Apache Trail Paving Work Will Continue Through Late March

Russ Glindmeier | Apache Trail

Drivers on one of Central Arizona's best-known roads will want to build some extra time into their travel plans over the next few weeks.

The Apache Trail (State Route 88), which runs northeast from the Phoenix area to Tortilla Flat and three popular lakes, is undergoing pavement improvements starting this week, the Arizona Department of Transportation announced. The work began Monday, February 26, in the Canyon Lake Marina and Tortilla Flat areas, and it's expected to continue until late March, ADOT said.

Mondays through Thursdays during daylight hours, crews will be paving sections of SR 88, a winding road that passes Canyon Lake, Apache Lake and Theodore Roosevelt Lake before curving southeast to the Globe area. On Friday mornings, milling work will be done to remove old pavement from the highway, ADOT said.

Flagging crews and a pilot car will guide traffic through work zones in one direction at a time, the department said, and vehicles wider than 10 feet will not be allowed in the work zones. Drivers should anticipate delays and allow extra travel time.

ADOT said the work is part of a $6.5 million project to improve the Apache Trail between Apache Junction and Tortilla Flat. That project should be done by late summer, the department said.

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Arizona Meteorite Sells for Record Price at Online Auction

This meteorite, discovered in Arizona, sold for $237,500 at a recent online auction. | Courtesy of Christie's

A piece of the rock that created one of Arizona's best-known natural features sold for nearly a quarter-million dollars at a recent online auction.

The 70-pound meteorite fetched $237,500 in the February 14 auction, hosted by Christie's. It's the highest price ever for a meteorite in an online Christie's auction, representatives of the auction house told Space.com.

The meteorite is a small fragment of the roughly 300,000-ton, 150-foot-wide rock that created Barringer Meteorite Crater, better known as Meteor Crater, near Flagstaff and Winslow some 50,000 years ago. Although most of it was vaporized on impact, about 20 percent was scattered around the area, and large fragments are on display at Meteor Crater's visitors center and at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.

Part of what drove up the price for this meteorite is its mineral composition, a meteorite expert told Space.com. Like just 2 percent of meteorites found on Earth, it's made of iron.

Several other meteorites, including a strangely textured one from Russia and another that originated on Mars, were sold at the Christie's auction.

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Sonorasaurus Proposed as Arizona's State Dinosaur

This illustration shows what Sonorasaurus, the only known specimen of which was found in Arizona, might have looked like. | Creative Commons

A dinosaur species whose only known specimen was found in Arizona in 1994 could soon become the official state dinosaur, thanks to a push by an 11-year-old boy (naturally).

Sonorasaurus — named for the Sonoran Desert, in which it was discovered near Sonoita — was about 50 feet long and weighed 4,000 pounds, a paleontologist who helped excavate the specimen told The Arizona Republic. The species lived during the Cretacious, a geologic period from 145 million to 66 million years ago.

Jax Weldon, an 11-year-old student at Hopi Elementary School in Phoenix, wrote to Governor Doug Ducey and state legislators last year about making Sonorasaurus the state dinosaur, the Republic reported. Arizona currently has no state dinosaur, but it does have an official state neckwear (the bola tie), an official state firearm (the Colt single-action revolver) and a state metal (copper).

Senator Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, has advanced a bill, Senate Bill 1517, to make Jax's dream a reality. It's actually the second time the Arizona Legislature has considered the move: Back in 1998, both Sonorasaurus and Dilophosaurus were in the running to become the state dinosaur, but that bill died in caucus.

The Sonorasaurus fossil unearthed in 1994 is on display at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson.

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On a Mission to Visit All 417 National Park Service Sites

Courtesy of Mikah Meyer

Mikah Meyer learned something when his father died of esophageal cancer at age 58 in 2005.

"I realized a lot of my peers seemed to think they were guaranteed to live to 80," says Meyer, a Nebraska native who was 19 then. "His death made me realize we're not guaranteed to make it to retirement."

Shortly after his dad's funeral, Meyer embarked on a long cross-country road trip as a way to process the loss. It was a healing experience, he says — and it drove home a lesson: "I might not have the time I think I have to do the things I want to do in life."

Now, it's safe to say, Meyer has fallen in love with the open road. His current road trip, which began in 2016, is taking him to all 417 National Park Service sites in the country. He's aiming to become the youngest person ever to see them all when he finishes the trip next year.

