JEROME’S SLIDING JAIL: Town turns landmark over to Jerome Historical Society

The Jerome Town Council has agreed to let the town’s Historical Society will take control of “re-habbing” the popular tourist attraction and  the sliding parking area will be graded to a proper slope to shed water. (VVN/Vyto Starinskas)

The Jerome Town Council has agreed to let the town’s Historical Society will take control of “re-habbing” the popular tourist attraction and the sliding parking area will be graded to a proper slope to shed water. (VVN/Vyto Starinskas)

JEROME -- To put a stop on Jerome’s sliding parking area, and to rehab the town’s historic Sliding Jail, the Jerome Historic Society is coming to the rescue, now with the blessing of the Town Council.

It took a legal agreement, but the Jerome City Council Wednesday night approved the Jerome Historic Society’s plan that the Sliding Jail will be “rehabbed” and the sliding parking area will be graded to a proper slope to shed water.

“The Jerome Historical Society estimates the cost of this project to be approximately thirty thousand dollars ($30,000),” according to the agreement.

The sliding jail is one of the “jewels” of Jerome, explained Allen Muma, President of the Jerome Historical Society.

The building structure itself is wonderful and not falling apart, Muma said. It’s been “neglected” throughout the years and it needs some spiffing up, he added.

The Sliding Jail was stabilized 30 years ago and the ground under the jail is very solid, Muma said. The jail has not moved since then, he said.

The Sliding jail is a century-old structure on Hill Avenue that has slipped over 200 feet downhill from the spot where it was first built. The ground immediately under the jail now seems to be stable, however.

The sliding parking area just below and north of the Sliding Jail, which is in question, was a dumping ground for dirt for different projects in town during the 1980s, 1990s and maybe into the 2000s, according to Jerome Historical Society. And there is building debris from the huge 1936 slide underneath it.

The ground in the parking area began to slide several years ago, and the town has kept a close eye on it. Council Member Lew Currier on Wednesday reported that the ground had even moved as recently as last week during the heavy rains.

The historic society will stabilize the land, provide for an appropriate slope, construct additional drainage, plant trees and Arizona vegetation and possibly install a nature trail, picnic area or interpretive walk in the area. The agreement states the project is expected to be completed within six months.

The town lost two dozen parking spots when they had to close the parking area because of the slide, according to Currier, but said the agreement states that most of those will be reopened and maybe a few more parking stalls will be added as the parking area is reconfigured.

Parking is a major issue in Jerome since the historic mining town attracts a huge number of tourists, but is built on a steep hill and several town officials have said the town itself is sliding.

Once owned by the Jerome Historical Society, the organization deeded the Sliding Jail and parcel to the Town of Jerome in 1964. The Historical Society requested that the ownership revert back to the society in a Aug. 18, 2016, letter to the Town of Jerome.

In the new agreement, the Historical Society grants the town an option to purchase the parcels back following the completion of the work. The basketball and volleyball courts are not included in the agreement, Muma said.

“I was happy to get it through,” explained Currier, who said the voted was unanimous, 3 to 0. Mayor Frank Vander Horst recused himself because he has land close and below to the sliding parking area and councilmember Jay Kinsella, who is with the Historic Society, Currier explained.

The Sliding Jail is a great tourist attraction, said Currier. Even though it right next to the sliding parking area, Currier said it rested on a solid piece of rock or platform underneath. And so do the basketball courts, he added. “We lucked out on that.”

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