Preservation of Lands and Relics Lifts Us All
The following editorial appeared in the Daily Sun:
Preservation isn't always the best course in the land-use and art worlds.
Some lands are ideal for attracting clean, higher-paying jobs or creating affordable housing.
And some art may be best experienced and appreciated in a museum or even a school or city hall.
But two recent cases of preservation atop Observatory Mesa and regarding sacred Hopi religious objects are clear choices: Leaving special lands and artifacts undisturbed has intrinsic value in a world of commodification and commercialism. Just opting out of that world comes with a price tag -- literally -- but in these cases it was worth it.
The purchase of Observatory Mesa would be big no matter where it was located in Flagstaff. At 2,251 acres of state trust lands, it is three times larger than all of the parks in the city and 10 times bigger than Buffalo Park.
But situated hard by Lowell Observatory, the land was a potential source of light pollution that might have been the final straw for scientific observations atop Mars Hill. The light coming up from Flagstaff, despite being a Dark Skies city, is the reason the new Discovery Telescope is 40 miles southeast of town.
But the mesa is also a close-in wildlife preserve virtually in the backyard of west Flagstaff and a perfect example of why so many consider the city the ideal combination of urban sophistication and accessible nature.
Could the mesa have served as an outlet valve for pent-up demand for buildable land that would help to drive down housing costs? Undoubtedly.
But even the building community recognized early on that the mesa was part of scientific and natural legacy that current and future generations in Flagstaff deserve to enjoy in its natural state. The fact that city officials and citizen supporters stuck with the project nine long years until they had the $11.6 million purchase price in hand is a testament to just how strong the feelings were behind keeping development off the mesa.