Parent Advisory Council Payson Association for Advanced Learners Payson FAN Club Parent Teacher Organizations at each PUSD school
SCHOOLS However, the district remains way above average in the extras provided to students, thanks to the combination of determined teachers and strong community support. The school system remains a focal point of the community, dominating sports coverage in the local paper, receiving consistent coverage of special events and performances and benefiting from more than $300,000 donated annually to the state’s Credit for Kids tax write-off donation system, as well as thousands of hours of volunteer hours. The extras include field trips in the elementary schools, trips to watch plays in Phoenix, a firsthand look at the operations of local farms and ranches and Outdoor Adventure Club outings that include spelunking in caves, skiing, all-day hikes and rock climbing. The district also offers award-winning music and theater classes, art, sports and Career and Technical Education in the Payson High School. Because of the Rim Country’s central location in the state, teachers take their students to participate in photographing Mars at the Mars Imaging Project or see the facets of an insect’s eye on an electron
microscope at the Arizona State University campus. In Flagstaff, students may watch the stars from the Lowell Observatory. Students from the Peer Counseling Group have lobbied Arizona legislators to ban texting while driving. The Payson High School marching band played in Hawaii to honor the 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor and marched in the Fiesta Bowl Parade televised nationally.
PAYSON HIGH SCHOOL PHS 2012 AIMS vs state average PHS Math AZ Math PHS Reading AZ Reading PHS Writing AZ Writing PHS Science AZ Science
486 496 704 707 495 501 489 480
50 60 79 80 69 70 40 42
Gila Community College A little known gem is the Gila Community College (GCC) in Payson, where residents from high school-age to senior citizens may obtain an associate degree in numerous subjects or further their education with writing, art or exercise classes. GCC also has a vibrant nursing program that students from outside of the Rim Country move to the area to study. Moreover, the college offers extremely low-cost tuition for seniors, who flock to enrichment classes there, including writing, photography, ceramics, painting, computers and others.
HIGH SCHOOL CAREER CLASSES: Agriculture Science Automotive Technology Construction Technology Culinary Arts Information Technology Marketing Engineering
PHS AIMS scores 2010-2012 PHS Math Reading Writing Science
486 704 495 489
489 712 498 495
503 721 707 479
Stanford 10 Percentile Scores Math Reading Language
75 58 48
71 66 55
RIM COUNTRY MIDDLE SCHOOL 2012 AIMS - Math 6th 7th 8th
RCMS State RCMS State RCMS State
393 410 416 426 418 434
43 61 54 62 46 57
2012 AIMS - Reading
COMMUNITY COLLEGE DUAL-CREDIT CLASSES: Drafting Fire Science Nursing Website Development
6th 7th 8th
RCMS State RCMS State RCMS State
502 510 524 530 512 521
77 80 84 84 66 72
2012 AIMS - Science
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AIMS SCORES TREND Julia Randall Elementary Percent Passing 2010-2012 AIMS
2012 2011 2010
65 68 72
80 84 80
65 52 74
74 76 75
2012 AIMS - Writing 7th 8th
RCMS State RCMS State
487 500 491 480
47 52 40 23
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Rim Country offers an eclectic business mix Brew pub, Thai food, goat milk fudge, art galleries — region attracts entrepreneurs, hard-headed dreamers BY ALEXIS BECHMAN ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER
Two breweries and a wine bar. A Thai restaurant. An ammunition manufacturer. A sporting goods store and several discount retailers. These are just a few of the new businesses that have opened in Payson in recent years. The business scene in Rim Country is finally gaining ground after several difficult years that brought empty storefronts and streets littered with “For Rent” signs. Despite the setbacks, Rim Country has always had a healthy mix of amenities, everything from specialty grocers to quaint antique and quilt shops. Recently, several new businesses have opened, bringing character and something unique to the area. For a complete list of businesses, visit PaysonMarketplace.com. The site, operated by the Roundup, is an expanded online phone book. The site provides detailed information and reviews about nearly every business in Rim Country, including those smaller shops tucked away and off the main highways. The new arrivals add to Rim Country’s distinctive businesses. Rim Country has always attracted folks with diverse experience who have opted for lifestyle over maximizing income — which means the business community includes its share of former corporate executives, artists and entrepreneurs. Moreover, the busy summer tourism season brings a flush of business that can sustain unusual business models. For instance, Fossil Creek Creamery has award-winning goat cheeses and fudge and is featured at local restaurants.
The area also supports craft stores and art galleries, including two galleries operated by the local artists whose work adorns the walls. Some of the newer businesses that have joined include: THAT Brewery in Pine, Mountain Top Brewery and Lady D’s Wine Bar, Chocolate and Gifts in Payson are the latest and some of the first specialty beverage shops in Rim Country. The beers at THAT Brewery, 3270 N. Highway 87, and Mountain Top Brewery, 401 N. Tyler Parkway, are dreamed up and concocted on site. For Tim Piazza, owner of Mountain Top, a beer hobby swelled into an obsession and turned into a commercial business. Piazza said he decided to become a commercial brewer “out of insanity” and to “share my passion.” He regularly features ales, wheats and IPAs. For wine drinkers, there is Lady D’s, 714 N. Beeline Highway, an intimate wine bar in the heart of the Swiss Village Shops. Debora Sable said she always wanted a space to combine her love of fine art, wine and truffles. “I wanted to bring something sophisticated and fun to Payson — something warm and welcoming,” she said. One of the most successful restaurants to open in Payson in years, Ayothaya Thai Café, at 404 E. Highway 260, has brought new life and flavors to Rim Country. Owners Mac and Man Katepratoom brought the décor and their knowledge of Thai food from Thailand from which they immigrated nearly a decade ago.
