Mormon Temple in Mesa Closes for Two-Year Renovation

The Mesa Arizona Temple is shutting down until 2020 for an extensive renovation. | Richard Webb

One of the Phoenix area's most well-known religious facilities will be closed for renovations for the next two years.

The Mesa Arizona Temple — commonly known as the Mormon Temple — shut its doors Saturday, May 19, Phoenix TV station 12 News and other outlets reported.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says the renovation, which should be complete by 2020, will upgrade the 70,000-square-foot building's air conditioning, plumbing and other building infrastructure. It also will demolish the temple's visitors center to provide a clear view of the temple from Main Street in downtown Mesa. The visitors center will be replaced by a "family discovery center" in a different location on temple property, the church said.

Other changes include restoring the temple and grounds to their original design by reversing changes from the last major renovation, in the 1970s.

The temple, which opened in 1927, is perhaps most widely known for its annual Easter pageant and for its Christmas light displays, which draw hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. Those events will be on hold during the renovation, the church said.

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Death at Horseshoe Bend: A Tragic Safety Reminder

Horseshoe Bend is a haven for photographers, but getting the perfect shot shouldn't come at the expense of safety. | Leila Shehab

A Phoenix man visiting an Arizona site familiar to photographers and Arizona Highways readers fell 800 feet to his death last week, authorities said.

The death of 33-year-old Zachary Wallace — who, as the Associated Press reported, fell from the Colorado River overlook the afternoon of Sunday, May 6 — is a tragic reminder of the need to take safety precautions at Horseshoe Bend and other remote Arizona locations.

Until recently, there was no safety railing at Horseshoe Bend, which is near Page and is part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. But in late 2017, the National Park Service announced it was beginning construction of a railing at the overlook; as of April, that project was still ongoing.

The Park Service said the railing will encompass only the area at the end of the trail. It added that visitors could still walk along the canyon's rim in areas without a railing, but that this is "not recommended."

While the circumstances of last week's tragedy are still unclear, there's no doubt that it's remarkably easy to forget about safety when you're in search of that perfect Instagram shot. But keep in mind that Horseshoe Bend has quickly gone from a hidden gem to a highly visited destination: More than 2 million people a year now visit the overlook, according to the Park Service. That means you're likely to be jostling with at least a few other photographers to get that perfect angle.

It's often windy there, too, as it is at many such overlooks. And a strong gust could be enough to knock you off balance and over the edge. So, whether you're at Horseshoe Bend, the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly or some other spectacular Arizona vista, heed the Park Service's recommendation and stay behind the railing, if there is a railing. If there isn't, stay several feet back from the edge.

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Expect Delays for Bridge Replacement on Navajo Nation

This map shows the location of a new bridge being installed along U.S. Route 160 on the Navajo Nation. | Courtesy of Arizona Department of Transportation

From our friends at the Arizona Department of Transportation:

PHOENIX – A $6 million Arizona Department of Transportation project [that started] Monday, May 7, is creating a new US 160 bridge at Chinle Wash in far northeastern Arizona.

Those using US 160 through the area should expect delays up to 20 minutes with this work underway at milepost 429, just west of Mexican Water on the Navajo Nation. A temporary traffic signal will have traffic alternating through one lane on the existing bridge.

The new three-span bridge will be 280 feet long and nearly 9 feet wider than the current bridge. The project, which scheduled to finish by year’s end, also will realign the roadway and install new pavement markings, among other improvements.

For more information on this and other projects, visit azdot.gov/Projects (see Northeast District Projects).

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Scottsdale Artists' School Celebrates 35 Years of Community Art

Courtesy of Scottsdale Artists' School

When you think of art schools in Phoenix, you probably think of the Art Institute of Phoenix or Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. But years before these schools were established, the nonprofit Scottsdale Artists’ School opened its doors for the first time. With hopes of bringing fundamental art training to the Phoenix metro area, a group of artists and community members set out to form a new kind of art school — one where artists of all skill levels could come to perfect their craft or learn something new.

The school has always operated out of Scottsdale but has moved three times; it’s now in a city-owned Spanish Colonial Revival building that dates to the 1920s. And even though the Scottsdale Artists’ School doesn’t offer an accredited art program, it’s been offering hands-on art courses and workshops since 1983. In the beginning, those were mostly small workshops, lectures and demonstrations. Today, the curriculum has greatly expanded, and nearly 250 workshops are offered a year.

Courses include multi-day workshops taught by artists from around the country, shorter classes and workshops from local artists, and a youth art program offered year-round. There also are destination plein air workshops, where students travel to other states to paint still life landscapes with experienced instructors, along with courses and workshops on fine art fundamentals, drawing, oil and watercolor painting, sculpting and photography.

