Arizona Could Add 1 Million Residents by 2026

Cathy Franklin | Phoenix

A new report projects that Arizona will grow by 1 million residents and add 500,000 new jobs in the next eight years.

As The Arizona Republic reported this month, the estimate by the state's Office of Economic Opportunity indicates that the Grand Canyon State will add nearly 543,000 new net jobs by 2026. The projection is based on a 10-year estimate that includes this year and last year, The Republic reported.

That rate of jobs growth would be a 1.7 percent annual growth rate, more than double the 0.7 percent annual growth rate expected for the country as a whole during that time, The Republic reported.

The report also predicted that Arizona's population of 7.1 million will increase to 8.1 million by 2026. Most of that growth will be in the Phoenix metro area, which will grow from 4.8 million residents to 5.5 million, according to the report.

Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, and Yavapai County, which includes much of the Verde Valley, could see the highest rates of jobs growth, The Republic reported.

Such rates would be a marked increase from the 10-year period that ended in 2016. In that period, Arizona averaged just 0.2 percent jobs growth annually, according to the report.

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2 State Parks Add Camping Cabins

The interior of one of the new camping cabins. | Courtesy of Arizona State Parks and Trails

Two of Arizona's most popular state parks recently added facilities that allow visitors to enjoy a comfortable overnight stay.

As Arizona State Parks and Trails announced recently, Lost Dutchman and Patagonia Lake state parks now feature camping cabins large enough to accommodate six people. At Lost Dutchman State Park, east of the Phoenix area, the cabins are at the base of the Superstition Mountains. At Patagonia Lake State Park, in Southern Arizona, they're near the water.

Each cabin includes a fire ring, a picnic table and a ramada outside. All the cabins are wheelchair accessible and have easy access to nearby parking areas and restroom facilities. They feature solar cooling and heating systems, meaning they're comfortable any time of year, the department says.

Arizona State Parks and Trails is offering special introductory rates on the cabins through October 31, the department said in a news release. You can make reservations up to a year in advance. Several other state parks already offer the cabins.

For more information, visit the Arizona State Parks and Trails website. And don't forget that when you buy an annual pass, you get a free one-year subscription to Arizona Highways.

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Monsoon Storms Could Cause Flooding on Mount Graham

Stan Lowery | Mount Graham

Officials are warning that last year's wildfire on Mount Graham could cause monsoon flooding on the Southeastern Arizona peak.

The lightning-caused Frye Fire burned 48,000 acres in the Pinaleño Mountains last year. Now, officials from the Coronado National Forest told the Associated Press, runoff in areas where the vegetation was burned could lead to flooding on State Route 366 (the Swift Trail), the only highway up the mountain.

Emergency road closures are possible if monsoon storms lead to flooding, forest officials told the AP. Clearing the road could take hours, and drivers should be prepared for temporary delays.

The wildfire also decimated the range's population of Mount Graham red squirrels, which exist nowhere else in the wild. A census late last year estimated there were only 35 squirrels left — down from 250 the previous year.

If you're looking for a scenic drive in the Pinaleños that's more rugged but was less affected by the Frye Fire, check out Tripp Canyon Road, which climbs the range's western flank. A high-clearance vehicle is required, and you'll need four-wheel-drive to make it all the way to the top.

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Officials Seek Spur Cross Ranch Toad Thieves

Sonoran Desert toad | Bighouse2015 (via Creative Commons)

Three people were photographed taking Sonoran Desert toads from a Phoenix-area preserve last month, and officials are asking the public for help identifying the thieves.

As reported, the incident occurred July 19 at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area in Cave Creek, northeast of Phoenix. A trail camera captured the thieves, two men and a woman, putting the toads in plastic bags about two hours after the conservation area had closed for the night.

The toads are not a protected species, which means they can be collected from the wild by anyone with a fishing license, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. However, because the toads were in a conservation area administered by Maricopa County, the thieves violated a county ordinance by removing them without permission, officials told

It's not clear why the toads were taken, but Sonoran Desert toads, which are among the largest toads in North America, secrete toxins that have hallucinogenic properties. A Banner Health doctor told that the amphibians are often victims of "toad licking," which can be extremely dangerous.