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The lineup of Rim Country businesses includes distinctive ventures, like the Ayothaya Thai Café (above) and the Fossil Creek Creamery (below). Photos by Andy Towle
FAST FACTS Per capita income 14.3% above state and 4.5% above national averages. Poverty rate 45% below Arizona and 19.5% below national averages. Cost of living 7.8% below Arizona and 6.2% below national averages. Gas 10% below national average. Source: AreaVibes
PAYSON GENERAL PLAN
Jobs Jobs Jobs Payson land use plan calls for population of 38,000 Photo by Pia Wyer/Special to the Roundup
Green Valley Park hosts community events, including a July 4th show that draws 20,000. BY PETE ALESHIRE ROUNDUP EDITOR
Payson this year launched an overhaul of its General Plan, with an eye toward a land use blueprint that will ensure a diverse, stable economy in the future. The town’s General Plan determines everything from housing densities to where commercial businesses, industrial development and apartment complexes end up. State law requires communities to overhaul their General Plans after each Census. Initial meetings have focus-
ed on making sure that the town provides plenty of space for businesses that produce both jobs and sales tax, which supports most town services. However, residents also don’t want to sacrifice the small-town feel, forested neighborhoods and amenities — like the town’s two huge parks. The last time the town overhauled its General Plan, most residents worried mostly about managing growth without outstripping the water supply. Then along came the recession — followed closely by securing rights to 3,000 acre-feet
of water from the Blue Ridge Reservoir. Instantly, fear of running out of money replaced the fear of running out of water. Payson residents have focused on reviving — and then diversifying — the economy of a town that once relied on new construction and tourism to sustain a 4 percent growth rate. Many urged an overhaul of the land use plan to accommodate a proposed 6,000-student university campus, likely to produce a more diverse, year-round economy. The General Plan includes restrictions on land use; a circula-
Payson General Plan
tion plan that determines how much traffic each street will carry; and detailed projections for housing, resource management, annexations and many other elements. The General Plan provides the overview and the zoning ordinances spell out the details. It’s much easier to change the zoning than it is to change the General Plan. The current General Plan envisions Payson ultimately having 38,000 residents in 20 square miles. The 2000 Census listed 7,000 housing units, 1,200 of them vacant and 780 of them seasonal. The town had 5,800 households — 4,000 of them families, with an average family size of 2.71. At that time, the town had roughly 11,000 adults and 2,740 children and about 4,000 people older than 65. The Payson townsite was founded in 1882 with a population of 40 people. The tally grew slowly to 200 residents in 1922, then to 500 in 1930. By 1990, the population had reached 8,377. It exploded in the next decade, rising 62 percent to 13,620 in 2000. The U.S. Census Bureau listed the population at 15,171 in July of 2011.
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BLUE RIDGE PIPELINE
Water, water everywhere
Photo by Andy Towle
The Blue Ridge Reservoir holds 14,000 acre-feet including 3,500 acre-feet reserved annually for Payson and other Rim Country communities.
Blue Ridge pipeline makes Payson one of the only towns in Arizona with enough water for growth BY PETE ALESHIRE ROUNDUP EDITOR
Never mind the perfect climate, small-town feel, diverse recreational activities, and affordable housing. Payson has one other attribute that will secure its future: Plenty of water. After decades of effort, Payson has struck a deal that will not only double its sustainable water supply — but make it one of the only communities in Arizona that has secured enough water to supply all of its projected, long-term needs. In the process, the town went from having the toughest water conservation measures in the state, to a scramble to put a gush of new water to good use. Thank the Blue Ridge pipeline and a partnership with the Salt River Project — coupled with a diligent, 20-year effort to secure the region’s water future. Currently, Payson uses about 1,800 acre-feet of water annually — a little less than rain and snow deposit in the town’s underwater bank account in an average year. The Blue Ridge pipeline when completed in 2015 will deliver 3,000 acre-feet annually — more than enough water to supply the town’s projected build-out population of 38,000. In addition, many water-stressed, unincorporated communities along the way can also buy into the pipeline. Moreover, the rush of new water will allow the town to keep three golf courses in the area lushly watered — since much of that water ends up back in the water table. The town also wants to turn the normally dry American Gulch into a stream running through the middle of town, another project designed to return the depleted water table to historic levels.
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By contrast, towns and cities throughout the rest of Arizona face an uncertain water future. Many climate projections suggest the region faces longer, more severe periods of drought in coming decades. Payson’s ample water supply should then give it another key advantage over its economic competitors. The water will flow from the Blue Ridge Reservoir — also called the C.C. Cragin Reservoir — high atop the Mogollon Rim. An international mining company built the reservoir to store water it could trade with SRP, which eventually acquired ownership of the dam and rights to the 14,000 acre-feet of water in the lake. Payson lobbied tenaciously for a federal law that gave it rights to the water as well. It finally succeeded in winning water rights, but that meant it had to help overhaul and maintain SRP’s 15-mile-long pipeline from the reservoir to the headwaters of the East Verde River and build its own $32 million, 15-mile-long pipeline. Payson imposed a $7,500 per-house water impact fee to raise money to finance the pipeline project and qualified for federal grants and long-term, low-interest-rate loans. Few towns its size could have persisted so long and handled such a complex project, but the rewards look tremendous. Before the building downturn, Payson was adding 300 homes a year to its housing stock — and the water table was falling rapidly. Without the Blue Ridge water locked up, Payson imposed its impact fee and a 250-unit cap on new construction. The town also developed water conservation standards that produced among the lowest per-person water use rates in the state. But with the Blue Ridge water assured, the town eliminated the growth restrictions and started making ambitious plans. One great additional benefit lies in SRP’s plans to make use of the 9,000 to 11,000 acre-feet it draws from the Blue Ridge Reservoir each year. The Valley utility puts that water into the East Verde River, greatly augmenting the flow of the river that crosses Highway 87 just west of Payson. The Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks the East Verde with trout in the summer, making the beautiful, augmented stream a major amenity.