“Learning at Scottsdale Artists’ School is a wonderful, unique experience,” says Trudy Hays, the school’s executive director. “We’re gathering together a group of people who have a strong love, passion and interest in art, and it has really created an artist community.”

Hays says the organization tries to offer a wide range of opportunities and courses at varying price points and times, so they’re accessible to all. One popular option for those with a busy schedule is Open Studio, offered weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. A model and equipment are provided, and anyone can bring their own supplies to paint, sculpt or draw for $10. In addition, the school offers need- and merit-based scholarships.

Aside from the assortment of courses offered, what’s truly set the school apart is the stature of its instructors. More than 500 artists have taught courses at the Scottsdale Artists’ School — from Jim Reynolds, Harley Brown, Richard Schmid and John Coleman, in the early days, to Milt Kobayashi, Gregg Kreutz, Daniel Keys and Rose Frantzen today. And students from Japan, England, Australia, Canada and even Kuwait have traveled to Scottsdale to learn at the school, Hays says.

The school aims to benefit the community by partnering with local organizations, including Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, Boys and Girls Clubs and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Another ongoing partnership is with ON Media Publications and Act One, an organization that helps provide access to the arts in Arizona. Every year, the school holds an annual online contest where, for a $15 entry fee, artists can submit an original work of art to be considered for the cover of a school publication. A portion of the entry fee supports Act One, and the winner of the contest receives exposure of their work to thousands of art lovers, as well as a $200 gift card to the Scottsdale Artists’ School. (This year’s contest is open until Friday, May 11.)

Although a lot has changed at the Scottsdale Artists’ School in its 35-year history, the organization continues its mission of enriching the arts community and developing artists. “We’ve had people who started their art journey at Scottsdale Artists’ School and are now professional artists and come back to teach a course.” Hays said. “It’s clear that we play a big part in people’s lives, whether they go on to become professional artists or they enjoy doing art as a hobby.”

To learn more about art classes, workshops and upcoming events offered at the Scottsdale Artists’ School, visit www.scottsdaleartschool.org.

— Emily Balli

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Study: Phoenix-Area Cities Among Best for Single Homeowners

With sunsets like this one, it's no wonder single people are opting to settle down and buy houses in Scottsdale and other Phoenix-area cities. | Matt Heacock

A new study places the Phoenix suburbs of Chandler, Scottsdale and Mesa high on the list of U.S. cities where single people own homes.

As Phoenix radio station KTAR reported last week, the study by Smart Asset looked at one-person households in cities across the country and determined how many of those residents own, rather than rent, their homes. In Chandler, the study found, 54 percent of singles own their homes, putting the city fourth on the nationwide list for home ownership by singles.

Not far behind were Scottsdale, which placed sixth, at 52 percent home ownership by singles; and Mesa, which was eighth, at 51 percent. In Mesa, the study noted, 52 percent of those owner-occupied one-person households are owned by seniors, the highest such rate in the country.

Two Virginia cities, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, took the top two spots on the Smart Asset list. Aurora, Colorado, was third.

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Arizona-Based NASA Project Detects Large Asteroid

Karen Martin | Wupatki National Monument

An Arizona-based group that scans the night sky for near-Earth asteroids recently detected one that passed within 119,000 miles of our planet.

That might not seem very close, but according to KTAR radio, the asteroid — which is about as wide as a football field is long — is the largest space rock of its size to come that close to Earth in recorded history. (To put it in perspective, the moon is about 239,000 miles from Earth, on average.)

The Catalina Sky Survey, based in the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson, detected the asteroid, which passed by Earth on April 15. (You might remember the Catalina Sky Survey, a NASA-funded University of Arizona program, from the June 2017 issue of Arizona Highways.)

The asteroid was detected only a day before the close encounter. A similarly sized asteroid created Meteor Crater, east of Flagstaff, about 50,000 years ago, KTAR reported.

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It's Official: Sonorasaurus Is 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 bill signed this month by Arizona's governor gives the state something it didn't previously have: an official dinosaur.

Governor Doug Ducey's signature means that Sonorasaurus — the only known specimen of which was discovered near Sonoita in 1994 — is now Arizona's state dinosaur, KTAR radio and other outlets reported recently.

The push to honor Sonorasaurus came from Jax Weldon, a Phoenix 11-year-old who last year wrote to Ducey and state legislators about the dinosaur. As KTAR reported, the large reptile, which was related to Brachiosaurus, likely lived in the Middle Cretaceous, roughly 112 million to 93 million years ago.

Sonorasaurus is thought to have been about 50 feet long and 27 feet tall. A previous effort, in 1998, to honor the dinosaur never advanced in the Legislature.

