The Arizona Daily StarThe Arizona Daily StarAZStarNet    
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 11.11.2004
Rural area wins a battle
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Jim Davis / Arizona Daily Star
Chuck Koesters and his dog, Buckshot, walk along the closed-off area of Scenic Drive near Sanctuary Cove in the Tucson Mountain foothills.
Part of scenic drive, an old-time Pima County road, closed to keep it safe, quiet for residents
By Dan Sorenson
A recent deal between landowners on aptly named Scenic Drive and the town of Marana was one of those rare situations when dusty, old-time, rural Pima County and suburban sprawl crash head on.
But the old way didn't get flattened like a rattlesnake under a D-8 Caterpillar.
Actually, the moving object was Continental Ranch and Reserve, that ever-swelling expanse of tile-roof homes between Interstate 10 on the east and the Tucson Mountains on the west. Scenic Drive, a north-south two-lane road just west of Continental Reserve, serves as a barrier between the subdivisions and the ranches and a few custom houses at the base of the mountains. Saguaro National Park's northeast boundary lies at the south end of Scenic Drive. The north end bumps into Silverbell Road, on the north end of Continental Ranch.
The problem, at least to those who thought there was a problem, was that traffic was so heavy on Silverbell Road, the main drag through Continental Ranch and Reserve, that people were using sleepy old Scenic Drive as an escape route, bypassing a section of Silverbell Road to get to Twin Peaks Road and out of the traffic jam.
Jim Shiner, a co-owner of the Lazy K Bar Ranch and Stardance Center, is credited with coming up with the idea of closing a section of Scenic Road, from Pima Farms Road a few hundreds yards north. In July, after some of the adjacent landowners agreed to annexation by the town of Marana, sign posts were jammed into the tired old asphalt and reflectorized "CLOSED" signs were mounted to block the road on both ends. A dude ranch and corporate training center and a meditation retreat became part of Marana, and held off some of growth's noisy by-products.
People can still get to the south end from Pima Farms Road, which leads them to a few private houses and the Lazy K Bar Ranch and Stardance Center - a dude ranch and corporate training center - and Sanctuary Cove, a non-denominational, nonprofit meditation and worship site. On the north end, accessible from the junction of Silverbell Road and Twin Peaks Road, the residents of a handful of homes nestled along the road can get home.
"I'm thrilled," Shiner says of the agreement. There was ever-increasing traffic, as the Continental developments expanded, and speeding, Shiner says. Ranch guests can now ride across the closed part of the road to get to trails on a 40-acre buffer area between the Lazy K and Continental Reserve.
Chuck Koesters, caretaker at Sanctuary Cove, says the traffic on Scenic Drive was making it dangerous to walk or bicycle along the road.
Jim DeGrood, executive assistant to the town manager, said nearly everyone involved in the talks that led up to the road closing agreed there was a problem. Eventually, he says, the closing became part of a pre-annexation agreement that brought Lazy K Bar Ranch, the Stardance Center and Sanctuary Cove into the town of Marana.
The closure was satisfying for Ed Stolmaker, who lives with his wife, Marianne, and two grandchildren north of the closed section. Stolmaker said it's now a safer road for residents.
"As a resident, it improved our lifestyle," said Stolmaker. "We're living on a dead-end street. Less traffic. It was the best solution to the problem."
Sitting in Sanctuary Cove's outdoor amphitheater, with its back to the Tucson Mountains and facing north-northeast looking out over the Continentals with tiny trucks on I-10 in the distance, Koesters says it's not perfect, but it has stalled growth's impact for now.
Mainly, it has cut down on the traffic noise - an important feature for a place that calls itself Sanctuary Cove and whose mission is to provide a place for meditation.
It's a far cry from the place he came to 13 years ago, but with Saguaro National Park behind and to the south of Sanctuary Cove, he says it's safe for the foreseeable future.
Among the Cove's allies, he says, are the people of the Continentals.
"They use us for their open space," he says. "And we're the trailhead to Safford Peak." There's no other drive to access that corner of the park. He bristles when people refer to the craggy red rock peak looming over the meditation center as Sombrero Peak, a popular hikers' destination.
He says the people of the Continentals often come up to him and say, "You must hate us."
"They feel guilty," says Koesters.
But he says he doesn't hate them. He's glad they appreciate the beauty of the place. Besides coming there for a little nature and peace of mind, maybe to rent the place for a wedding or memorial service, the people from the houses down below may someday be the Cove's best friends. They may be the ones to fight whatever battle progress throws at this dusty, quirky old piece of Pima County next.
● Contact reporter Dan Sorenson at 434-4073 or