G et more out of life. Spacious apartments Weekly housekeeping Major appliances | Utilities included Chef-prepared meals Monthly agreements | Social events To learn more about our community in Payson, call (928) 474-3912.
All faiths or beliefs are welcome. 11-G0067
WASTE MATTERS in business for over 13 years • Locally Owned & Operated • No Contract • No Additional Monthly Fees
PAYSON EDUCATION CENTER “Home of The Titans”
i Alternative High School i Individualized Programs i Options for Learning i Small Class Sizes i AdvancED Accredited Payson Education Center 112 West Cedar Lane Payson, AZ 85541 Phone: 928-468-8509
www.paysonedctr.org Part of the Gila County Regional School District
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Rim Country medical care state of the art Proximity to Phoenix offsets access issues for rural community
Photo by Andy Towle
BY TERESA MCQUERREY ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER
Payson Regional Medical Center is the anchor for the Rim Country’s health care community. It can trace its roots back to a small clinic funded and built through the efforts of both pioneer and new residents. Today, Payson Regional Medical Center is a 44-bed, acute care hospital committed to providing quality, patient-centered care. PRMC is a three-time recipient of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals® by Thomson Reuters, in recognition for excellence in clinical outcomes, patient safety and satisfaction, financial performance and operational efficiency. The medical center’s more than 115 skilled physicians and allied health practitioners represent a variety of specialty areas to meet the needs of the growing community and to support good health at all stages of life. PRMC offers an array of outpatient services and specialty clinics including outpatient imaging, bone densitometry, diagnostic X-rays, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, nuclear cardiac stress testing, CT and PET scans, MRI, family practice, pediatrics, ENT, physical therapy and rehabilitation services, and orthopedic surgery.
Telemedicine Telemedicine integrates online communication and digital videoconferencing to enable face-to-face consultations with physicians, patients and specialists throughout the state and country. Senior Circle Senior Circle is a membership program committed to enriching the lives of adults age 50 and better. For $15 a year, members receive a selection of valuable discounts on health care goods and services; social activities and events; travel opportunities; exercise and wellness classes; in-hospital privileges and much more. For information call: (928) 472-9290. Healthy Woman Healthy Woman is a free community re-
source designed to empower women with the knowledge to make informed health care and well-being decisions for themselves and their loved ones. For information, call (928) 472-9290 or visit www.HealthyWomanOnline.com. Complementing the work of PRMC are long-term care and residential care facilities: Payson Care Center; Rim Country Health & Retirement Community; Powell House; and Frontier House, along with Hospice Compassus. Several home health services, including PRMC’s, also provide assistance to residents in need of medical help in their residences and other businesses offer non-medical help for clients with limited mobility or other disabilities.
PAYSON REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER SERVICES • Cardiac services: Telemetry, cardiac stress test • Cardiopulmonary: EKG, aerosol therapy, arterial blood gas analysis, peak flows. • Emergency care: 24/7 care, maximum 30-minute wait for a doctor or nurse • Intensive care unit • Imaging services: Both inpatient and outpatient; 40-slice CT scanner; PET scans; lithotripsy; MRI; nuclear medicine; telemedicine/tele-radiology; ultrasound • Labor and delivery • Laboratory • Surgery • Radiation oncology • Rehabilitation: Occupational therapy; physical therapy; speech therapy
34 | Move to RIM COUNTRY | 2013
A vivid history
The Mogollon Rim now buttresses the tourist economy, but also served as the backdrop for the Apache wars and ranching history. Pete Aleshire photo
BY TERESA MCQUERREY ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER
Anglos — the white people — are latecomers to the Rim Country. Native Americans have called the area home for thousands of years. Whites have only had a stake in the country since around the late 1860s. The first whites to make their presence known were members of the military, chasing the Apache from Fort Reno to the south and Fort Lincoln (later Fort Verde) to the west. Historian Stan Brown, who writes a regular column for the Payson Roundup’s arts and entertainment publication, The Rim Review, related this story in a May 2003 column: “In June of 1864, rancher King Woolsey was leading the first white invasion into the Rim Country (from the Verde Valley to the west), seeking to kill Apache Indians, locate stolen livestock, and find outcroppings of gold. “After exploring the northern reaches of Tonto Creek, Woolsey’s party continued their sojourn toward the Salt River. At the mouth of Tonto Creek they found a basin surrounded by the meeting of several mountain ranges. The conjoined rivers broke through canyons sending their waters raging toward the desert valley. Beaver dams upstream had formed small lakes, and the intruders fished and swam, hunted and feasted ... “It was mid-August when the party returned to Tonto Apache territory, and camped again near the mouth of Tonto Creek. The Woolsey party did not accomplish any of their immediate goals ... However, they had followed the Tonto Basin its entire length and explored as far east as the San Carlos and Black Rivers. “They brought back to Prescott glowing reports of Apacheria. In
his report to the governor, Woolsey said, ‘The whole country through which we have passed is covered with excellent grass. Water is plentiful for all ordinary purposes. In many places beautiful little valleys invite the farmer and rancher to follow the occupation of their choice.’ Needless to say, settlers were itching to take possession after that.” More military and miners — who some report were the first in the area earlier in the 1860s — followed. Brown, in a September 2008 column, wrote, “By 1876 Apache control of the area had been broken, and all of the Native Americans had been placed on reservations, except for a few Tonto Apache families hiding in the mountains. The area grew slowly — it was remote. It took three to five days to get supplies in from the railheads in the Salt River and Verde valleys, Flagstaff and Holbrook. The townsite that became Payson had only a few residents; the bulk of the area’s population lived and worked on the far-flung ranches and farms. Payson was the hub of activity though, with a store or two, a hotel and community Christmas and (starting in 1884) rodeo celebrations. Real growth in the Rim Country did not start until the late 1950s when the Beeline (S.R. 87) was built from the Valley to Payson. At the start of the 1960s there were around 1,000 people residing in Payson, which did not become an incorporated town until the mid1970s, when between 3,000 and 4,000 people called the community home. Since then, about 10,000 more lucky wanderers have found this cozy place, nestled at the base of the mighty Mogollon Rim. The experts say there is room for between 20,000 to 25,000 more. Will you be one of them?