Visit Spur Cross Ranch Recreation Area's Facebook page to see the videos of the toad thieves (be advised that the videos contain profane language). If you recognize anyone in the videos, call the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office at 602-876-1000.

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Q&A: Outdoor Painting at the Grand Canyon

John Cogan paints the Grand Canyon at Shoshone Point in 2015. | Courtesy of John Cogan

This fall marks the 10th annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art, which starts September 8 at Grand Canyon National Park. One of the event's highlights is artists painting en plein air, or outdoors, for a week at the Canyon. The work produced is then displayed for sale in Kolb Studio through the new year. A portion of the proceeds from the annual event benefit the Grand Canyon Association’s mission to create a dedicated art venue at the South Rim.

We spoke with John Cogan, a professional painter who has joined the Celebration of Art each year since its inception and estimates he has painted the Canyon 700 times (although he admits he quit counting a while ago).

When did you start painting the Grand Canyon?
My wife and I went there in 1978, and I started painting it right after that, and I’ve been painting it ever since. I love it. There’s always something new and different in the Canyon: the lighting, different seasons, just day-to-day changes in the weather. [It] makes it a really intriguing and challenging thing to paint.

What are some of the challenges?
Painting there at the Canyon, the main challenge is the changing light. That’s always true when you’re painting en plein air, because the sun moves pretty rapidly across the sky. It’s especially tricky in the Grand Canyon, because you have so many different buttes and crevices between them, and the shadows seem to change even faster than they seem to do in a flat landscape.

What is your favorite spot at the Grand Canyon?
You can’t make me choose a favorite spot, but if I had to pick one, I would probably say Mather Point, which is of course the main place people go on the South Rim. There’s parts of it I could paint without any reference at all, because I’ve been there so many times and painted it so many times.

What keeps you coming back to the Celebration of Art every year?
I keep coming back because it’s exciting. There’s a lot of artists there, and all of them I know; every year there’s a new one or two that I have to get to know, but they become my friends. They’re more than just acquaintances. We paint together, we talk a lot, we compare notes on how to approach painting the Canyon — everybody has their own way of doing it. It’s fun to watch all the other artists and see what they do differently than what I do. And, of course, the opportunity to spend nine straight days doing nothing but painting the Grand Canyon. And, yeah, we get tired, but not tired of the Canyon. You just finally get weary from all that painting, but no one wants to quit. I’ve seen artists out there painting the day when everybody is leaving; there'll be someone out there with their easel set up, painting. They just don’t want to give up.

What should new visitors expect from the event?
Visitors can come out and watch the artists paint. We’re all used to gawkers and having people look over our shoulder, asking us questions. It doesn’t bother us. They can watch us paint for a couple hours and watch a blank canvas turn into a painting of the Canyon.

Why is this event, and the creation of a dedicated art venue at the Canyon, important to you?
I think the general population grows a new perspective of natural wonders when they see it in pictures. Of course they see it in photographs, but there’s something different about seeing it painted — paint on canvas. It brings back memories and reinforces the idea that this is a special place.

I think, and hope, this is an event that is going to continue well past my lifetime, because there’s so many people that are interested in art and historical art, and a lot of the [stored] paintings that will be exhibited eventually date back to the 19th century, so it’s a bigger thing then just us. It’s fun to be a part of it, and for the event in September, it’s special and everything, but it’s larger than any of us. 

To learn more about the upcoming event, visit the Grand Canyon Association’s website.

— Kirsten Kraklio

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Mobile Version of ADOT Bike Map Now Available

Susan Stocker | Lake Havasu City

From our friends at the Arizona Department of Transportation:

PHOENIX ­­­– The Arizona Department of Transportation is making it easier for residents and tourists to bicycle throughout Arizona by updating the free Cycle Arizona Bicycle User Map available at and adding a mobile-friendly version.

