From first kisses and gender reveals, to play dates and picnics, the Wheeler Park pedestrian bridge that arched over the Rio de Flag, leading from the park to the entrance of the downtown library, has been cherished by locals and visitors since it was erected in 1982.
Initial frustration poured forth when it was announced in June 2018 that the bridge would possibly be dismantled due to dry rot damage in one of the beams. When November came, and its official destruction date was set for late that year, the Arizona Daily Sun received multiple letters to the editor on its fate.
Flagstaff local Priscilla Trowbridge wrote that she would “mourn the demolition” of the bridge, while James Babbitt penned that “destroying the bridge is, in my mind, a bridge too far.”
Many asked, was it really necessary to destroy the beloved bridge?
Originally, it seemed the high cost of estimated repairs, due to the extent of damage, was the main reason the city declined to repair or replace it.
But city parks manager Amy Hagin said that while repair costs were originally estimated at half a million by the city, the actual estimate was between $70,000 and $200,000.
Despite the lower cost, Hagin reiterated that “the alignment of the Rio de Flag flood control project requires the removal of the bridge.”
The bridge, which sits on a floodplain, may have only lasted a year or so before it would have to be dismantled in order to meet the standards for the city’s new flood control project, which should finish plans by August 2020.
While the bridge held more than 30 years of memories, according to Hagin it only took one morning in mid-December for her crew to take it apart.
“In parallel with the city decision to remove the bridge, parks staff were tasked with creating a keepsake with any salvageable pieces after the December dismantling,” Hagin said.
The older parts of the bridge were too far damaged to be salvageable for this purpose and will be mulched and reused, Hagin said. The bridge pieces the city was able to salvage were only around five years old, from when the city did some minor repairs, she added. These pieces were turned into one-foot and two-foot sections for residents who expressed interest in keeping part of the bridge.
“Shortly after the safe demolition of the bridge, parks staff took the adage of ‘I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do’, and reached out to Flagstaff Stamp and Engraving with the knowledge of a city seal on-hand,” Hagin said.
“The seal is burnt into the wood – it looks so good,” Jessica Drum, city communications manager, said of the completed product.
At the end of the month, the 49 residents who signed up for the city’s offer will receive one-foot pieces of the bridge with the seal, and a two-foot unmarked piece. Hagin said one couple expressed interest in turning the two-foot piece into a picture frame for their wedding photo.
While many were thankful for the opportunity to attain a piece of the bridge, others were skeptical.
One Daily Sun reader commented on the website, “NAU has a piece of the Berlin Wall, I have heard of people securing pieces of Route 66, but why would you want a piece of some municipalities bridge? Bizarre little town, this one!”
Below are compiled memories and photos, showcasing just why the bridge is so important to Flagstaff residents.
Kimi Barton helped host her best friend April Richardson’s gender reveal party at Wheeler bridge in 2017. The bridge was chosen as the location of the reveal because it is such an iconic part of Flagstaff, of which the two are locals.
“We grew up playing underneath the bridge and reading books from the library by the grass,” Barton said.
Barton packed balloons into a bag for her best friend to open on the bridge.
“Once April saw the pink she fell down and started crying and was so happy,” Barton said.
“Everleigh is now nine months old and I am really sad that I won’t ever get to walk her across the bridge that I found out her gender on," Richardson said.
Troy and Shannon Campbell chose the bridge to have a photo shoot for their baby Taryn’s first birthday in 2015.
“We loved taking walks through the park to the library before our daughter was born, so we immediately thought of it as a location for her shoot,” Troy said.
Trowbridge recalled how years ago in the spring, “melting snow fed water rushed deep over new green grasses on the banks of the Rio De Flag.”
Trowbridge and her friend invented a simple game that they would always play on their trek to the library.
“Leaning over the bridge railing, sticks in hand, we held both hands out over the water. ‘Ready, Set, Go.’ The sticks dropped to the water below splashing and turning in eddies of water.”
Heather Newman had her first kiss with now fiancée Sereana Bird on the bridge.
