|Volume 7, Number 1||January, 2009|
Welcome to the Picture Rocks Digest,
a free newsletter about issues and events in the community. The print
version of this all-volunteer publication is distributed at area
businesses and community sites. If you have calendar events or news
items, or if you would like to be added to our email
list, please contact us at PictureRocksDigest@comcast.net.
The Picture Rocks Digest is a publication of Citizens for Picture Rocks, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(4) civic organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in the community. Citizens for Picture Rocks meets the third Tuesday of each month at 7:00 pm in the Picture Rocks Community Center, 5615 N. Sanders Road. Meetings are free and open to the public. The next meeting is January 20, 2009. Everyone is welcome to attend. Membership not required, but highly recommended. Dues are $20/year for an individual or $25/year for a family.
Committees are being recruited to help make the Saturday, May 9, Community Faire a success. Co- sponsored with Picture Rocks Community Center, the Faire will feature food, exhibits, games, and lots more. To help bring our community together, volunteer by calling Jamie Kisthardt at 682-0287.
About 80 Citizens for Picture Rocks members, neighbors, and friends came to the annual New Year's Eve Potluck Party held at the Picture Rocks Community Center. They welcomed 2009, enjoyed a lot of good home cooking, were entertained by the musical magic of a dozen Hummers & Strummers, and reflected with their neighbors on the year past and the year ahead in our community.
Picture Rocks Community Center, Inc. (PRCCI, a private all-volunteer operation and not to be confused
with the County-run PRCC) is filling a vital need to keep our community afloat. In addition to a thrift store
and diaper bank, open weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., free surplus produce and bread is distributed
Monday-Friday mornings; arrive before 9:00 a.m. to get a number for your place in line.
PRCCI Vice President and food distribution volunteer Bob Blais estimates that close to 4,600 neighbors have lined up for food to feed over 11,350 family members during the first eight months of 2008. He says that the number of people in need has doubled over the past months, with as many as 25 new people showing up on a single day. Usable clothing and household items can be donated to the thrift store, and the food distribution program welcomes cash donations to pay for volunteers' gas to transport the edibles. PRCCI is located at 6691 N. Sandario Rd.
That's the translation of the O'odham name for January, Auppa Heosig Mashath. It's cold and often dreary,
and might even snow, but the winter solstice has passed and nature is quietly gearing up for spring.
In low desert riparian locations, cottonwood trees are sending out their first new growth during this winter month. Eldarica pines planted in November through Trico Electric's tree program are also showing new shades of green. Wildflower and grass seedlings look skyward for sun and water, and if there is enough rain, they will light up the desert next month with their blossoms. Saguaro and other cacti soak up as much water as they can, plumping up, while woody plants extend their roots and get ready to sprout new leaves.
Mountain birds, escaping from the high country snows, hang around desert streams. Year-round residents like curve-billed thrashers begin nesting. Harris' hawks lay their eggs, while packrats begin their long breeding season. Expect a half-dozen freezing nights, less than an inch of rain spread over four or five days, and know that the magnificent renewal of spring is just around the corner.
For a few minutes it looked like the State Transportation Board's December 19 meeting at the Tucson City
Council Chambers was headed for an ugly confrontation. Billed in the press as a "public meeting," STB
Chair Si Schorr conducted a vote on the I-10 proposed bypass route through the Avra Valley without
calling on a single one of the dozens of speakers who had signed up to express their opinion. Nearly 150
people packed the room, and it was clear that most of them were there to oppose the bypass, including
representatives of affected agencies.
The bypass portion of the meeting, last on a long agenda, opened with a recap of STB's study asserting that I-10 was a "huge problem," with sections likely to be overloaded with traffic by 2015, and exceeding capacity by 2030. "Tucson is the only metro area without a bypass," STB staff said, arguing that double- decking the present freeway was an option but was not cost effective and would create undesirable views in town. The bypass would be used to divert hazardous cargo to the Avra Valley.