To help cyclists plan their routes, the map includes information on shoulder widths, grades and traffic volumes for the state highway system. It has links to resources on laws and policies, local bicycle paths and U.S. Bicycle Route 90, created in 2015 to span 573 miles between Arizona’s eastern and western borders and connect to a national network of bicycle routes.

In addition to PDF versions with statewide and regional views, there now is an interactive version compatible with iOS and Android mobile devices. Users can click on lines and icons to see where there are frontage roads, extreme grades, narrow bridges and places to visit such as state and national parks, trailheads and rest areas. They also can get contact information for resources such as local chambers of commerce.

“The mobile version makes this a great traveling companion for anyone who’s passionate about bicycling, including the many riders who travel to Arizona,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “We take everything from safety tips to local points of interest and literally put it in the palm of your hand, making transportation truly personal.”

A 2013 ADOT study showed Arizona is a destination for out-of-state bicycling enthusiasts due to its weather, newer infrastructure and scenery, among other factors. It found that bicycle tourists contribute more than $88 million annually to the state economy.

Michael Sanders, ADOT’s bicycle and pedestrian program coordinator, said producing the mobile-friendly map involved reviewing feedback from constituents and researching how other states offer information for bicyclists. The map was produced in collaboration with the Arizona Office of Tourism and Arizona Council for Enhancing Recreation and Tourism.

“The Arizona Management System championed by Governor Doug Ducey challenges all ADOT employees to continuously improve this agency’s value to its customers, and those customers include the many bicyclists drawn to our state’s scenic highways and byways,” Sanders said. “These updates will make it even easier for bicyclists of all comfort levels to enjoy the best of what Arizona has to offer.”

To learn more, visit and click on Arizona Bicycle and Pedestrian Maps. To request a free copy of the Cycle Arizona Bicycle User Map, call 602.712.8141 or send an email to [email protected].

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From a Reader: The Spirit of the Cowboy

Julie Knight | Sonoita

From time to timeArizona Highways receives poetry submissions from readers. Dianna Cunningham, a resident of Northeast Phoenix, sent us this one in response to our August issue (on newsstands now) on Arizona's Western culture. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, Dianna!

The Spirit of the Cowboy
By Dianna Cunningham

The cowboy embodies
the spirit of the west.

Like his father before him,
he lives life to its best.

His passion for living
shows in his face.

His bedside companion
is the wide open space.

Hard work and honor
are always his style,

Every new challenge
he takes on with a smile.

He’s mastered the art
of working the land

And when a friendship is needed
he’ll lend you a hand.

While others search for fortune and fame
and chasing the dream of the glory;

The cowboy’s dream lives on forever
As part of the great western story!

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Reflections of Frank Lloyd Wright's Youngest Apprentice

Vernon Swaback became Frank Lloyd Wright's apprentice when he was just 17. | Emily Balli

In early May, I took a tour of Taliesin West, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and architecture school in Scottsdale. Like anyone who has the opportunity to visit, I was in awe of the architecture, beauty and history of the building. During the tour, the guide mentioned that there are only a handful of Wright’s apprentices still living. His youngest apprentice, Vernon Swaback, who worked aside Wright at just 17 years old, is one of them. He’s now in his late 70s and resides in Scottsdale, where he owns his own architecture and planning firm, Swaback Partners.

I got in touch with him and asked if he’d be interested talking about his experiences at Taliesin West. He graciously agreed, and before hanging up the phone, he mentioned that years back, he had written an article for Arizona Highways. I searched the archives and found his November 1988 article, Frank Lloyd Wright: A Personal Perspective. In the piece, he wrote eloquently about his experiences with, and observations of, his beloved mentor, a pioneer and innovator who is often named one of the greatest American architects.

Today, Swaback’s memories of Wright haven’t faded. When asked his experiences as a student at Taliesin West, Swaback lights up and speaks as if it were just yesterday that he was sitting at the drafting table with Wright.

