Mon, Feb. 17

Verde Heritage 1974: Clarkdale to Williams Highway Proposal

"by Virginia Patton"

"The governor's Environmental Planning Commission has, in effect, killed any chance of the Clarkdale-Williams Highway being constructed through the Verde Valley."

"As presently proposed, both of the routes which have been under study for the highway are environmentally 'appalling,' according to Bill Morrall, chairman of the transportation committee."

"However, the commission did advise, in 1973, that serious consideration be given to using the route of the existing Perkinsville Road as the Clarkdale-Williams route. This road, presently a Forest Service road, leads from Jerome north and connects with an existing highway which goes to Williams."

"The highway department, however, has not commented on the committee's Perkinsville recommendation and no mention has been made in the latest 2-year-long controversy over the Clarkdale-Williams route."

"Asked why the environmental advisory committee made the recommendation that the highway proposal be dropped for good, Morrall said that his committee's consideration of that matter began more than 2 years ago."

"'Our objections were first voiced at a meeting at Prescott College 2 years ago. At that time I was a member of the natural resources committee, and the governor's committee had made field trips to the area involved in the highway proposal, along with Forest Service and highway department personnel.'"

"'The objections were, mainly, that access to the proposed area was not currently denied --- there were existing roads --- and that the natural wildlife habitat would be adversely affected by the proposed highway routes, both route A and route D.'"

"Morrall said objections were also lodged by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and by a Coconino sportsmens' group."

"'In 1973, we discovered that this was still in the planning stage, in both the action plan and the 5-year production plan,' Morrall continued. 'We recommended that no further planning be done for the new highway.'"

"'We recommended, also, that serious consideration be given to improving the existing road (Perkinsville Road) and we also made an informal recommendation that consideration be given to using the existing railroad with future planning to connect it with the Williams-Grand Canyon railroad for a scenic network,' Morrall said."

"This year, he said, the committee again discovered the Clarkdale-Williams proposal on the DOT action plan and recommended that it be 'completely removed from any consideration and from all plans.'"

"Our particular aversion --- and it was an aversion --- is that it would completely destroy a beautiful, pristine area along the Verde River,' Morrall explained. 'The cut-and-fill required for the road-building would destroy it. It was an absolutely appalling proposal.'"

"Morrall said there was currently an existing entrance to the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness area, enabling people to get to and enjoy that area, and there were presently adequate existing north-bound routes to Williams and the Grand Canyon."

"'It was said, when the highway was first proposed, that it would cut about 15 minutes off the time it took to get to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix,' Morrall commented."

"'We should be concerned with transporting people from one large group area to another large group area. We have a lot of roads which do this that need a lot of attention; roads which should be completed or improved before we spend money for new roads in the backwoods areas.'"

"The above considerations, Morrall said, outweighed any economic value the Clarkdale-Williams route might provide for the Verde Valley."

"A 2-year tug-of-war between proponents of the Clarkdale-Williams Highway and the environmentalists has thus, apparently, ended."

"According to Ernie May, public information office for DOT, the governor and the department, which answers to the governor, will be highly receptive to the recommendations of the environmental commission."

"The project has been on the planning boards, in one degree of consideration or another, for almost 20 years."

"In 1946, Ersel Garrison, of Cottonwood, then a member of the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors, was asked by Charles Proctor, a Coconino County Supervisor, to back a Yavapai County road project to connect with one he proposed to start from Williams."

"The proposed road would, Proctor commented, be an inducement to Grand Canyon southbound tourists and both Williams and the Verde Valley would benefit. The project was approved by the highway department about a year later, Garrison said."

"Twenty miles of the highway south from Williams was completed and was accepted into the state secondary system in 1969. At that time, the project for a connecting road from the Coconino County line to the Verde Valley was still very much alive."

"Today, the road south from Williams stops at a rutted, narrow Forest Service road north of the Perkins Ranch and the Verde River."

(The Verde Independent; Cottonwood; Thursday, August 15, 1974; page 20, columns 3-7.)

See: The Verde Independent: "1954: Old Scenic Road Should Be Improved; July;" July 20, 2014.

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