When Chairman Schorr, a leading bypass advocate whose term on the STB expires this month, said that the public might get to speak only at the end of the meeting, after actions were already taken, a member of the audience stood up and declared, "I vote NO!" The room exploded with shouts of "No, No, No," and "This meeting is a sham," and "We are the people." A number of police officers entered the room and the anger of bypass opponents was vocal and loud. Schorr called a short recess after declaring that only one person would be allowed speak for the diverse crowd.
During the break, bypass opponent John Hewitt convinced Schorr to allow representatives of Saguaro National Park, the federal Bureau of Reclamation, and Arizona Fish and Game to speak. Picture Rocks activist Albert Lannon stood at the microphone, however, and insisted on the right of the public to be heard. He talked about the Mitigation Corridor and the wildlife that would be lost, and then about his community, and neighbors present who were being denied their democratic right to speak.
"I did environmental education with fourth graders at Saguaro National Park with my friend Else," he said, "and looking at Picacho Peak from the petroglyph site on Signal Hill you can see the smog from I-10, and you want to send that smog into our community. My friends Greg and Diane are here, and you will drive the golden eagles that nest near their property away. My friend Chris is here, and he coordinates cleanups on three sections of roadway. There are volunteers who go over the hill five days a week to gather surplus food and bring it back for those in need. Ours is a community that cares for the land, and for each other. Your bypass would destroy our community."
John Hewitt, an Avra Valley resident and member of the Pima County Zoning Commission, told the STB that the Wildlife Mitigation Corridor "is an absolute barrier to further development." The WMC was established in 1990 to provide routes for wide-ranging wildlife to move about their territory despite the impediment of the CAP canal. Mountains lions, badgers and other wildlife depend on it. Recognizing this, the Pima County Board of Supervisors earlier voted unanimously to oppose any bypass in Pima County.
Bruce Ellis, Chief of the federal Bureau of Reclamation's Natural Resources Division, came from Phoenix to state that the Bureau had previously objected to "bisecting the Corridor," both at an STB meeting and in writing. He said that the Bureau had thought that the Avra Valley route would be rejected by the STB because of the Corridor, and that the Bureau of Reclamation has "no intention of allowing the Mitigation Corridor to be harmed."
Sarah Craighead, Superintendent of Saguaro National Park, added her voice to the opposition: "The west district of Saguaro National Park was established in 1961 to protect the plants and wildlife of the Tucson Mountains. In 1976, about 75% of the park was designated as Wilderness, an area where Congress determined that the park's primeval character should be retained and where visitors have the opportunity to experience solitude and enjoy a place that is unaffected by humans. An I-10 bypass that lies immediately west of the park is inconsistent with the purposes for which the park and the Wilderness areas were established. Such a bypass could have grave consequences for the park, and I would urge that you carefully consider the broad range of impacts such an alignment would have on the park and its visitors."
"I urge the State Transportation Board to reject the proposed alignment of the I-10 Bypass through the Avra Valley corridor," Craighead said. "The potential adverse impacts on Saguaro National Park should cause us all grave concern and trigger serious consideration of other alternatives to this bypass corridor." A spokesperson from Arizona Fish and Game told the STB that the Commission was opposed to all the previously proposed routes, including the Avra Valley, and that position "has not changed." He urged the STB to look at the double-decker option.
Chairman Schorr declared that the vote was not a decision to adopt the Avra Valley bypass route, but was merely for a "Major Investment Study" to see if that route was "environmentally feasible." Such a study, at the cost of a million taxpayer dollars, is likely the next step in nailing down the STB's bypass route-of- choice. Later, on TV news, Schorr said that bypass opponents "have their heads in the sand."
John Hewitt, in an e-mail to bypass opponents, said: "In one sense this is pure BS. Schorr wants a bypass and he wants it in the Avra Valley. And he is following the time-tested methods of highway builders everywhere: put a line on a map, assure people it is only preliminary, and then as the years go by continue to refer to it as an established precedent. "It's only a study" and "this is years away" are techniques designed to "cool out disgruntled members of the public."