By Gerry Kaufhold
Special to Copper Area News
Since January, the Copper Area News has been covering the Kearny River Fire Recovery Project.
Bill Dunn and the Winkelman Natural Resource Conservation District (WNRCD), the Town of Kearny, and local residents worked with 14 seniors from Arizona State University’s Herberger Design School. Dr. Chingwen Cheng and her PhD candidate, Mohsen Garshasby, coordinated this project.
Dr. Cheng and her group traveled to Kearny several times to seek community input, conduct surveys, and lead interactive workshops that helped our residents tell the ASU Students what the folks in Kearny wanted.
On Thursday, April 28, the students presented a quartet of distinct proposals. Four professors from design colleges and Kearny Mayor Sam Hosler carefully reviewed and rated each presentation.
All proposals included designs for low-cost wetlands to be created south of Kearny and west of the airport bordering the Gila River floodplain. Wetlands are effective during floods because they disperse incoming waters into numerous detention basins. This reduces the velocity of the incoming flood stream, slows down how fast the waters rise, and ultimately reduces the damage. One of the student teams showed computer simulations of 25, 50 and 100-year flood events to demonstrate how their wetlands proposal would basically keep even a 100-year flood from getting beyond the railroad tracks.
Several student teams envisioned a single beach area behind the Pioneer Park baseball fields and south of the suspension bridge along the Gila River. This area is already a natural beach used by many residents. The proposals showed improved road access, a few paved parking spaces, and areas for picnic tables with native trees for shade.
All designs included plans for removing existing Salt Cedar trees and creating 40-to-200 foot wide trail areas that act as firebreaks while also connecting existing trails up and down the river. One design provided three types of trails for pedestrians, horses, and motor-powered ATVs. They all provided lists of local vegetation and native tress that would be introduced to replace and block re-growth of the invasive Salt Cedar trees. Chris Postel suggested that the WNRCD might work with their affiliated group in Safford to plant and germinate seeds for planting in these firebreak areas.
Three of the groups presented “above and beyond” concepts for an improved park on Tilbury Drive next to the Kearny Library. Plans included serpentine walkways, benches with trees for shade, signage with educational information, improved lighting and upgrading Wi-Fi access to the library.
The team lead by Yuri Lechuga-Robles suggested a “Hollywood”-sized sign, dramatically up-sizing the existing KEARNY sign at the top of Tilbury Hill. Mitchell Buglewicz’s team had an idea to provide shade trees at the existing Town Lake that would not interfere with the pond liner.
Sam Reidhead of ASARCO drove up from Tucson, and Betty Wagner of Aravaipa also attended the day-long event.
A CD-ROM of the complete presentations will be made available, and the wall-sized posters used in the presentations will also be provided to the Town of Kearny. Thanks to all who participated!