The city of Prescott has an opportunity to protect one of the region’s most remarkable natural areas by negotiating to set the Granite Dells aside as open space, which would have a lasting impact on our recreation economy and the quality of life for residents. I want to speak about some of my personal experiences growing up in Prescott, the impact the Dells had during my teen years, and a better way forward for the city.
The first time I was arrested I was 13 years old. As young teens with a love for adrenaline, my friends and I had what seemed to be limited options during those early years. We would steal liquor, steal our parent’s vehicles, and go into town to vandalize indiscriminately. It was a progression, with each weekend an attempt to be more destructive than the last. Being arrested did little to change our behavior because it didn’t offer a better alternative. So, I continued on that path until my brother introduced me to rock climbing. I was hooked from the start. Instead of competing with my friends to see who could down a 5th of tequila the fastest, I began competing with myself to work out climbing problems, I learned to focus, and I developed the discipline needed to become a relatively good climber for my age. By the time I was 16 years old I was leading difficult routes in the Granite Dells, had confidence in myself, had a desire to travel and explore, and wanted to live a quality life.
Twenty five years later I find myself living in Colorado, in an area that has embraced the outdoor economy. Historically, recreation in this area was centered on skiing, but in recent years that has evolved to focus more on summer activities. My new town has been hard at work acquiring open space, developing in-town biking trails so youngsters can ride to school, and developing and marketing a world class mountain bike trail system. Just this past year, our counties open space department, with help from our local Land Trust and private donations, acquired the largest, most desirable tract of land in our valley to set aside as open space to the tune of 15-million dollars; not a small investment for a community of under 40,000 people. From an economic standpoint, prioritizing quality of life has been paying off. We’re becoming more of a destination for travelers, our economy is booming, people want to move here from other areas because of our recreation opportunities, and drugs and alcohol are less of a problem with the upcoming generation. Prescott has so many opportunities to do similar work to improve the quality of life for residents, create healthy options for youth, and stimulate its economy by attracting outdoor minded people.
Although I live in Colorado, I continue to have an interest in the planning of Prescott’s local amenities and open space, not only as a Prescott native, but also as the owner of real estate in downtown Prescott, as well as in Yavapai County out Williamson Valley Road. In addition, every winter my wife and I travel to Prescott to visit family, escape the cold, and recreate in places like the Granite Dells. The acquisition of the Granite Dells would be another major contribution to the area’s list of attractions. I’m hopeful that city planners and city council members listen to groups like Save the Dells, and organize a coalition of stakeholders to purchase or make an exchange to establish a Granite Dells Regional Park.