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Sat, Oct. 19

‘Save the Dells’ rally attracts hundreds to Point of Rocks
Group’s chairman: Granite Dells development ‘will break all of our hearts’

A bike taxi transports long-time Prescott residents Elisabeth Ruffner, 99, left, and Rosemary Rusing, 96, into the “Save the Dells” rally at the Point of Rocks along the popular Peavine Trail. Ruffner and Rusing were among the 500 or 600 people who turned out for the Saturday, Oct. 20 rally. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

A bike taxi transports long-time Prescott residents Elisabeth Ruffner, 99, left, and Rosemary Rusing, 96, into the “Save the Dells” rally at the Point of Rocks along the popular Peavine Trail. Ruffner and Rusing were among the 500 or 600 people who turned out for the Saturday, Oct. 20 rally. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

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Save the Dells Chairman Joe Trudeau talks to the crowd at the “Hike and Bike to Save the Dells” rally at the Point of Rocks on Saturday, Oct. 20. Trudeau and other Save the Dells members are pushing for preservation of about 500 acres of open space within the planned Granite Dells development by Arizona Eco Development. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

A wide cross-section of Prescott made the six-mile roundtrip trek to the heart of the Granite Dells Saturday morning — arriving on foot, astride bicycles, in strollers, and seated in bike taxis.

With the soaring spires of the Point of Rocks and a cloud-studded blue sky serving as a backdrop, the “Save the Dells” group took center stage at the historic intersection of the Peavine and Iron King trails.

Organizers estimated that as many as 500 to 600 people attended. They came from all directions; converging on the Point of Rocks from the Peavine’s south trailhead on Sundog Ranch Road, the north trailhead on Highway 89A, from the east along Prescott Valley’s Iron King Trail, and from the west in rafts crossing Watson Lake.

Many of the attendees stayed for the 11 a.m. rally that was billed as a “Hike and Bike to Save the Dells.”

PLAN OPPOSITION

At issue was Arizona Eco Development’s request to annex two parcels into Prescott City limits, and to build about 2,700 new homes on the parcels, located north and south of the Highway 89A/Granite Dells Parkway interchange.

The Point of Rocks — an iconic cluster of granite rocks located near the site of the old Santa Fe, Prescott & Phoenix Railway station — has attracted much of the attention of the development’s opponents.

In its news release about the rally, Save the Dells stated: “500 acres in the heart of the Granite Dells are at risk of being destroyed by a development planned by AED. This development would mar what is now completely natural, undeveloped terrain.”

Joe Trudeau, chairman of Save the Dells, stressed that point again Saturday morning, warning that Arizona Eco’s development would place houses alongside the Point of Rocks.

The end result, he maintained, would be a transformation that much of the community would not like.

“We have a situation here where a major development corporation owned by someone who lives in London wants to come into this beautiful place and fundamentally transform it in a way that will break all of our hearts,” Trudeau told the crowd.

ROCKS WILL REMAIN

Arizona Eco developer Jason Gisi has emphasized that all of the major rock formations in the area, including the Point of Rocks, would remain intact under the plans.

He says the area around the Point of Rocks would be “low density, custom lots,” and that the development would require that house be built to a height that would maximize the viewshed for all.

Gisi also has said the development would more than meet the city’s requirement for open space.

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A crowd of hundreds gathered at the Point of Rocks in the Granite Dells Saturday morning, Oct. 20, for the “Hike and Bike to Save the Dells” rally. The rally took place on City of Prescott land along the Peavine Trail. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

Still, Save the Dells has pushed for complete preservation of about 500 acres of scenic area.

To the applause of the crowd Saturday, Trudeau said that without a move toward preservation now, “when Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley are one city — which, sadly, that will happen … (in 50 years) there will probably be no open space separating these towns, unless we save it today.”

INFORMATIONAL STATIONS

As a part of the rally, attendees had an opportunity to see areas that are under consideration for various types of development.

Volunteers with Save the Dells were stationed at 10 different spots along the Peavine and Iron King, and answered a variety of questions about where the planned homes, resort, and roads would be located.

Rally attendee Joe Ingoglia, who lives in the Granite Dells, noted that the ongoing development threat is not unique to Prescott or the Granite Dells. “This is not an isolated incident,” he said, adding that similar instances “are happening world-wide, and even if we win this particular fight, it’s not over.”

Among the attendees was Prescott City Councilman Steve Sischka, who said he turned out “to hear what the people have to say.”

Noting that he is a longtime resident of Prescott, and his wife, Kathy, is lifelong resident, Sischka said, “We care as much as anyone else does, and we wanted to come and listen.”

In Trudeau’s comments to the crowd, he called on the City Council to save the land around the Point of Rocks, maintaining that much of the community agrees. “The vast majority of Prescott stands with Save the Dells; I know that,” he said.

For the most part, city officials have yet to weigh in publicly about the Arizona Eco plans.

The city announced in late September that the public review process for the development likely would begin in November, with consideration by Prescott Planning and Zoning.

After the commission makes its recommendation, the city will conduct a 60-day public-comment period, after which the matter will go the Prescott City Council for final consideration and vote. That likely will occur in the winter or early spring of 2019.

Gisi could not be reached for comment Saturday afternoon.

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