Thu, Jan. 23

Commentary: Don’t allow Verde Connect to impact private property

Plowing Ahead Ranch owner Zach Wolfe listens to the presentation during the March 20 Verde Connect meeting in Camp Verde. VVN/Bill Helm

Plowing Ahead Ranch owner Zach Wolfe listens to the presentation during the March 20 Verde Connect meeting in Camp Verde. VVN/Bill Helm

My wife Shannon and myself are the proud owners of Plowing Ahead Ranch, a small cattle business located at the end of Mahoney Road in the Middle Verde neighborhood.

Mahoney Road has been designated as one of many proposed routes for the Verde Connect and in past meetings the route with the easiest engineering, according to the maps provided by Jacob’s Engineering.

For this reason, I have followed the project closely, and working with other neighbors have been able to gather a lot of good, factual information. I first heard about the proposed road in 2005 when our family was purchasing our Mahoney Road property.

At that time, the road seemed completely unnecessary and something I didn’t believe had any chance of being built in the near future.

The road was first conceived during the construction boom of the late ‘90s when things where growing at an unsustainable rate. At that time, it was perceived that a road would be necessary by the year 2040.

Much has changed since that time and now our town grows in a more thoughtful and positive way.

Those working for the Verde Connect will tell you about the long commute suffered by the residents of the Middle Verde community. They will not tell you that the vast majority of residents chose this commute and do not want their peaceful, quiet, traffic free neighborhood connected.

They will not tell you about a small tight-knit community where neighbors look out for each other because we are our own first responders. They will not tell you about the farms, the ranches, and the rural lifestyles that will be destroyed by this project if a road is built. They will not tell you that Middle Verde does not want this road.

Verde Connect will tell you about faster response times and shorter routes to the hospital. Our local hospital is a level four trauma center and isn’t able to handle serious injuries even if you did arrive faster. People in need of the fastest medical care are flown to Phoenix or Flagstaff.

It would be more prudent to expand the medical facility in Camp Verde to provide faster, better care to all Camp Verde residents. Faster response times to the Middle Verde community would be better served by putting a fire sub-station on this side of town.

The Verde Connect will tell you about their website and public input in favor of building a new road. They will not mention that only about 10 percent of those who responded were actually within the study area and the other 90 percent were from out of the area, or even out of the state.

The Verde Connect will tell you that our Verde River is dividing us and is an obstacle to be overcome. They cannot see that our river is what unites us and all the communities of the Verde Valley. They don’t see the need to protect it. They would propose to build a bridge through the last untouched and inaccessible river corridor in the Verde Valley.

They will talk about issues with I-17 and how road closures make for inconvenient detours. Can anyone remember a time when there was an accident on the flat, straight, 2.5 miles between Middle Verde Road and Highway 260 that shut the freeway down? Last summer an accident at Table Mesa Road backed I-17 south bound all the way to Middle Verde Road. How does the Verde Connect help that?

Verde Connect will talk about the growing population and the impact of traffic on our existing roads. They will not mention that ADOTs Verde Valley Master Plan clearly states that new roads are not needed if Cornville Road is widened to four lanes.

The people at Verde Connect have dedicated much of their time and energy to this project and I truly believe they have good intentions. I have had the pleasure of dealing with several of them throughout this process.

Unfortunately, the lack of transparency and limited information they have been able to provide during this process has lead to fear and misinformation from people within the community.

The town of Camp Verde, our town, has a wonderful plan in place with our town’s general plan. A plan to protect our heritage areas, our rural farm lands, such as Middle Verde. A plan to grow our town on a well thought out business corridor along the newly improved Highway 260. Smart sustainable growth.

I understand that it is in the best interest of our town to have a connecting road from the Village of Oak Creek, Cornville, and Lake Montezuma-Rimrock areas. I want to see our town be successful in bringing in new business and revenue.

I am not asking for no new roads to be built. I am asking for your support in building in the smartest ways possible.

Look to routes that do not impact our private lands and quite neighborhoods.

Look to routes with little to no impact on last little piece of unscathed river in our valley.

What is the point of progress if it costs us what made us great to begin with, a peaceful rural agricultural community?

Zach Wolfe and his wife,Shannon, are the owners of Plowing Ahead Ranch in the Middle Verde community.

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