Region’s story includes tragic Indian wars, brave settlers, rapid growth — with room for many more
| Move to RIM COUNTRY | 35
TELECOMMUTING Photos by Andy Towle
Telecommuting: Making a lifestyle out of a business
Photo by Andy Towle
Lindsey and Laurel Wala (above) work in their home office in Payson. Kyle Roethlein (below) telecommutes for a recruitment agency from Payson. BY MICHELE NELSON ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER
“Payson is the perfect telecommuters’ town,” said James Hohl, who helps patients squeeze through insurance mazes for a Wyoming hospital but rarely leaves Payson. Process Engineer Hohl works for St. John’s Community Hospital, but spends most of his time in his Payson home office. From there, he makes sure patients receive only one bill for services. He and his wife Rachel spent several years struggling with the Wyoming winters before deciding they wanted to return to Arizona — but keep their jobs in Wyoming. “We picked Payson because of the weather,” said Hohl, “but I like Payson, it feels nice — it’s a small community.” Hohl says Payson’s location next to the fifth largest city in the United States with an international airport, its natural beauty, and infrastructure make it the perfect town for a professional telecommuter. “I have everything I need here, Internet, office supplies ... I contribute to the local economy,” said Hohl. “I make local purchases.” He proudly said he just bought a car from Chapman Auto Center. He also indulges his biking interest. “My hobby is biking,” said Hohl, “I’m meeting other bikers through the Hike, Bike and Run store.” While Hohl and his wife have separate jobs, other telecommuters in Payson prefer to keep it in the family. Technical recruitment agency John and Lorian Roethlein own a technical recruitment agency. Recently, they added their son to the roster.Their business focuses on finding and presenting engineering companies with candidates.
36 | Move to RIM COUNTRY | 2013
“We’re hired by tech firms in Silicon Valley,” said Lorian. The Roethleins can work from anywhere, but chose Payson because of the seasons, people and outdoors. Sometimes, they work from places other than their home. John has even closed deals fly-fishing. The Roethleins also started Payson Farmers Market as well as helping launch the Unity Church. “We already have 40 to 45 members,” Lorian said. So successful had their business become in the last couple of years, the two decided to expand and added their son to the staff. Kyle and his girlfriend moved to Payson from Portland and soon found ways to fit in. Kathy started taking nursing classes at Gila Community College while Kyle enjoys work and nourishes his dirt bike and martial arts hobbies. “I hang out at the Triangle Arts martial arts gym and at Scoops,” Kyle said. “I looked up a (dirt bike) shop and found guys to ride with.” Legal adviser to prescription drug companies Devin and Laurel Wala enjoy the freedom telecommuting offers with their family schedule. They have two teenage children who keep them on the go during the school year. During vacations, the family travels the world together. “I work when my client needs to get something done,” said Laurel. She started a law firm in Scottsdale focusing on pharmaceutical law. Her firm is one of the only firms to specialize in this area of law. When her oldest son started school, she and her husband Devin, who worked in computer engineering, decided living in a small town would offer a life less hectic than if they lived in the city. He and Laurel make sure to balance their work and home life. Even though Laurel found the transition from working in an office to working at home a challenge, she could never go back. “I have nightmares about going back to the office,” she said.
RIM COUNTRY Self Storage & U-Haul RV & Boat Storage Paul Bates & Joy Richards Owners Renee Blood Manager
Payson First Church of the
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Located 5 Blocks West of the Payson Post Office
| Move to RIM COUNTRY | 37
For all things Rim Country...
PAYSON M ARKETPLACE .com PAYSON THE
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Community newspaper and digital media
Third fire stati top priz actually cut m on may e anpower Connec tions be tween neighbor in departm g fire ents roile by Pays on’s plan d s BY P ETE
38 | Move to RIM COUNTRY | 2013
Departm reductionent, resulting s in the well. ir manp in big ower as Payson Fire Ch deMasi ief pre will cut res dicts the third Marty calls wit ponse times on station me ho ut reduci dical resou
To subscribe, call (928) 474-5251, ext. 108 or visit www.payson.com
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| Move to RIM COUNTRY | 39
RIM COUNTRY NEIGHBORHOODS
Rim Country offers diversity of communities Mogollon Rim
Pine & Strawberry
Take Houston Mesa Rd. to
Whispering Pines, Beaver Valley, Mesa Del Caballo
Turn off Hwy. 87 to
East Verde Estates & Flowing Springs
Payson Beaver Valley Christopher Creek E. Verde Estates Flowing Springs Pine Star Valley Strawberry Tonto Basin Payson
Take Hwy. 260 to:
Christopher Creek & Tonto Village
231 156 170 42 1,963 2,310 961 1,424 15,171
17 % 6% 11% 7% 10% 19% 10% 9% 18%
26% 35% 28% 31% 33% 26% 38% 41% 31%
54 60 57 59 59 52 61 62 52
N/A $215,000 $251,700 $855,000 $280,000 $130,000 $217,000 $147,000 $213,000
N/A $32,600 $50,066 $66,047 $48,600 $33,300 $26,900 $30,100 $43,700
40 | Move to RIM COUNTRY | 2013
Payson Golf Course 18 Holes in Mile High Country
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Contact Bill Davis 928-474-2176 or Judy Spivey 474-8833 firstname.lastname@example.org 2013
