Holbrook looks ahead to remove blight and improve amenities

By Toni Gibbons

Last year was a great year for the City of Holbrook according to City Manager Randy Sullivan and Community Development Director Kathleen Smith. “And I think 2018 is going to be even better,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan has tasked Smith with creating a comprehensive asset inventory for the city, which will include water, electricity and buildings. Within that creation, Sullivan is hoping to begin reaching out to the owners of the vacant buildings.

“We will hit both sides of the issue,” said Sullivan. “One is economic development. Do these owners have plans to create a business in the future and can we assist them, or do we need to do code enforcement.”

Smith said she spoke with Navajo County Economic and Workforce Development Director Paul Watson to see if the county could aid the city in bringing in commercial natural gas lines. “The interstate lines are about two miles from the city and would cost approximately $1 million per mile,” said Smith. While she realizes the county does not have the funding either, the hope is that by beginning the discussion, maybe other funding can be found perhaps at a state level.

Sullivan said he is planning to break ground this year on the Holbrook fishing pond on the west end of town. Work has been ongoing with Stantec Engineering to get the necessary permits from the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Once the pond is completed, there is a good chance that the Arizona Department of Game and Fish will include it in their urban program and maintain the fish and regulations at no charge to the city,” said Sullivan.

The 12-acre piece of land was donated to the city for the express purpose of creating a park. While seven of those acres will most likely be the pond, the remaining land will be turned into walking trails and natural spaces. “The park should help to revitalize that end of town,” said Smith.

The regulation-size soccer field behind Park Elementary School is slated to be finished this year with an opening in spring 2019. In addition, the city pool will undergo remodeling and maintenance.

The other big projects on the city roster aside from street repairs and the cemetery expansion project are promotion of cultural tourism and economic development.

“Tourism is still an industry,” said Smith, “and it is our goal to make tourism thrive year-round in Holbrook.”  This year she intends to focus on more marketing with an emphasis on cultural tourism.

From Route 66 to the Old West influence, Smith said there is also Hidden Cove Park with the petroglyphs and a birding pond, for which free guided tours are offered by the city.

Sullivan is working on creating façades to give the old buildings on the east side of Bucket of Blood Street a new look. The plans include a boardwalk and a wood wall that will show the ranching brands of Arizona.  Smith also wants to clear the weeds along the streets near the levee walking trail entrance to make it more appealing for visitors to access.

Earlier this month, Smith submitted several trails in Holbrook to be included in an app the Arizona State Parks is creating.  Included in those trails were the Little Colorado Levee System and the Hidden Cove Park trails.

Other projects on the roster for this year include:

* A chip seal project for West Florida Street from Navajo Boulevard to 8th Avenue, and another chip seal around Park Elementary School and the Navajo County Fairgrounds;

* The concreting of three roads including 13th Avenue between Buffalo and Erie streets; West Georgia Streets between 6th and 8th Streets; and East Georgia and East Florida streets to fix drainage issues.