The journey recently took Meyer to Arizona, where he spoke with Arizona Highways before getting on a plane to visit Park Service sites in American Samoa, Guam and Hawaii. When he returns in March, he'll have four more Arizona sites to cross off, including Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Tonto and Organ Pipe Cactus national monuments.

The fourth is a tough one: Hohokam Pima National Monument, which is not currently open to the public. Meyer is hoping someone from the Gila River Indian Community will grant him special permission to visit the site. (If you know a guy, or know a guy who knows a guy, you can contact Meyer via his Facebook page.)

The high points of Meyer's trip so far, he says, have been places other than national parks — such as Chiricahua National Monument and Coronado National Memorial in Arizona, and national monuments and seashores elsewhere in the U.S. "Getting to go to those hidden gems, that's been the real highlight," he says.

Arizona plays a pivotal role in this adventure, because Meyer has visited before, on a trip that included a hike to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon. "That was my first time doing real camping in my life," he says. "If I hadn't had such a good experience there, I might not be doing this trip now."

There's an advocacy component, too. "When I started this journey, I realized the outdoors industry had never sponsored an openly LGBT person," Meyer says. "I thought I would have to hide that part of myself, but as people found that out [about me], they wanted me to share it and be that 'openly gay outdoorsman' role model."

In the same vein, he says, "there are very few openly gay Christian role models out there." He stops at churches along his route — including one in Glendale, where he'll be on April 1 — to sing, preach and raise money for the trip.

Meyer now has visited 292 of the 417 Park Service sites. Many of the remaining ones are in California and Alaska, but he'll then have to cross off some farther east — including one that didn't exist when he started his trek. He's aiming for a world record held by Alan Hogenauer, who was 39 years old when he finished the list in 1980. Back then, though, there were only 320 such sites.

Meyer will be 33 when he plans to finish, so he's got some margin for error. But he's not wasting any time.

Mikah Meyer sings and talks about his travels from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, April 1, at Foothills Christian Church (3951 W. Happy Valley Road) in Glendale. For more information, visit the event's Facebook page.

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New Bridge Takes Shape Along State Route 260

This new bridge will carry eastbound State Route 260 traffic over Cherry Creek. | Courtesy of Arizona Department of Transportation

Travelers on State Route 260 between Camp Verde and Cottonwood might notice a striking sight on the side of the road: a new bridge that's part of a $62 million widening project for the highway.

The Arizona Department of Transportation said this month that the new bridge will carry eastbound traffic over Cherry Creek. It has three spans of about 100 feet each, is 48 feet wide and is about 15 feet above the creek, ADOT said.

The entire project has reached its halfway point, the department said, and is on track to be completed by the end of 2018. It includes new eastbound lanes to increase the capacity of SR 260, along with seven new roundabouts.

Although ADOT plans to maintain two open lanes of traffic during construction, drivers are advised to slow down and watch for workers and lane shifts in the area.

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Happy Birthday, Arizona!

Rita Erickson | Heber-Overgaard

It's Valentine's Day, but there's something else to love for residents of the Grand Canyon State: Today is Arizona Statehood Day, which marks Arizona's 106th birthday.

Arizona officially became a state on February 14, 1912, according to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office. President William Howard Taft signed the legislation that created the state, which previously was Arizona Territory. George W.P. Hunt, the state's first governor, was on hand for the signing.

It was the 48th state admitted to the union, just behind New Mexico and ahead of only Alaska and Hawaii. To get there, it had to survive a 1906 move by Congress to combine it with New Mexico Territory and admit the two to the union as a single state. But the move required a majority of residents in each territory to vote in favor of it, and while New Mexicans did so, Arizonans overwhelmingly rejected joint statehood.

Despite being one of the nation's largest states, Arizona has just 15 counties — most of which rank among the 100 largest counties in America. In fact, for a long time, Arizona had just four counties — Mohave, Yuma, Pima and Yavapai. A fifth, Pah-Ute County, came along in the 1860s but disappeared a few years later.

Do you know any other interesting facts about Arizona? Let us know in the comments.