| Move to RIM COUNTRY | 41
Payson neighborhoods offer something for everyone â€” co Green Valley Park
Hwy. 87 -- 90 miles to
Phoenix Main Street
High School Mazatzal Casino
Medical Center Town Hall
TAKE HWY 260 1 MILE TO CHAPPARRAL PINES
TAKE HWY 260 2 MILES TO STAR VALLEY 42 | Move to RIM COUNTRY | 2013
â€” country clubs, view lots, starter homes, historic streets
Hwy 260: 15 miles
Pine Hwy 260: 5 miles
E. Verde Estates Flowing Springs Rd.
LE TO ES
Houston Mesa Rd. 5-15 miles
Beaver Valley Mesa Del Caballo Whispering Pines
| Move to RIM COUNTRY | 43
PAYSON: DIVERSE MIX OF NEIGHBORHOODS
Photos by Andy Towle
BY TERESA MCQUERREY ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER
Payson serves as the business and political hub of Rim Country, with a concentration of hotels, restaurants, retail businesses and a diverse mix of housing types. The 20-square-mile town harbors about 60 percent of the population in the larger Rim Country area. With a 2013 population of about 16,000, Payson remains the largest city in Gila County. Founded in 1882 and home of the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo, Payson sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet close to the geographic center of Arizona. Perched at the boundary between the pinyon juniper and ponderosa pine forests, the community started as a ranching town, evolved into a sawmill town, and now depends heavily on tourism and attracting retirees and second-home owners. The town has a full-service police and fire departments, a modern, up-to-date water system and a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment system run by the Northern Gila County Sanitary District, which this year started a plan to double the capacity of its facilities. The town’s General Fund budget runs to about $12 million annually, with most of the money coming from local sales taxes paid by the large number of visitors who flood the area every summer. Thanks to the C.C. Cragin Reservoir project, Payson remains one of the few towns in Arizona with plenty of water. Payson features a diverse mingling of housing types in the many distinct neighborhoods, with a mix of small, older homes and modern custom homes that can feel initially disconcerting to buyers from more economically stratified communities. At the start of the year, the average list price for Payson was about $294,000, but the average sales price was closer to $152,000. The average price per square foot stood at about $122. Both the average sales price and the square-foot price rose 10 percent over the previous year, signs of the long-awaited recovery. However, the recovery so far seems more evident at the low end of the price scale, with vacant land still selling sluggishly. The backlog of foreclosures has mostly cleared, although it never came close to the drag on the market bank-owned real estate imposed on the Phoenix area. The town’s core area lying on either side of Highways 260 and 87 mostly features mid-priced homes, with a mix of distinctive homes on large, forested lots, modest mobile home clusters and older homes. But neighborhoods atop the mesa along Airport Road and lining Phoenix Street perched on the hills overlooking town offer an array of housing options — and some killer views. The community does include two gated, high-end country club developments, the mostly completed Chaparral Pines and the only partially developed Rim Club, both featuring high-end homes along the fairways of two championship golf courses. So here’s a brief guide to Payson’s neighborhoods.
44 | Move to RIM COUNTRY | 2013
Photo by Andy Towle
SOUTHWEST PAYSON In the southwest quadrant of Payson you will find the older development of Rodeo Ranches to the south of Payson Golf Course. This area features larger homes priced in the upper range of the mid-level, with many dating back to the late 1960s and early 1970s. To the north of the golf course are Country Club Estates — Unit 1 is a mix of site-built
and manufactured homes, while Unit 2 is site-built. Around the golf course are the developments of Greenfaire, Fairway Oaks and Fairway Knolls, built in the 1980s and 1990s. Farther north of the golf course is the oddly named Country Club Vista — nowhere in this area does anyone actually have a vista of the country club. However, it is the oldest
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| Move to RIM COUNTRY | 45
NEIGHBORHOODS: PAYSON include multi-family units, older homes, newer homes built on razed lots and manufactured housing. Development names on a 1998 map of the area include: Wooded Estates, Hathaway Addition, Greer Subdivision, Payson Heights and Mogollon Rim Addition 3. The newest development in the area of Julia Randall Elementary School is Stone Creek, where the homes are modular units.
SOUTHEAST QUADRANT Built in the 1950s and early 1960s were the older homes on East Bonita and East Frontier. Only one small area has a name designation, the Russell Addition, located to the north side of Bonita. Homes of the same vintage lie along Aero, Phoenix and Cedar streets just off the Beeline Highway. Both areas have a mix of site-built and manufactured homes. The Twin Lakes manufactured home park has been around since the mid-1960s and the Sherwood Forest Mobile Home Park just north of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church was created in the early 1970s. South of the Catholic Church is Cowtown Estates, where building started in the mid 1960s. In the early 1980s, Golden Frontier north of Payson Regional Medical Center started developing, linking Cowtown Estates and the surrounding neighborhoods to the older areas along East Frontier and East Bonita. The growth from East Aero, Phoenix and Cedar streets was to the east with the creation of the Pinon Ridge and Elk Ridge developments; and Rim View Heights Estates. These newer areas have more expensive homes than those closer to Beeline.
NORTHWEST QUADRANT The schools complex along Longhorn Road (which is essentially the town’s extension of Highway 260) marks the north
boundary of the southwest quadrant of the community. The areas developed around the schools are Forest Park, Payson West, Woodland Meadows and then farther north, on McLane, Timber Ridge. To the west of Rumsey Park and Payson Public Library, the residential areas are called Trailwood and Woodhill. Farther up McLane are Western Manor and Alpine Village. Payson North is part of the northwest quadrant, which has mixed site-built and manufactured homes. Farther north is Payson Ranchos, a mixed neighborhood of moderate-sized, site-built homes and manufactured housing. To the north is another manufactured home community called Payson Pines.
