HOLBROOK, Ariz. - When seasoned businessman Marvin Hatch bought a northern Arizona ranch, he and business partner Terrence "Shorty" Reidhead knew the land would yield more than just hamburger.
The 60,000-acre, $3.3 million Paulsell
Ranch is littered with Indian ruins, artifacts and petroglyphs. The
ranch's resources are so important that its neighbor, Petrified
Forest National Park, has unsuccessfully tried to add the land to
Although it's not yet open to the
public, billboards already promote what Hatch is calling the
International Petrified Forest. Land and air tours will shuttle
tourists through the area to ooh and aah at the tumbled stones of
pueblos and the fossilized wood, animal teeth and bones that are
scattered in dry washes throughout the ranch.
Paulsell Ranch has long been recognized by scholars from around the
country for its archaeological and paleontological value. Rare
paleo-Indian sites, Pueblo religious and community centers, and
artifacts that may be more than 10,000 years old have been found in
the region. Reidhead and Hatch hope to tap into the millions of
tourists who flood northern Arizona every year to visit places like
Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest National Park. And the venture's
board of directors, a group of local businessmen, say they want to
manage the property for "preservation, education and profit," Hatch
says. "We want to keep it there for future generations."
Hatch, 63, and Reidhead, 67, are descendants of
Mormon pioneer families who settled the area in the late 1800s.
They've been buddies since they attended high school together in
the 1940s and have made millions selling cars and construction
Although neither has formal training
in archaeology or paleontology, they've been poking around in the
desert all their lives, engaging in "salvage archaeology," as
Reidhead puts it. They say preservation, not profit, is their main
goal. However, Reidhead adds, "We have spent quite a bit of money
and we hope to get it back someday."
Paulsell Ranch, tourists will be supervised, but Hatch and Reidhead
anticipate some poaching once they open it up to tourists. "Most
people probably are gonna pick up a piece of wood, darn it,"
Reidhead said. He doesn't want visitors to the ranch to be policed
like tourists at the nearby national park. Petrified Forest staff
"have a mania for that," he says.
Forest National Park Superintendent Micki Hellickson is reserving
comment on the International Petrified Forest for now. Hatch "is
free to establish any kind of a business he would like and he is
free to call it what he'd like," she says. Hellickson also holds
out hope the National Park Service will someday acquire the
property. "The National Park Service has outlined in its general
management plan a very broad vision for the expansion of the park,"
she said. "That vision includes the acquisition of at least a
portion of the Paulsell Ranch. That vision is still valid."
In the meantime, she's keeping an eye on what
happens at the Paulsell Ranch. "We would be concerned if we felt
the resources in which the Park Service was interested, if any of
them were threatened. We don't know anything is threatened right
now," Hellickson said. "If I felt something was happening, I would
try to make others aware of the situation."
Trinkle Jones, an archaeologist with the Park
Service's Western Archaeological and Conservation Center in Tucson,
is more worried about the venture's potential impact on the ranch's
resources. "By having people pick these up and move (artifacts)
without collecting additional information is to lose that data
that's so important," she says. "I can see people going out there
and saying, "This is really cool," picking something up, then
seeing something else and saying, "This is better" and throwing the
first thing away and mixing things up. And then we'll never know
what happened 6,000, 8,000, 10,000 years ago. We could lose our
story line. We could lose our chance of ever figuring it out."
The Arizona State Land Department also wants to
ensure the land's archaeological resources are protected, says
Commissioner Dennis Wells. Because part of the land is owned by the
state as well as by the Bureau of Land Management, plans for the
ranch must be approved by the state. "If profits are being made on
state trust land, we must be involved," he says. "We would want to
license the activity."
But one local rock-art
scholar says a tourism venture may be the best way to protect the
treasures of the Paulsell Ranch. "Once things get vandalized or
destroyed or removed, then (Hatch and Reidhead) won't have the
attractions anymore," says Ekkehart Malotki, a Northern Arizona
University language professor and Southwestern rock-art researcher.
Malotki says he'd like to see walkways built around sites to keep
people from walking on them or touching
Jones also says that guided tours are a
good idea, but only if Hatch and Reidhead adopt some of the Park
Service's leave-no-trace ethics, so "things don't start to
disappear or get sold," she says.
he'll hire archaeologists and paleontologists from local colleges
as tour guides, and he says they may also try to restore some of
the ruins. For now, Hatch says, he'll maintain the property as a
working cattle ranch, helping him to avoid higher taxes. Seven
hundred head now graze on the property. "We'll continue ranching
until someone tells us that it's detrimental to our preservation,"
And Hatch and Reidhead aren't stopping
with the Paulsell Ranch. Early this summer, they plan to open a
museum of Native American artifacts just a few exits down the
interstate from the ranch. The projects are keeping both men
"I'm an old man. I have people running
businesses for me," says Reidhead. "All at once, I have a purpose
... I've never enjoyed putting something together as much as this."
* Katherine Drouin
Katherine Drouin Keith
is a freelance writer living in Tucson,
You can contact
* International Petrified Forest,
* Petrified Forest National Park,
* Western Archaeological and
Conservation Center, 520/670-6501.