Conservationists are close to protecting a volcanic crater and
wetland near Flagstaff, Ariz. All they have to do is raise $3
In March, the Flagstaff-based Grand
Canyon Trust signed a land-swap deal with developers, in which the
trust bought the 247-acre caldera known as Dry Lake. Developer Jim
Mehen, who had first proposed a golf course and gated community in
the crater in 1997, failed twice to get county approval (HCN,
10/11/99: Developer told to scale back). Instead of resubmitting a
more acceptable proposal, he sat down with environmental groups and
local officials to hammer out a land trade.
deal comes after almost a year of negotiations, and attached to the
land is its hefty price tag of $3 million. Grand Canyon Trust is
asking for $2.5 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund,
a federal program to purchase lands for preservation. With the
support of two of Arizona's members of Congress, the funds are
likely to be approved - possibly in this fiscal year. The
developers involved have agreed to pitch in $200,000 if locals
contribute the remainder.
"We're all tickled,"
says Mehen. "We had a unique opportunity to create a win-win-win
situation for everyone involved. And we did that."
"This is a tremendous victory for the
community," says Geoff Barnard of Grand Canyon Trust. "Everybody
gave a little, and as a community we gained a lot."
Dry Lake became the focus of a three-year
grassroots campaign when rumors of the development first arose.
Local activist Mary Sojourner says this is the community's first
major victory against inappropriate development in this once-sleepy
area. "We all woke up at the same time," she says. "It's a double
victory, because we saved this phenomenal place, and we learned to
work with each other."
On March 20, Coconino
County supervisors gave their blessing to the deal and approved
Mehen's development plans on his new property outside the crater.