Part of scenic drive, an old-time Pima
County road, closed to keep it safe, quiet for residents
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
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'
He says the people of the
Continentals often come up to him and say, "You must hate us."
"They feel guilty," says
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