Linkage of three preserves best part about annexation?

By Curtis Riggs | August 20, 2008

Could enhance management potential
CAVE CREEK – The Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area (SCRCA) experience could be tripled if that area, the Cave Creek Recreation Area and 4,000 nearby acres of State Trust Land are linked by the end of the year.

Mayor Vincent Francia envisions a wilderness experience, which would allow people to spend a night camping at the recreation area, a night on the 4,000 acres the Town is in the midst of annexing and a night at Spur Cross Ranch if the annexation effort that would link the two established parks comes to fruition.

“They could spend a night on each and then go up into the Tonto (National Forest) and have a real wilderness experience,” Francia said about the options for outdoor recreation, which would come with the annexation of the 4,000 acres of State Trust Land that would be preserved from development.

The 4,000 acres are part of an annexation of eight square miles of land to the west of Cave Creek. Cave Creek, Maricopa County and the Arizona State Land Department have already signed off on the annexation plan. All that remains to make it a reality is the approval of the State Selection Board, which is set to vote on Oct. 20.

The irony of Francia’s plan is overnight camping is currently prohibited at Spur Cross Ranch. However, he is proposing the camping ban be lifted for one month out of the year so people could enjoy an outdoors experience at the three local parks/preserves. The mayor was encouraged to think about opening up the hiking, which would come with the linking of the three areas, when he stopped for a rest while hiking the Go John Trail in Cave Creek recently.

“It’s a marvelous view,” he said of the vista. “Then I realized I was looking out over the 4,000 acres of State Trust Land.”

Despite Francia’s wishes to link the three areas, SCRCA Supervisor John Gunn is quick to point out the Trust Land has “been hit pretty hard over the years” by grazing and off-road vehicle use. He sees the 4,000 acres working well as a buffer to both established parks.
“It is not in near as good ecological condition as the rock uplands,” Gunn said about the 4,000 acres under consideration for annexation. He said an “off-road vehicle” track could even be established on the 4,000 acres.

Gunn likes the linkage of the three areas because it would establish a nature corridor that “creatures could move back and forth” on.

Gunn said the linkage would work well as it would allow officials with the three areas to work together on trails, share staff and concentrate on making the Maricopa Regional Trail, which runs through all three areas, the best outdoor experience it can be.

“That would let us manage things better,” he said about dealing with issues like non-native plant species, off-road vehicles and protecting view sheds.