Flagstaff Snow Park Sent Back to the Drawing Board

Jul 19, 2012

Developers have proposed setting up a sledding and tubing area on the south side of McMillan Mesa.

But on Tuesday, the Flagstaff city council voted to postpone a decision on leasing the land to the developers.

Cries of “Read it! Read it” from members of the public who gathered at City Hall have sent the Flagstaff City Council back to the books.

Their summer reading?

A proposal that would lease city property to developers of a SnoPark.

The park would involve a 30-lane tubing and sledding area atop McMillan Mesa, a largely undeveloped hillside near Buffalo Park.

The council has postponed voting on the project after doubts arose over the process of official review and the level of public input.

Tuesday’s council meeting revealed apparent inconsistencies in city commission reports.  

John Crowley, the Sno-Park’s Developer, expressed his disappointment over the amount of time it’s taken to get approval for the project.   

“You know it’s the political process that we have at the community level, and it is what it is,” he said.

And the community made itself known in three hours of public comments.

Many expressed a strong desire to have a snow play area, but worried about traffic or noise

Others were excited about the prospect of the sledding area.

The organization Friends of Flagstaff’s Future presented the council with 500 signatures on a petition opposing the snow park.

Marilyn Weissman the group’s president and a resident of McMillan Mesa said, "This is going to change the whole nature of that part of town. “It’s going to basically bring our Route 66 tourist activity to an area of town that is primarily residential and open space.”

Across the street from the proposed site is the US Geological Survey Science Center.

Bob Hart, one of the lead scientists at the center, noted, “One reason we’re here on the hill is kind of the remoteness and the quiet we get here to do our research and studies. 

He added that traffic from the park would pose a problem.

Backers of the project argue that it would help alleviate traffic overcrowding at other sledding areas.

John Crowley, one of the Snow Park’s developers, believes there is a shortage of winter activities and safe sledding areas.

“You see every time it snows, people are at NAU, they’re on the side of the road, their kids are sliding onto 1-80 or highway 89. And this would give an outlet for the desire for winter recreation,” said Crowley.

The Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona see the development as an opportunity to bring in winter visitors.

They say the park’s central location makes it economically viable.

Flagstaff Mayor Jerry Nabours agreed, “It’s good for other merchants to have people from out of town.  Maybe before or after they play in the snow they’ll come downtown and spend money, go out to the mall and spend money.  

He adds, “It gives, you know, especially teenage kids, something to do.”

The council did amend details of the potential Sno-Park lease.

Night lighting won’t be allowed.

And the developers must pay a $75,000 security deposit to cover the cost of reclaiming the land if the project fails.

Flagstaff city council will revisit the issue on September 4th.