The river road on the Parker Strip is to reopen north of Sundance Saloon after a unanimous decision by the La Paz County Board of Supervisors Monday.
Photo by Melissa Wright Photography.
The scenic stretch of road has been closed since 2014 when heavy rains led to a rockslide of several large boulders which landed on the narrow two-lane roadway, blocking it and prompting safety concerns by then District 2 Supervisor King Clapperton. After an engineering evaluation and liability concerns from the Arizona Counties Insurance Pool (ACIP), gates were erected on the north end at Buckskin State Park and the south end near Sundance Saloon, closing it permanently to traffic of all kinds.
Current District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor prompted the reopening of the road on Monday’s agenda after receiving “numerous, numerous” requests for it. He told the meeting that there was a recent informal evaluation by Public Works Director Tom Simmons and some engineers. Although the County does not have the money for a formal report at this time, he said that “weather is the issue”, with rockslides likelier during heavy rains. So he proposed opening the roadway permanently, with closures during wet conditions for safety.
Supervisor Holly Irwin agreed with the the suggested reopening, saying that the road is a beautiful drive and that it was closed based on 2014 information, with Simmons having done “quite a bit of work” since on the roadway.
Chris Chambers of Buckskin Fire Department said there will always occasionally be rockslides, and that the river road is similar to Pacific Coast Highway in that regard. He added that Buckskin can’t get its engines through with the current closure and “highly recommend” reopening the road for safety. Another comment concurred with this, adding that some people drive slowly on Highway 95 “looking around” and it would be better if they had the option to take the scenic route along the river.
Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Director Mary Hamilton also voiced her support for reopening the road, saying it is a scenic area and good for tourism.
Supervisor DL Wilson reiterated the 2014 concerns, saying that he wasn’t sure who would be responsible for defining how heavy the forecasted rain would need to be to close the road, and who would be responsible for closing and opening the road. Minor suggested it would be Public Works, as the department already does for Tyson Wash near Quartzsite and other areas. Simmons came to the podium to say that the Board’s recent decision means that overtime must be pre-authorized, and that may impact their ability to attend to such things.
Chambers came back to say that Buckskin would help close and reopen the gates, and Lieutenant Richard Epps of the Sheriff’s Department said they would agree to do so too.
Ultimately the Board approved the reopening on a permanent basis, with periodic closures during times of bad weather. There may be future drainage projects at the location when funding permits.