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Bisbee Deportation Documentary Makes Splash at Sundance

Fernando Serrano in "Bisbee '17." | Courtesy of Jarred Alterman/4th Row Films

An Arizona-produced film about an infamous moment in the state's history recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

Bisbee '17 premiered in the festival's U.S. documentary competition. The film, which was shot in Bisbee and used local actors for re-enactments, details the 1917 Bisbee Deportation — in which some 1,200 striking miners in the Southeastern Arizona town were rounded up, loaded onto trains and shipped to New Mexico.

The film opened to largely positive reviews at Sundance. As the Los Angeles Times wrote in its festival diary:

In less assured hands, "Bisbee '17" might have come across as an overly schematic thought experiment, rather than the coolly riveting, emotionally galvanizing achievement it is: a movie that doesn't just put history on trial, but reminds us that we're never not living it.

And a review from The Hollywood Reporter provides insight into the film's production:

Locals responded to calls for actors, and together they created scenes. Some would be structured and then improvised, others choreographed and sung. It's when the film makes its first seamless, haunting move between real life and performance that it finds its ghostly pulse.

Rolling Stone, meanwhile, named Bisbee '17 one of the 20 best movies and performances from the festival.

There's no word yet on a wider release for Bisbee '17, but you can follow the film on Facebook to see when it might be coming to a theater near you.

To learn about another aspect of Bisbee's history, pick up a copy of the March issue of Arizona Highways, which hits newsstands this week.


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'Humble Home' Project in Tempe Moves Forward

This rendering shows how a proposed "humble home" project in Tempe might look. | Courtesy of Newtown Community Development Corporation

It's not quite "tiny houses," but an innovative housing project in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe has received a green light from the City Council.

The city this month approved negotiations with a development corporation to build a "humble home" pilot project in the Jen Tilly Terrace neighborhood, near Rural Road and Apache Boulevard in central Tempe.

As KJZZ reported, the city hopes to build as many as 13 units on a 0.67-acre parcel that it will sell or lease to Newtown Community Development Corporation. The units won't be "tiny homes," the trendy dwellings that typically are less than 400 square feet. Instead, they'll be around 600 square feet, KJZZ reported.

The company also plans to create a rainwater and "graywater" recycling program to water the landscaping on the property.

A Tempe City Council said the project, originally conceived by Arizona State University students, could serve as a model for development of smaller parcels of land scattered around the city.

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Poaching, Other Game Violations Spur $75K in Fines in Arizona

Susan Beebe | Show Low

The Arizona Game and Fish Department issued 76 citations totaling nearly $75,000 in fines in 2017, the department said in a news release last week.

Of the 76 citations, 55 were for the illegal taking of big game, such as deer and elk, the department said. Other infractions included fishing violations, feeding wildlife and the illegal taking of raptors.

Game and Fish said in 2017, it received nearly 1,100 phone calls and online submissions to its Operation Game Thief program, which encourages the public to report suspicious activity. Nearly a third of those reports were regarding illegal taking of big game, the department said.

The department also revoked 51 hunting or fishing licenses last year as part of the penalty for violations. One of those was a lifetime revocation.

The $74,500 in fines goes into a fund that pays for Operation Game Thief rewards and promotion, the department said. Game and Fish receives no general-fund money from the state. Any meat that is seized from hunters is typically inspected, then donated to charity.

Game and Fish noted that mistakes and accidents happen, and that the department works with hunters and anglers who immediately self-report a violation via the Operation Game Thief hotline or online form.

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Horse Racing Could Soon Return to Prescott Valley Facility

Yavapai Downs in Prescott Valley hasn't hosted a horse race since 2010. | Google Maps screenshot

A Central Arizona facility that's been closed since 2010 has new owners and could soon resume hosting horse racing, according to media reports.

The Arizona Republic reported last week that Prescott Valley's Yavapai Downs has been bought by JACOR Partners, a Phoenix-based development company, for $3.22 million. The 90,000-square-foot facility opened in 2001 at a cost of $23 million, but it canceled its 2011 season due to financial troubles and hasn't hosted a race since.

A JACOR representative told The Republic that the company plans to host horse races in summer, when Prescott Valley is significantly cooler than the Phoenix area. That would continue a long tradition in the Prescott area: Yavapai Downs replaced the old Prescott Downs, which started hosting races in the early 1900s.

The new owners plan to invest heavily in improvements to the facility, The Republic reported. No opening date was specified.

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