Swaback grew up near Oak Park, Illinois, where Wright also lived for a time. Since high school, he says, he dreamt of one day working with Wright. Having visited and seen many of his buildings in Chicago, Swaback admired his work before he even knew his name. In October 1956, Wright unveiled his rendering of his famous (but never built) Mile High Illinois skyscraper in Chicago. Although Swaback didn’t truly meet Wright at that time, he did get a photo taken with him and the mayor of Chicago.

It was during the unveiling that Swaback had the chance to meet some of Wright’s apprentices. He knew he wanted to become one, and he wrote a letter to Wright, hoping to catch the attention of his architecture hero. Just months later, 17-year-old Swaback interviewed to be Wright’s apprentice at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. His parents drove him to Wisconsin for his interview, and upon their arrival, they were ushered into Wright’s private studio.

“When [Wright] came in, it was like … I can’t explain it,” Swaback says. “It was just like, How in the world did an Earthling like me get to be in the same room as this person? I had pretty much assured my parents that I thought there was no way I would ever be selected. That’s not what I was thinking or hoping, but it helped them.”

At the time, he was studying architecture at the University of Illinois, and when Wright asked him why he wanted to leave the university, he answered the question in a way he never had before. “Because they’re beginning to teach preconceived ideas,” Swaback replied. He says Wright looked at his mother, and then at his father, and simply asked, “Where does he get it? From you … or from you?” Swaback says he knew then that he was in.

Later on that day, Wright, Swaback and his parents were outside and Wright stared up at the sky. “I was sure that my father expected him to say something like "e=mc2,” Swaback says, laughing. “And instead he said, ‘I’ve been watching that little cloud. Isn’t that wonderful?’ That was Frank Lloyd Wright. He was the simplest of men … not complicated, but brilliantly connected to the workings of nature, the aspirations of people and the difference between the space within or what something looks like.”

During his first two and a half years studying at Taliesin West, he worked directly with Wright on a number of projects. He slept in a tent outside and worked outdoors constantly. Swaback says every moment of every day with Wright was a lesson. It wasn’t just lessons in architecture. It was about how fragile beauty is, and about the importance of detail.

“From morning until night, it was just filled with meaning,” Swaback says. “There wasn’t anything we did that wasn’t purpose-centered. For example, when I slept in a tent, I would get more of an understanding of the cycles of nature, the climate, the movement of the sun. Walking from there and to breakfast, I would see the incredible creativity of the Sonoran Desert.”

He also says he appreciated how every apprentice at Taliesin West was treated as an equal, no matter where they came from.

“There were people here when I was here that were of royal birth and had a palace back in Italy,” Swaback says. “Others were the decedents of captains of industry and were multimillionaires, and I had nothing like that. The difference between that and a society elsewhere is that no one would know the difference between who was a millionaire and who had nothing. Because the having of things in this atmosphere wasn’t something you owned or were given. It was all about who you were as a human being.”

In 1959, Swaback says, he and his fellow apprentices were shocked to hear that Wright had passed away at age 91.

“I was working directly with him on a watercolor rendering of the plan of Monona Terrace,” Swaback recalls. “He went to the doctor for something that we thought was routine. Because he was lively as a teenager when he left. And he never came back. I am certain that is the way he wanted to leave this world.”

After Wright’s passing, Swaback stayed at Taliesin West for 21 years and eventually became the director of planning there. He left in 1978, at age 38, and started his firm. He’s written several books about Wright and other topics. He says there’s no question that Wright’s work will continue to inspire architects for years to come. However, he hopes to see architecture and the world move in the direction of building communities like the one that existed at Taliesin West back in the 1950s.

“If humanity is to have a future, the lessons reside in the history of this place,” Swaback said. “History is not made by the creation of technology that has the power to remove us from the face of the Earth. There is no history when that happens. For the rest of my life, for as long as I’m able to keep going, I’m far more interested in the architecture of life than the architecture of a building. That, to me, is the greatest lesson to be learned from that man.”

To learn more about Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright or Vernon Swaback, visit or

 — Emily Balli

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