NORTHEAST QUADRANT Opposite Payson Ranchos on the Beeline is one of the older developments in Payson, called Payson Air Park. At one time it was one of the community’s landing “strips,” thanks to its relatively flat and open layout. (Another community lies north of Aero Drive in the southeast quadrant — hence the road’s name.) The Payson Municipal Airport is now on top of a mesa above McLane, north of Airport Road. It has an older, mixed stock of site-built and manufactured homes, Payson Elementary School and several churches. To the south of Payson Air Park is more of Payson North, with a mix of site-built and manufactured homes in varying price ranges, and its later addition the site-built homes of Alpine Heights. South of Payson North is Park Payson Pines, another area with mixed stock. Farther east lie the high-end country club developments of Chaparral Pines on the north side of East Highway 260 and on the south side. The Rim Club. North of Chaparral Pines are Oak Ridge Hills and The Woods at Payson, which are also upscale developments.
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120 South Tonto Street • Payson, AZ 85541 Phone: (928) 472-9238 FAX: (928) 472-7918 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
46 | Move to RIM COUNTRY | 2013
Photo by Pia Wyer
FAST FACTS Founded: 1882 Incorporated: 1973 Area: 20 square miles Elevation: 5,000 feet Households: 6,000 Housing units: 8,000 Households with children: 22% Married couples: 59% Female householder: 8% Average household size: 2.3 Average family size: 2.7 Sex ratio: 100 females/94 males Median household income: $33,600 Median family income: $38,700 Per capita income: $19,500 Below poverty: 15%
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WELCOME YOU TO THE RIM COUNTRY! FOR INFORMATION AND MEETING TIMES, call Chris at 928-468-9669 or email email@example.com www.GilaCountyDems.org 2013
| Move to RIM COUNTRY | 47
NEIGHBORHOODS: STAR VALLEY
STAR VALLEY: BY ALEXIS BECHMAN ROUNDUP STAFF WRITER
As the second youngest town in Arizona, incorporating just five years before the Grand Canyon community of Tusayan, Star Valley is still getting its feet wet. Now just seven years old, the town’s government is adding services, buying a local water department, repaving roads and shoring up its identity as more than just a place with speed cameras. Star Valley maintains its rural, smalltown atmosphere with minimal commercial and industrial areas and plenty of quiet neighborhoods. The community generally offers lower-cost housing than neighboring Payson, as well as more large lots with horse privileges. The town has fewer amenities than its more urbanized neighbor, with few town parks or events. Most residents have their own wells for drinking water and rely on septic systems for wastewater. However, they enjoy the rural atmosphere and the lack of town sales and property taxes. The revenue from the speed cameras on the highway helps bolster town services and the community relies on the Gila County Sheriff’s Office for policing. The independent Hellsgate Fire Department provides fire protection, financed with a property tax. Town officials and residents like it that way and are proud to live in an area surrounded by national forest, offering plenty of adventures including trails for horseback riding, hiking and ATV rides. They are also proud of the area’s rich history, evident by the town’s official logo. The seal includes an Indian pot with water running out of it, paying tribute to the Native Americans that once lived in the area and the area’s crucial water supply. The topography of the region kept the town’s water table topped off, even when well levels in Payson were dropping before that town imposed water conservation measures and secured long-term water supplies from the Blue Ridge Reser-
Affordable homes, rural character
voir. Star Valley’s logo also includes a windmill to honor the early cattlemen, images of Stewart Mountain and Diamond Point Rim that surround the town and an elk, which are commonly seen in back yards. With 2,300 residents, a quarter older than 65, the area has a healthy mix of retirees and retirement parks. Like most of Rim Country, the median age is 44, but families also take advantage of lower home prices. Highway 260 cuts through the middle of the town, with most businesses located along the highway front, and residential areas and ranches behind that. Businesses include several bars, an auto dealership, a pawn shop, a restaurant and a gas station. There are no apartment complexes, but several RV parks and hotels. A quick drive around town reveals a myriad of home styles and values. While a number are modest manufactured abodes, the town also has many horse ranches and higher end, new homes in The Knolls subdivision. The unpredictable mix of house types in a single neighborhood remains typical of the housing pattern in Rim Country. A drive through town is not complete without passing one of four photo enforcement cameras. While the cameras can be a nuisance for unsuspecting, outof-town drivers, they provide a boost in revenue and curb speeding. Money from the cameras has helped Star Valley repave nearly every road in town, buy a water system, finance numerous studies, support senior transportation and meal programs and pay for law enforcement protection. While fears of water shortages spurred its creation in 2005, Star Valley has taken control of its water future by buying the local water system. Goals include adding a park, expanding the water system and one day building a townwide sewage system. However, the town wants to remain a small, rural community with low taxes.
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Photos by Andy Towle
Star Valley’s rural lots provide plenty of horse properties.
FAST FACTS Area: 6.4 square miles Population: 2,300 Households: 677 Families: 421 Households with children: 24% Married couples: 51% Average household size: 2.3 Average family size: 2.9 Median age: 44 Sex ratio: 100 females/98 males Median income: $27,375 Median family income: $32,000 Per capita income: $19,400 Below poverty line: 10%
NEIGHBORHOODS: ON HOUSTON MESA ROAD FAST FACTS
Houston Mesa Road communities WHISPERING PINES Many homes in this small community on the banks of the East Verde River boast rare stream frontage on a creek stocked all summer by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The stream has been augmented in recent years by water released into the headwaters of the East Verde from the Blue Ridge Reservoir atop the Rim. Dominated by vacation and second-home ownership patterns, the community lies about 15 miles from Payson on the well-maintained Houston Mesa Road. The unique homes are tucked in among the trees fronting the creek.
BEAVER VALLEY This small community fronts on the East Verde River and dates back to one of the first homesteads
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in the region. It’s about eight miles from Payson on Houston Mesa Road and sits almost on top of stocked fishing holes and popular camping, hiking and picnicking areas. Residents have their own fire department and water company.
