A Cowboy’s Dream

Editors at Sonoran Truth:MASSTRANAGENDA

This to me is the saddest chapter in the story of my dealings with Sorchych, and how he thwarted open discussion of good ideas for the future of Cave Creek.

I had been going to Cave Creek since I was a young boy, and my great uncle would stop at Rowdy’s Drive-In (now Twigs) for burgers and shakes on our way to go all night fishing at Bartlett and Horeshoe Lakes.  On the way past what is now the Desert Mountain Development, he would point to the area north of it, and tell of once working in a gold mine there, which I later learned was 100+ acres of the Gold Hill ground that went back to before statehood.

I moved to Cave Creek in 1990 with my family as a quality of life decision for my family, including my two children entering grade school.  My wife had suggested that “we move out by your brother’s nursery” because of an operation my brother then had a 64th Street and Dixileta Drive, where he operated a landscape company and a tree salvage whole sale nursery after being the first to box and save our common thorn forest trees (mesquite, palo verde, ironwood, etc.)

After being there for some time, I began to see the potential to develop a sustainable form of equestrian based tourism for Cave Creek, and put hundreds of hours of my time and thousands of dollars of my limited funds into researching, presenting and promoting the idea, hoping that would allow me to bring good developers into Cave Creek and work with them and the Town on a win-win basis for all.

The Arizona tourism officials said that, when travelers first arrive in Arizona, they want to “see the Southwest, and find a piece of the Old West.”  For that reason, for a decade or two before Rawhide was moved from the SE corner of Scottsdale and Pinnacle Peak Roads to the Gila Indian Reservation, it was consistently the second or third most visited place in the state, after the Grand Canyon.  And it was little more than a fenced-in style operation that looked like a TV set for a Hollywood Western.

What I instead proposed for Cave Creek, through work I began in 1998,  was an entire idea that I called “A Cowboy’s Dream” after the famous lithograph by Lon Megargee, perhaps the most important early Arizona cowboy artist, who had once frequented Cave Creek and Wickenburg, when not at the property that later became Hermosa Inn in Phoenix.  It had three primary features beginning in the heart of Cave Creek, and moving out into the surrounding area:

1.  “Equestrian Streets” that would be hidden from the main roads behind a long row of western style retail buildings.  You would generally leave Cave Creek Road to park in parking lots between it and those buildings; enter and pass through them to find large porches looking out onto two double lane one-way equestrian streets used by horses and carriages that were lined in the middle and on both sides with large native riparian shade trees (like those growing along the bottom of Cave Creek itself).

2.  “Wagon Roads” – these would fan out from the downtown equestrian streets to pass safely through the residential and desert-rural areas around the town, to allow further travel by the horses and carriages.  The offsetting benefit to the landowners along their path would be a change in the General Plan to allow them to readily receive special use permits for the operation of riding stables and bed and breakfast operations.

3.  “Equestrian Trails” – those wagon roads would then connect to the large system of equestrian trails that were planned and continue to be developed in the entire area.  That means, when you stood on the porches of the equestrian streets, you would not only see buckboards and stage coaches (“Cave Creek Taxies”), you would see individual riders, who had come from as far away as the New River area.

For the initial development of the equestrian streets I mapped out workable routes along the south side of the entire 1½ mile stretch of Cave Creek Road as it passes from its major curve north of Town Hall and finally rises into Carefee on the eastern end.  For the initial portion of that major stretch, I showed how the ½ mile stretch of Cave Creek Road from the stop sign at Schoolhouse Road to the Buffalo Chip could be reconfigured into what I called the “Double U-Turns” so that the westbound lanes remained in their bowed location, while the eastbound lanes would then be moved south and straightened to “string that bow” with two pairs of the type of safe U-Turns that the Town so badly needed for safety reasons.

At my own cost, I produced and locally distributed to many local property owners and leaders a video called “A Cowboy’s Dream” (which I can still provide to you in VHS format) discussing the several primary elements of the overall idea.  I then delivered it to a Phoenix mortgage-real estate broker named Jim MacDonald, when I learned he had 5 wealthy heart doctor clients, who where purchasing the larger pieces of the 40+ acres need for the Double U-Turns through their company called Southwest Sands.
After watching my video, Jim told me they liked the idea very much, and asked that I assemble some of the local merchants  to show that they would support the overall idea.   I then make a 4’ x 8’ scale model of the Double U-Turns area, and arranged with the owner of the Buffalo Chip to bring local merchants and other local supporters to such a presentation in April of 1999, where they could also meet Jim and his clients.  The Foothills Sentinel published articles extending an open invitation to more local people as well.

However, as that presentation date drew near, Jim MacDonald appeared to back off, so I went to see him.  He began by asking why Sorchych would not like me or my plans, and explained that Sorchych had called him and essentially threatened to attach my plans publicly if Jim’s clients backed them.

His clients went on to acquire all or nearly all of those 40+ acres of ground, and to instead make other plans for them which ended up in litigation with the Town of Cave Creek; so they too never came to fruition.

My small family moved out of the Cave Creek area in 2004, and I moved my office in 2007 down near ASU to allow for some teaching I do there and some continued studies in sustainability.

What is so sad now, as I look back at what I had dreamed for Cave Creek, is to see how the downtown Cave Creek merchants have struggled over the decade since my plans for “A Cowboy’s Dream” could have begun to come to life, knowing how, among the many sustainable benefits from those plans for the people of the town and the area all around it, it would in particular have brought those downtown merchants far more business from both tourists and people from the Phoenix metro area, both of which are necessary for their survival.

Noel J. Hebets, NOEL J. HEBETS, PLC

127 East 14th Street, Tempe, Arizona  85281-6704

Office: (480) 488-4889   Fax: (480) 488-5875   Cell: (602) 361-2482

Email: Noel@NoelHebets.com   Website: www.NoelHebets.com/