Beaverhead Flat Road may prove to be what Yavapai County Supervisor Chip Davis has been saying all along -- "the most scenic and beautiful road in Arizona."
Even as a rugged washboard primitive road traversing the Coconino National Forest, locals loved traveling the thoroughfare with its unobstructed views of the western desert. Davis has said that an estimated 748 people drove the roadway daily in spite of its then-difficult terrain. Now newly paved and straightened, the six-mile scenic roadway provides a more spectacular drive for locals and visitors alike, not to mention its potential use as an alternate route from the Sedona area to Cornville, McGuireville and Cottonwood.
Davis as master of ceremonies hosted the road's re-opening June 6. Closed since last September, the rural roadway runs from Arizona 179 to Cornville Road. An audience of about 100 people attended the Wednesday morning ribbon-cutting dedication that included local dignitaries and nearby residents.
Improvements to the road involved its re-alignment, paving and the upgrading of drainage crossings to county standards as part of Yavapai County's 20-year regional road program, Davis explained.
Yavapai County Supervisor Gheral Brownlow along with Davis, Supervisor Lorna Street and U.S. Forest Service official Judy Adams gave short presentations. Brownlow explained that the idea of improving Beaverhead Flat Road began back in the 1990s when the concept of rebuilding the Red Rock Crossing became controversial. He paid his respects to Davis for spearheading the project.
"This is a great road thanks to Chip and his pushing to get it through for you," he told the onlookers, a sentiment reiterated later by Street.
An added plus in the new design is the addition of a scenic overview about one mile from Arizona 179 and a trail for non-motorized use that runs its entire length.
This is the first improved roadway that includes an off-road trail in the Verde Valley, Davis said.
Adams later explained that the new trail makes it possible for hikers, bikers and equestrian riders to travel from Camp Verde all the way to the Village of Oak Creek.
"Start at Middle Verde Road on Forest Service Road 119A west of Interstate 17 (the road goes to Cornville); then take Beaverhead Flat Road trail and turn before 179 along the gas pipeline trail into the Village," she said.
Adams said that although the trail sits on forest service land, it was "built by the county" and "will be maintained by the county."
Davis said later that Keep Sedona Beautiful had already approached him offering assistance in litter pick-up for one to two miles of the newly improved road, and that Lake Montezuma business owner Pete Cline of Verde Fire & Safety also extended an offer to care for another mile. He said he was pleased that within two hours after the ribbon-cutting ceremony he had "commitments for litter pick-up for three of the six miles."
According to Yavapai County figures, the Beaverhead Flat Road project cost $4.9 million and was funded through the Yavapai County half-cent sales tax and a contribution of $469,000 from the Northern Arizona Council of Governments.
Davis thanked the many groups involved in the cooperative effort: the county supervisors, the Public Works Department, Shephard-Wesnitzer Engineering, C&E Paving and Grading, Biozone, Inc. and the USFS.