MESA DEL CABALLO Sitting on a mesa overlooking the East Verde between Beaver Valley and Payson, the unincorporated community offers some of the least expensive housing in the region in a rural setting. Plagued by water shortages in recent years, the community has obtained access to water from the pending Blue Ridge pipeline, which should end shortages and boost property values by 2015. The roughly 800 properties offer an array of conditions and prices, from endearing rural getaways to real fixer-uppers.
Whispering Pines: Population: 148 Median age: 55 Under 18: 23% Over 65: 25% Married: 72% With Children: 37% Home age: 23 years 2nd homes: 71% Beaver Valley: Population: 226 Income: $37,166 Married: 68% With kids: 18% Home age: 20 years 2nd home: 47% Mesa del Caballo: Population: 765 Income: $26,188 Avg. age: 47 Under 18: 22% Over 65: 17% Housing: 406 2nd Home: 23%
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NGCHS — Preserving Our Western Heritage
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Photos by Andy Towle
mix of artists, Pine & Strawberry: Stimulating retirees and old-timers BY MAX FOSTER ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER
Summer festivals, rural ambiance, a mild climate and a stateof-the-art, full-service library make the tiny mountain hamlets of Pine and Strawberry popular vacation and retirement communities. During the spring and summer, the two unincorporated communities host numerous festivals that attract throngs of visitors as well as summer and fullPopulation: 2,000 time residents. Most find the events a Area: 32 square miles delight because they replicate the Elevation; 5,448 feet small-town camaraderie and cultural Established: 1884 heritage that has vanished in most big Households: 882 cities. Housing units: 2,242 Second-home owners dominate Married couples: 62% the real estate market, which offers Household size: 2.2 lots of homes in all price ranges nestled Family size: 2.6 in the trees, many with sweeping views Under 18: 3% of the looming Mogollon Rim. Over 65: 23% Once beset by water shortages, the community formed a water improveMedian age: 53 ment district that bought out the priHousehold: $40,000 vate water company and set out on an Family: $46,000 ambitious program to provide new Per capita: $25,000 water from deep wells. As a result, the prospects for development of the many, unique vacant lots has brightened. The town now has an ample water supply, a rarity for a rural community anywhere in
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Arizona. At the start of 2013, the average list price for homes in Pine stood at $235,000. With an average house size of 1,500 square feet, the average price worked out to about $155 per square foot. Homes remained on the market for about 99 days before selling, but the inventory of homes for sale had dropped about 25 percent from two years previously. The topography and the varied building patterns in the course of the community’s long pioneer history has created a mix of homes for vacationers, retirees and year-rounders. The adjacent community of Strawberry offers similar treasures, with a greater share of ranching properties — since the community lies along a narrow, meadow-graced valley. The community has many horse properties and also lies along the road that leads to the trailhead of the Highline Trail and Fossil Creek. The area’s festivities kick off May Day with a gardening celebration and continue through to the Fall Apple Festival held the last weekend in September. Sandwiched between the two are Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day arts and crafts festivals that draw throngs visitors from around the state. The Strawberry Patchers’ Quilt Festival, Strawberry Festival and the Awakening Earth Expo are also popular summer attractions that rekindle memories of Americana folklore. While the Fire on the Rim Mountain Bike Race is relatively new to Pine and Strawberry, it is growing in popularity and has become an attractive stop on the state’s cycling circuit. Traditionally held in early September, the race includes 15-, 30-and 45-mile events on high country trails. A beer garden, food
NEIGHBORHOODS: STRAWBERRY wagons, auctions, spaghetti dinner, kids race, bands and camping add to the overall ambiance. Newcomers are also Population: 1,000 drawn to the two towns be- 10 square miles cause of their location near Elevation: 5,800 feet the Blue Ridge Reservoir Households 491 northeast of Strawberry off Families: 354 SR 87. It’s a popular spot for trout fishing, boating, With children: 14% Married : 65% camping and stargazing. Also in the two moun- Household size: 2.09 tain towns, the Historic Family size: 2.44 Walking Tour, Pine-Straw- Under 18: 3% berry Museum and the Over 65: 26% presence of the many origi- Family: $42,300 nal log and rock cabins, pro- Household: $36,000 vide residents, both new Per capita: $21,600 and old, with a connection to the pioneers who settled the area in the mid-1800s. Some of the old buildings have been transformed into antique stores, cafés and gift shops that are popular draws among visitors and part- and full-time residents. Among the pioneer homes that have been renovated is the popular Randall House that sits in the middle of Pine in one of the most charming and historic houses in the high country. Years ago it was transformed into a restaurant that serves up unique breakfasts, quiches, juicy burgers and creative salads. Pine and Strawberry are a retiree’s dream and a vacationer’s
haven, partly due to the mild year-round climate in which the winter lows hover around 23 degrees and the summer highs reach 92 degrees. The temperatures are cool enough in the summer to spend the entire day outside. While snow drapes the towns in the winter, it is usually short-lived. The two towns, located just above 5,500 feet in elevation, are located underneath the Mogollon Rim in the largest stand of towering ponderosa pine trees in the world. Today, Pine and Strawberry have a year-round population of about 4,000 people, but it can more than double in the spring and summer when heat-weary, desert dwellers eager to escape the Valley’s searing temperatures flock to the two towns. The Isabelle Hunt Memorial Public Library, located at 6124 N. Randall Drive in the center of Pine has been serving residents for more than 25 years. The library was first housed in a small cabin, which still stands in Randall Park just across SR 87 from where the current library stands. Library manager Becky Waer, assistant manager Ann Pendleton, Janetta Clifford and a host of dedicated volunteers, staff today’s library.
