The above picture was taken at Picture Canyon on June 11, 2011 at the celebration of the completion of the Meander Restoration Project. Although certainly a cause for celebration, the presence of such a distinguished group of decision-makers at the event had even more to say about the potential for acquisition of Picture Canyon by the City of Flagstaff from the Arizona State Land Department.

Under Article 10 of the Arizona State Constitution, land held in trust by the State of Arizona is for the benefit of the state’s schools and other beneficiaries. Under this provision, when selling trust property, the State Land Department is required to maximize the value returned to the trust. The Picture Canyon Working Group has for years sought to make the case that this particular parcel’s maximum value is for conservation, not development.

A breakthrough occurred in early 2011 when Coconino County Supervisor Mandy Metzger and State Land Commissioner Maria Baier took a good look at the property and agreed that parts of it may indeed have more value for conservation than for development. Picture Canyon itself was clearly in that category, as were nearby areas dense with archaeological sites.

At a meeting in May of the Picture Canyon Working Group, Commissioner Baier suggested that the State Land Department might look favorably on a proposal by the city of Flagstaff to purchase the portions of the property that had greatest conservation value. This idea was then presented by city staff to the Flagstaff Open Spaces Commission, which is charged with recommending to City Council how to spend $3.18 million in remaining funds dedicated to the purchase of open space from the passage of a bond issue in 2005. The Commission voted to have an independent appraisal done of the property.

On August 22, 2011 the Flagstaff Open Spaces Commission voted unanimously to recommend to City Council that it dedicate the entire $3.18 million toward the acquisition of Picture Canyon “as quickly as possible.”

The State Land Department held a public hearing on February 14, 2012 at Flagstaff City Hall to gauge community support for making the purchase and to hear various stakeholders talk about its value to the citizens of Flagstaff. An estimated 300 citizens attended the hearing to express unanimous support for Picture Canyon’s acquisition and protection.

On March 30, 2012 the State Land Commission’s Conservation Advisory Committee met and unanimously approved the recommendation for reclassification of Picture Canyon as conservation. Their recommendation was subsequently approved by Commissioner Baier.

The City of Flagstaff submitted an application for a Growing Smarter State Trust Land Acquisition Grant by the June 30, 2012 deadline. The State Land Board of Appeals met in June to discuss the State Land appraisal value of Picture Canyon and determined the worth of the parcel to be $4.77 million.

In August the Conservation Acquisition Board unanimously recommended to the Arizona State Parks Board that the City of Flagstaff receive $2.389 million in grant funding for the acquisition of Picture Canyon. On September 20th, the Arizona State Parks Board voted unanimously to fully fund the City's grant application to acquire Picture Canyon.

On October 16th Flagstaff City Council unanimously approved the acceptance of the Arizona Preserve Initiative grant of $2.389 million for Picture Canyon and the resolution authorizing the City to acquire the land. The State Land Department scheduled an auction of the 479 acres that contain Picture Canyon at the Coconino County Courthouse for October 30, 2012.

The day finally arrived, and Picture Canyon was purchased by the City of Flagstaff for $4.8 million dollars!


Sometimes things just line up right

From left to right: State Land Commissioner Maria Baier, grazing lessee Joe Manterola, Coconino County Supervisor and Picture Canyon Working Group Chair Mandy Metzger, Flagstaff Mayor Sara Presler, Coconino County Supervisor Carl Taylor, and U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar


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