“We were talking on the phone late at night and she said that she wanted to kiss me,” said Newman, adding that the two decided to meet at the bridge that night. “I was so excited I ran out of the house in my pajamas! When I got there she gave me her jacket, which I still have to this day, and we enjoyed our first kiss.
“We’re both sad to see it go,” Newman added.
Barb Furst has lived in Flagstaff for over fifty years.
“Everyone thought it was going to be silly before they built it but everyone and their mother used the bridge,” recalled Furst, whose son used to run across the bridge on his way to the park.
Now, Furst thinks “it’s going to be silly without the bridge there.”
Flagstaff City Council will be reviewing a newly proposed student centered housing development planned for a piece of land at the southwest intersection of Lone Tree Road and J.W. Powell Boulevard at the Jan. 29 meeting.
The development, by the Austin, Texas based Campus Advantage, is planned for a 15.14-acre undeveloped parcel of land that is currently owned by Pine Canyon.
The development would consist of a 196-unit development split into a dozen or so buildings and totaling 702 beds, according to documents provided by the city.
In all, the buildings would total about 338,521-square feet, with heights ranging from two, three and four stories.
The development would also include a clubhouse, study rooms, a fitness center, a dog park, a network of trails and pool.
At the moment, although being focused at students, Campus Advantage is planning on renting by the unit. However, the project summery states they may seek city approval to rent by the bed in the future.
The development has proven controversial with residents of the neighboring development, Pinnacle Pines, which borders the undeveloped land.
“Never in my wildest imagination would I ever think there would be a student housing facility planned here, the location just wouldn’t make sense,” said Michael Pilcher, one resident of Pinnacle Pines.
Pilcher said one of his concerns is about the number of vehicles will park on his street if the development goes forward.
This is because, although the development meets the city’s parking standards, there are 541 parking spaces planned to service the 702 beds.
But given the development's location, Pilcher said he believes most residents will need to use vehicles to go almost anywhere, with the nearest classrooms at Northern Arizona University being about one and a third miles away.
“The nearest grocery store is Whole Foods, over two miles away. The nearest restaurant, two miles away,” Pilcher said. “At least at other [student housing developments] like the Hub, the kids can at least walk to school, they can walk to the grocery store; they can’t walk anywhere here, everything will require a vehicle trip.”
And if the residents of the new development fill up their own parking lots, Pilcher said they will likely begin to park in the narrow streets of Pinnacle Pines which could lead to safety concerns.
Mary Norton, another resident of the Pinnacle Pines Neighborhood agreed.
“From the start, parking has been our number one concern,” Norton said. “Their lack of parking will inevitably flow into our private streets.”
Other residents of Pinnacle Pines worry students in search of parking will also quickly fill up a nearby parking lot meant to service sections of the Flagstaff Urban Trail System.
Campus Advantage said they could not comment, but some of the concerns are touched on by the development summery.
“The property is well situated for both Northern Arizona University and Coconino Community College students that utilize transit,” the project summery states. “Lone Tree provides direct access to both campuses for bikers and walkers; to supplement access to both CCC and NAU, Campus Advantage is currently evaluating inclusion of shuttle bus/van or other services to support student access to school as well as shopping and services in central Flagstaff to reduce automotive trips as well.”
Pilcher said even if the issues of parking are fixed, he would prefer to see some other kind of development in the area. Pilcher said, having lived at Pinnacle Pines since 2007, he has always known Pine Canyon would likely develop the land.
Pilcher added he personally would be happier if, instead of purely student housing, the developer was looking to build a different kind of development such as apartments for families, condominiums or affordable housing.
And now, he and other residents may get a chance to make their concerns known to city council as the development is scheduled for discussion at the next meeting.
The parcel is zoned for high-density residential, so the planned development fits as an approved use. But staff say the development will still need to go before council because it does not fit with the development plans the city agreed to with Pine Canyon.
Representatives with Pine Canyon did not return requests for comment, but city planning development manager Alaxandra Pucciarelli said the issues originate in a development agreement between Pine Canyon and the city that was signed in 2000.
That plan describes a somewhat different development than the one planned by Campus Advantage.
“The concept plan on file identifies that Tract 22, which is the site of the currently proposed development, consists of 210 multi-family residential units,” Pucciarelli said via email.
The plan also refers to the multi-family development as condominiums at various points.
“The only difference between a condominium project and a multi-family project is ownership, not use or building form,” Pucciarelli said. “This parcel was intended to have a multi-family project/development, the question is whether the development must be subdivided through a condominium plat.”
Tuesday however, council could allow an amendment to the agreement to allow Campus Advantage to rent units traditionally without treating them as condominiums.
The thousands of tourists who travel to the Havasupai tribal lands each year to camp near the picturesque, blue-green waterfalls will have to do so without the benefit of professional guides.
The Havasupai Tribe has decided not to allow outfitters to escort visitors this year down the long, winding path that leads to its small, roadless reservation and on to its main tourist draw: towering waterfalls that cascade into swimming holes that are warm year-round.
Tourists can visit the waterfalls, either by reserving a room at the tribe's only lodge or by snapping up a coveted permit for one of its hundreds of camping spots scattered amid a creek. But starting in February, they'll have to find their own way to the reservation's waterfalls and caves, and carry their own food and gear.
Abbie Fink, a spokeswoman for the Havasupai Tribe, said the Tribal Council's decision isn't a reflection on the outfitters. Rather, she said the tribe wanted to manage all tourist traffic itself.
"It's not solving a problem. It's returning the enterprise to the control of the tribe," she told The Associated Press.
For years, the tribe has set aside spots for tour companies, which often bought permits in bulk. The outfitters paid a licensing fee of several thousand dollars, and some had elaborate setups with gourmet meals, inflatable couches and massage therapists. Most brought just the essentials.
Fink couldn't say exactly how much tour guides paid or how many licenses have been issued in the past. She said the Tribal Council would re-evaluate outfitter licenses for 2020.
The tribe relies heavily on tourism and estimates that between February and November, it gets 30,000 to 40,000 visitors per year to its reservation deep in a gorge west of Grand Canyon National Park that's accessible only by foot or helicopter, or by riding a horse or mule. The tribe does maintenance in the campground and on the trails in December and January.
The tribe doesn't allow day hikes, so visitors wanting to take in its waterfalls and other sights must reserve overnight trips in the campground or at the sole lodge.
Rooms in the lodge, which can be booked only by phone, are sold out for the rest of this year. Reservations for 2020 start June 1.
Permits for 2019 camping spots become available online Feb. 1 and are expected to sell out in minutes. People on social media have been strategizing for months about how to boost their chances, including by setting up an account early, recruiting friends and family to try to book a trip and repeatedly refreshing multiple internet browsers.
The permits are $100 per person per night Monday through Thursday, and $125 a night Friday through Sunday, slight increases over last year. The tribe grants about 300 camping permits a day, Fink has said.
Adam Henry, co-owner of Discovery Treks, books between 100 and 200 people on the Havasupai trip each year but has had to stick to offering trips in other spots of the Grand Canyon. He says that's not always welcome news for tourists intent on venturing to the waterfalls.
The hike takes tourists 8 miles (13 kilometers) down a winding trail through desert landscape before they reach the first waterfall. Then comes the village of Supai, where 600 tribal members live year-round. Another 2 miles (3 kilometers) down the trail is the campground with waterfalls on both ends.
"The blue-green water is what people want to see," Henry said. "It's certainly a significant bummer for people who aren't going to be able to get out there on their own."
Christine Miller, who works with the tour guide company Wildland Trekking, said tourists can find packing lists online and videos on Havasupai to help plan their trip. The advantage to having a tour guide is knowing how to reach the sights off the main trail, including other waterfalls, caves and swimming pools.
"There are not really any good maps out there to tell you when to cross, when not to cross" the creek, she said.
The tribe temporarily suspended licenses for outfitters in 2016 in part to review the impact that supplies loaded onto pack animals had on the animals and the trail. Fink did not respond to questions about what came out of that review.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was feeling the heat.
Week after week, Trump had demanded that the government stay partially shuttered until Democrats agreed to pay for his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Surrounded by a shrinking cast of advisers, he watched as federal workers went unpaid and basic services were frozen. His poll numbers were slipping. His arguments were landing with a thud with the public.
A pair of Senate votes on Thursday, and a round of telephone calls from frustrated Republicans, made clear he had no way out. A president who never admits defeat then began a rapid retreat.
The story of how Trump reversed himself, ending the country's longest shutdown with little to show for it, is largely one of acceptance. Over 35 days and a critical final 24 hours, Trump finally came to see what many allies had known for weeks about his strategy: His only option was to climb down, at least for now.
So Trump did what he does best, ending one campaign and beginning the next. As soon as this shutdown was about to close, he promised everyone a new fight would begin — and another shutdown could soon follow.
Trump's GOP allies in the Senate had been more than eager to help him get to "yes" on ending Round One. The critical first step was showing that Democrats were not going to buckle.
The White House had maintained there were untold numbers of Democrats ready to bolt from their leaders and back his demand for $5.7 billion in wall money. Yet for weeks, few such Democrats had emerged. Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who had stayed on the sidelines as Trump battled with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York, agreed to put the theory to a vote.
There would be votes on two plans to reopen the government. The first was backed by Trump; the second by Democrats. The Democrats' bill won more votes than the GOP bill, even though Republicans control the Senate.
It was a harsh, indisputable reality for the president. He recognized something had to give, according to eight people familiar with his thinking who, like others interviewed for this account, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.
"He knew that it was a lost cause," Schumer said Friday.
Even before the second vote was gaveled shut, McConnell told others he was preparing to reach out to Schumer to talk about what was next. The two met in the majority leader's stately office off the Senate floor. McConnell discussed the offer the White House had proposed: a short-term bill to reopen government that included a "down payment" Trump wanted for the wall.
Pelosi, however, had already waved off the idea, and Schumer said Democrats would not support it, according to a senior Democratic aide. Pelosi had kept her boisterous caucus of Democrats surprisingly united throughout the standoff. She persuaded many that the fight was bigger than any wall.
"That is part of the design, to undo the role of government," she told Democrats on Wednesday, imploring them to hold tough, according to an aide in the room. "There is a plan. It is working for us."
Schumer answered McConnell with the proposal that eventually would be accepted: a three-week measure to reopen the government and then a plan for House and Senate negotiators to discuss border security.
McConnell took the Schumer proposal to the White House. Overnight and into Friday, several Republican senators ramped up the pressure. They called Trump and urged him to end the shutdown and take up border security through the regular legislative process, according to a person familiar with the private conversations.
The White House was ready to consider proposals from Capitol Hill.
Vice President Mike Pence had endured a contentious lunch with Republican senators on Thursday, absorbing criticism for having no plan for a way forward.
Stories about federal workers in dire straits due to missed paychecks were weighing heavily, too, on Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
"There's a parade of horribles of how people are having to cope with not getting paid and it's not good," Cornyn said.
White House aides acknowledged they were running out of options that might minimize the impact of the lengthy shutdown as complaints intensified from government employees and people who depend on federal aid and services. By Friday morning, with airports reporting increased shutdown-related flight delays and more workers recounting their personal financial crises, Schumer and McConnell were on the phone talking details.
At that point, it wasn't hard to persuade Trump.
Pence, senior adviser Jared Kushner and others on his team were seen as supporting an exit strategy. But those close to the White House insisted that Trump viewed this not as a capitulation but rather as one more chance at the deal he wants. Aides said the president believes there are Democrats willing to work on border security and that the bipartisan negotiators on Capitol Hill will draw in a more diverse range of views.
"Will not be easy to make a deal, both parties very dug in," Trump tweeted Saturday, publicly confident of an outcome that has eluded him: "We will build the Wall!