Flagstaff city council halts sale of ‘The Y’

 
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BY JAMES GINGERICH —

In a narrow 4-3 decision Tuesday, the Flagstaff City Council voted to abandon a proposal to sell a parcel of land along Schultz Creek Road to developers.

The issue elicited a debate between citizens hoping to preserve the popular area, affectionately termed “The Y,” and Council members who are seeking funds for a new courthouse.

“The Y has potentially become one of the most popular de facto trailheads in the area,” Anthony Quintile, board member of the Flagstaff Biking Organization, said.

Quintile explained how the area acts as the only method of access to the popular Schultz Pass, Mount Elden and Dry Lakes trail systems during winter when many forest roads are closed. He also expressed a desire shared by many Flagstaff outdoor enthusiasts to see the parcel turned into an addition to the park system. Quintile said the uses could range from an interpretive trail system to a bike park for Flagstaff’s biking community.

City Council member Celia Barotz, who raised the motion to prevent the sale, said the council was swayed by the citizens at the meeting, many of whom characterized the proposed sale as shortsighted.

“As pressure mounts on the council to identify revenue sources and the council considers selling city land we must always be very mindful of the important open space and recreation values that many Flagstaff residents and tourists alike cherish,” Barotz said.

Proponents of the sale asserted not enough attention was given to possible solutions that might have benefited both sides of the debate.

“The council could have said ‘yes’ to selling a portion of [The Y] and stipulated that an easement or right of way could easily have been designated to preserve bike and hiking access,” councilmember Karla Brewster, who voted against the measure to stop the sale of the land, said. “It seems that option was not discussed at all.”

Mark Woodson, a member of the council who also voted against the measure, expressed a similar concern that not all options were given equal credence and a general lack of information pervaded the discussion.

“Such an unwitting debate only leaves the issue to be addressed in the future,” Woodson said.

Council member Jeff Oravits, who represented the third vote against the measure, stated the financial needs of Flagstaff demanded the future of the Schultz Pass Road parcel be considered in a diversified point of view.

Neither side, he asserted, should be advocating an all or nothing approach.

“I enjoy the forest as much as anyone; that is why I recently voted to support the acquisition of Picture Canyon and its 380 acres through a state grant,” Oravits said. “I am grateful to live in Flagstaff, where millions of acres of forest are available within fifteen minutes or less, no matter which direction I travel. I am confident we can find solutions to our financial needs and the sale of City owned land is just one option we should consider.”

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