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Watson Lake considered for city’s July 4 fireworks

Bright colors rain down from the sky while the 2015 Fourth of July fireworks erupt over Pioneer Park in Prescott. (Matt Hinshaw/Courier, file)

Bright colors rain down from the sky while the 2015 Fourth of July fireworks erupt over Pioneer Park in Prescott. (Matt Hinshaw/Courier, file)

Colorful fireworks explosions reflecting onto the surface of Prescott’s scenic Watson Lake could be the scenario for this year’s July 4 celebration.

After fire danger caused the cancelation of Fourth of July fireworks displays in downtown Prescott in both 2017 and 2018, city officials set out later in 2018 to find a solution to the annual worry about setting off fireworks explosions during tinder-dry conditions.

The proposal that will go to the Prescott City Council this week aims to deal with that worry by positioning the fireworks “over water and rocks.”

At its voting session at 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, the council will consider awarding a contract to Eagle Management and Events to plan and implement the 2019 Fourth of July celebration at the city’s Watson Lake Park.

Prescott Community Outreach Manager John Heiney said the recurring concern about wildfire was central to the proposal.

“Obviously, with the last few fire seasons being so difficult, it always got really tense in the last week before the Fourth of July,” Heiney said.

Last summer, the city announced in late June that while the July 4 activities would go on largely as planned at the Mile High Middle School, the celebration would not include the usual fireworks display.

At the time, Fire Chief Dennis Light said the lack of moisture and the ongoing fire risk made it in the best interest of public safety to cancel the fireworks show. Also contributing to the decision were the Stage II fire restrictions that were in effect throughout the area.

A city memo notes that the city’s July 4 celebrations in 2016, 2017, and 2018 were accomplished through a request-for-proposals process and subsequent contract with a private planner and held at the Mile High Middle School track/football field in downtown Prescott.

Although the event was beneficial to downtown businesses, the memo added, “It also was limited in providing an adequate fallout zone that would allow for larger size fireworks and its ability to conduct the fireworks portion of the show in times of high fire restrictions (the fireworks portion had to be canceled in 2017 and 2018).”

The city formed a review committee after last year’s event, and sent out a request for proposals to 21 event companies in December 2018. Only one company responded, Eagle Management and Events.

Among the details of the recommended contract with Eagle Management and Events: a kids’ zone; a stage with live music; food vendors; hydration stations; a disk golf tournament; liquor sales; a fireworks display to be launched from a barge on the lake or from the shore shooting over the lake.

The city would be responsible for providing traffic control for the event, and the City Council is expected to discuss parking options and plans during the meeting.

Along with providing a fairly fire-safe environment — “literally over water and rocks” — Heiney said the event would focus on being a family experience.

“It would be all but eliminating the fire danger and creating a spectacular venue,” he said.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

During its 3 p.m. meeting, the council also will consider a $69,987 contract with Kelley-Wise Engineering, Inc., for design of improvements to Lower Goldwater Lake.

A 2 p.m. study session will include a presentation by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Chancellor Frank Ayers on the planned Center for the Future, as well as a discussion on options for a city charter amendment on lease-purchase of city properties.

Both meetings will take place at Prescott City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2034, or cbarks@prescottaz.com.

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