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| Move to RIM COUNTRY | 51
NEIGHBORHOODS: CHRISTOPHER CREEK
Tonto Village & Christopher Creek
BY PETE ALESHIRE
Two forested communities provide both a gateway to the towering, forested expanses atop the Mogollon Rim, but easy access to Tonto Creek — one of the most popular fishing spots in the state. The little community of Christopher Creek lies tucked in among the ponderosa pines about 17 miles east of Payson, near the base of the 1,500foot-tall ramparts of the Rim. The community includes both high-end mountain homes and modest cabins, many fronting on Christopher Creek. Upstream the creek harbors popular camping areas, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks the little creek throughout the summer. Most of the homes are owned by retirees and vacation homeowners. The average house price remains well above the average for the region. Residents have a church, a little store and a popular restaurant — but mostly lots of peace and quiet. Just down the road lies Tonto Village, with much lower home prices, a mix of housing and a larger percentage of year-round residents. Tonto Village has a bar and a store and lots of wildlife — including bears that sometimes make the rounds to see if they can find any untended trash bins. Residents report frequent sightings of elk, deer, javelina and other wildlife. Both communities lie close to Tonto Creek, one of the most popular fishing areas in the state. The spring that gushes from the base of the Rim flows through a state fish hatchery, which supplies most of the rainbow trout stocked into the region’s lakes and rivers all summer. On Tonto Creek sits Kohl’s Ranch, a historic lodge and restaurant that offers summer rentals — and time shares. The cluster of settlements lies about 20 minutes from Payson and perhaps 15 minutes from where Highway 87 tops out on the Mogollon Rim. That provides easy access to a string of trout-stocked lakes atop the Rim, some of the best camping spots in the state and year-round recreation.
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CHRISTOPHER CREEK Population: 156 Income: $34,440 Median age: 60 Over 65: 35% Under 18: 6% Average Home Price: $399,000 Size: 2,500 sq. ft.
TONTO VILLAGE Population: 256 Income: $30,000 Avg. Age: 43 Under 18: 27% Over 65: 20% Married: 72% With kids: 36% Home age: 23 yrs. 2nd home: 71% Photo by Pete Aleshire
The Christopher Creek area offers lots of trout fishing, streamfront homes, a volunteer fire department and historic Kohl’s Ranch.
NEIGHBORHOODS: EAST VERDE COMMUNITIES
East Verde River Estates and Flowing Springs BY PETE ALESHIRE ROUNDUP EDITOR
Two small communities offer rural living and stream-front lots just 10 minutes outside of Payson. East Verde Estates lies along the East Verde River and a canyon topped by spectacular limestone rock formations. About a third of the lots remain undeveloped, but unlike many other rural communities in the area, second-home owners account for only about 28 percent of the nearly 200 homes. The Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks the East Verde before it enters the little subdivision, which grew from one of the original homesteads in the area. The community includes vacation rentals, a popular bed and breakfast, great fishing and swimming holes — all just 10-minute drive from the region’s employment center in Payson. Surprisingly moderate in price, the homes offer rare riverfront property in a desert state, lying only 100 miles from the fifth largest city in the country. The nearby community of Flowing Springs offers similar advantages, but it’s much smaller, more expensive and more dominated by vacation homes. The community lies down Flowing Springs Road, which also offers some of the best camping and fishing spots in Rim Country. The road ends at a gate, which protects Flowing Springs’ residents from traffic when the road hugging the banks of the East Verde draws recreational crowds.
FAST FACTS East Verde Estates Population: 178 Income: $51,000 Married: 60% With kids: 20% Home age: 16 yrs. 2nd Home: 28% Flowing Springs Population: 41 Income: $37,500 Married: 69% With kids: 22% Home age: 19 yrs. 2nd home: 47%
Photo by Pete Aleshire
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| Move to RIM COUNTRY | 53
NEIGHBORHOODS: TONTO BASIN
A world apart
Photo by Andy Towle
Humans have settled the area since pre-historic times. Ancient hunters from the last Ice Age A creek runs through it. stopped in the basin for game and drink. Defining it. The Salado Indians created settlements filling Sculpting it. the basin with farms, irrigation canals and stone Tonto Basin — a cozy community by the banks buildings. of the Tonto Creek — lies only 20 minutes from Then came the Apache and their wandering Payson, but it feels a world away. ways — until finally the farmers and ranchers setUnlike Payson’s pine-covered slopes, saguaro tled to take advantage of the rich soil deposited by dominate the slopes of the Tonto Basin. the invading and receding waters of the creek. Tonto Creek Tonto Basin ofruns through the fers impressive town, splitting the hunting and recrebasin that the ation opportunities, Mazatzal and but it also houses Sierra Ancha families. mountains define. One of the projThe creek flows ects the community from headwaters is most proud of is coming off of the the school. PreMogollon Rim, school children to through the Hellseighth-graders atgate Wilderness tend. One of the and down to Tonto only schools in AriBasin before Roozona to remain sevelt Lake swaldebt free, the comVolunteers assemble in front of the Tonto Basin Schoolhouse. lows it up. munity built the Residents live school in the late on both sides of the creek. Runoff down the creek 1970s with money raised from residents. Today cuts the community in half — usually several times about 70 students attend. a year. Folks on the far side of the creek sometimes But the stream also affects the school. During have to wait for days before they can make the really wet storms, students cannot reach the school crossing — but live there anyway for the natural because the water is too high to cross, so the school beauty and the friendly people. Gila County hopes closes down — for creek days. to get enough federal funds to bridge the crossing In all ways, Tonto Basin in a town defined by nain years to come. ture, especially its creek.
BY MICHELE NELSON
ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER
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FAST FACTS Area: 31 square miles Elevation: 2,238 feet Population: 840 Households: 439 Housing units: 726 With children: 9% Married couples: 51% Female headed : 7% Household size: 1.9 Family size: 2.4 Median age: 58 Under 18: 10% Over 65: 33% Median income Household: $23,398 Family: $29,091 Per capita: $15,157
Your Relocation Destination
Payson 609 S Beeline Highway 928-474-2337
Pine 3640 N Highway 87 928-476-3279
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2013 Rim Country Relocation Guide published by the Payson Roundup, endorsed by Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce