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Mon, July 22

Trudeau: Peavine and Iron King trails: not for sale

In a free market, you don’t get something for nothing, but that’s what Arizona Eco Development (AED) is asking for. The Peavine and Iron King trails are owned by the public — that’s you. AED’s proposed 1,185-home development at the Granite Dells includes five new roads crossing these trails. At four of these sites there are no existing roads today, not even old two-tracks. The fifth site is the dusty one-lane private dirt road to Storm Ranch.

Why does Save the Dells think this is a big deal? I’ll explain using a personal tale. In 2007, my wife and I bought 55 acres of northern forest at a bargain-basement price. We’d camp, hunt whitetail deer, photograph moose, and watch geese overhead. We set out to build a cabin, but first we’d improve the rough access road.

That dream came to a screeching halt upon realizing we’d bought land without legal Right of Way. We could drive out there to camp, but the landowner who we crossed wouldn’t grant access for heavy equipment or residential traffic. “Tough luck,” he told me.

AED officials got their own bargain-basement price for the 15,000 acres they want to develop. Three-percent of that is the 500 acres that Save the Dells is advocating to conserve as open space in exchange for the numerous taxpayer-funded benefits that come with annexation. AED owns its land around our trails, but does not own Rights of Way to cross these trails — trails that a city official recently told me could be crossed freely by AED without regard for public concerns. Some local politicians are outspoken in defending private property rights at all costs, but they’ve been silent about your public property rights.

When the Santa Fe-Prescott Railroad was abandoned in 1984, open space advocates and wise city councilors partnered and used a grant from the National Park Service to buy the railways and convert them to the Peavine and Iron King trails. That’s the first time you paid for these trails: when your tax dollars bought them for the people of the greater Prescott region.

The newly named Peavine Trail opened in 1995, and received National Recreation Trail status in 1999. If you’re in Prescott, you’ve been paying ever since for trail maintenance and acquisition of land that abuts the Peavine and protects its viewshed. Now the most popular trail in the Prescott region, it drew more than 90,000 visitors this year.

The Iron King Trail is owned by the Town of Prescott Valley, so AED’s annexation into Prescott is an issue for voters in Prescott Valley who love the Iron King – and have lamented AED’s transformation of the landscape at the Jasper development. AED wants to cross the Iron King Trail twice in the current proposal, forever degrading the irreplaceable experience people enjoy out there; an experience that creates a tremendous amount of tourist spending and benefits to public health.

You own the Peavine National Recreation Trail and the Iron King Trail, and this is a key part of why we argue that AED’s development is a regional issue, not just for the City of Prescott. Residents and visitors alike have been investing in these trails for decades. It’s a foolhardy decision to compromise this economic engine that brings so much joy to people of this region by ruining the scenic views, fragmenting wildlife habitat, and risking pedestrian safety at road crossings.

Soon, the Prescott Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) will hold a series of hearings on this development. Save the Dells is calling on you — the public owners of these trails — to make your voice heard and send a resounding message that our outdoor heritage must not be given away or sacrificed for private financial gains. Tell P&Z that AED shouldn’t get something for nothing at the expense of your tax dollars, and that sometimes “tough luck” is part of real estate deals. There’s just one solution that will not leave the people of Prescott feeling robbed, and that’s to protect these 500 acres forever.

From 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 20, we’ll be out on these trails showing you where AED has proposed to punch roads across public land and build 350-plus homes and a hotel resort in the heart of the Dells. For more information, visit We look forward to seeing you out at this event we call the “Hike & Bike to Save the Dells!”

Joe Trudeau is chairman of Save the Dells.


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