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Adopt a Highway Volunteers Put Up Big Numbers in 2017

Daniel Clarke | San Manuel

From our friends at the Arizona Department of Transportation:

Almost 1,500 miles of landscape cleaned along state highways. Fourteen-thousand bags of trash collected. Half a million taxpayer dollars saved. 

That’s what nearly 11,000 volunteers wearing lime-yellow vests accomplished in 2017 through the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Adopt a Highway program.

With many other highway stretches available for adoption, even more can be accomplished in 2018.

“As a frontier state, Arizona has a long history of self-sacrifice and volunteerism, and these impressive numbers illustrate those values,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “Highways provide a first impression of Arizona for many visitors, so we all owe a debt of gratitude to those who are investing time and effort through Adopt a Highway.”

Regardless of how many people volunteer for Adopt a Highway, Halikowski said, everyone has a responsibility for keeping Arizona litter-free.

“We have to continue changing the culture until everyone instinctively knows that littering is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.

Volunteer groups can apply for two-year permits to adopt highway stretches using an application available at azdot.gov/AdoptAHighway. Highways are available in ADOT engineering and maintenance districts around Arizona, and each district has someone available to help groups make selections.

Those accepted for the program get their own instantly recognizable blue sign featuring the name of the organization or group. Groups are expected to clean their stretches of highway at least three times a year.

Volunteers must be at least 12 years old, and cleanup crews should consist of six to 10 people. Groups schedule their cleanups ahead of time with their local ADOT districts, which provides trash bags, scheduled collections and safety training.

Adopt a Highway also has a sponsorship program through which businesses use ADOT-approved providers to clean up along busier highway stretches that tend to attract more litter. Participants in the sponsorship program can have their names and approved logos on blue Adopt a Highway signs.

Mary Currie, who oversees Adopt a Highway volunteer programs, said volunteers include those drawn to service, including retirees, civic organizations and faith groups, as well as families who adopt in memory of a loved one who has passed away. Volunteers tend to have two characteristics: a lot of drive and a love of the outdoors.

“It’s not easy working under the Arizona sun,” Currie said. “But it’s a great way to get exercise and have fun with friends, family or colleagues while providing an invaluable service to Arizona.”

More information on Adopt a Highway opportunities is available at azdot.gov/AdoptAHighway.

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Saguaro National Park Using Microchips to Deter Cactus Thieves

Saguaro cactuses guard a hillside in Saguaro National Park's Tucson Mountain District. | Vijay Kannan

People continue to steal Arizona's iconic saguaro cactuses, and a national park in Southern Arizona is turning to high-tech measures to try and stop the thefts.

Saguaro National Park, which has districts east and west of the Tucson area, continues to implant microchips in its namesake cactuses, Cronkite News reported last month. (Arizona Highways reported in 2015 that the park was using the technology.)

While it isn't feasible to microchip each of the park's 1.9 million saguaros, the park said it spent $3,000 to implant the chips in 1,000 cactuses located in perimeter areas most accessible to park visitors. The chips do not broadcast a signal, but a special device can scan the cactus and tell if it was stolen, officials said.

The park is hopeful the technology will help deter thieves, who sometimes can fetch as much as $100 a foot for a stolen saguaro. It's illegal to disturb plants and animals in any national park, but Arizona also outlaws the removal of saguaros from state or private land without a permit.

Saguaro National Park isn't the only Arizona park using high-tech means to stop theft, Cronkite News reported. At Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook, a photo-mapping system is used to keep visitors from stealing pieces of petrified wood.

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Arizona Diamondbacks Bringing Bullpen Cart Back to Major Leagues

Courtesy of Arizona Diamondbacks

The last time a Major League Baseball team used a cart to take pitchers from the bullpen to the mound, the Arizona Diamondbacks didn't exist.

But that isn't stopping the team from bringing the longtime baseball tradition to Chase Field for the team's 20th anniversary season. The Diamondbacks announced the move last week, with baseball's spring training underway at several locations in the Phoenix area.

The use of a motorized vehicle to transport relief pitchers began in the 1950s, the team said in a news release. Its last known use was in 1995, when the Milwaukee Brewers employed one. The Diamondbacks began play in the 1998 season.

"We have been working on this idea for several years, and there's no more appropriate time to bring back the bullpen cart than this season, as we celebrate our 20th anniversary," D-Backs President and CEO Derrick Hall said.

Delivery company OnTrac will sponsor the cart, which is being built by SportsKartz, a Tampa-based company, the team said.

Online reaction to the news appeared mixed, with some baseball fans expressing optimism that the cart would speed up pitching changes and improve the pace of play at Chase Field. Others, however, wondered if the excitement of a star reliever entering a game might be tempered by having him ride in a cart, rather than run in from the bullpen.

What do you think about the move? Let us know in the comments.

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