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colin

San Manuel: Case Study in AZ Economic Evolution

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The Daily Star is running a special on the small town of San Manuel and its forthcoming smelter destruction.

http://www.azstarnet.com/special/sanmanuel

As Tucson and the rest of the state develop, towns like San Manuel, which itself was once solely a mining town and ranching center, are changing dramatically in dynamic. The days of the small, modest home and trailer park overlooking the San Pedro River and copper smelter are gone, and it's only a matter of time until some retirement community of tract homes is built.

To me, it typifies what's happening in Arizona. The question is, is this is a positive thing? Mining is invariably negative in an environmental sense, but is the suburban sprawl that replaces it that much better?

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Well, specifically in regards to this concept I always think of the West Valley in Phoenix (around the new stadium) and the Red Rock area northwest of Tucson. Both were cotton fields and are now being turned into housing. Since the land was already bladed for agricultural use, is it better to have the visual pollution of the tract homes or the actual pollution of the agriculture (or, in this case, mining)? Both have their downsides. In Red Rock, also, there's a feed lot that will probably be gone in a few years when the new residents complain about the smell.

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This is very interesting. How far is San Manuel from Tucson? It could be one of these cities that goes from 4,500 to about 30,000 residents almost overnight. I don't know if it's a good or a bad. I don't know very much about small towns in AZ. What I do know about them is from driving on the 10 or 17. And they just seem creepy as hell. Too far, from major cities. No major employers. No economy. Very rundown look driving thru them. As for this town It sounds very interesting.

I'm thinking people may need to start thinking of a new growth haven. The desert can only sustain so much life.

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San Manuel is about 60 miles from Tucson. Believe it or not, there are currently people who commute every day into town. There is even a park and ride lot at the intersection of the main road (formerly State Highway 76) and AZ 77.

Spot on on the assessment, Matt, because I think that's how many city dwellers feel about these little communities. But that's how they've kept their charm, I think: by avoiding those who would seek to turn them into another Bisbee (not that Bisbee is bad, but it's become a little touristy and yuppie). I like towns like Globe, Superior, Safford, Douglas, Ajo, Camp Verde, etc for this reason: they're true, unspoiled Arizona. Globe may even be changing. They had a B&B for a while built in an old schoolhouse, and a brewpub opened Downtown less than a year ago (haven't tried it yet).

These towns will remain "crappy" until developers finally come in and another Del Webb BS supermarket neighborhood. Although, I will agree that a lot of the Pinal County towns along I-10 between PHX and Tucson (Eloy, Coolidge, Picacho, etc) have nothing to offer. They're just nasty.

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Oh, and, Ben, you are correct about the San Pedro. Sierra Vista has been growing pretty quickly seeing that Fort Huachuca (effectively the headquarters for the Iraq War outside of the Pentagon) and the Border Patrol are their major employers. But their water source is mainly the San Pedro. I think it was last year that a portion of the river east of town that is normally perennial (i.e. - flows year-round) went dry for a few days. Right after that, Sierra Vista started talking about taking more water out of the river. The Tucson Weekly ran a good article about the whole thing, or maybe it was just when the Mexican interests wanted to revive the railroad along the river to ship hazardous chemicals.

It is a nationally-designated "Riparian National Conservation Area" from near the border to just south of Benson, but it then gets ciphened off to farms and ranches in Saint David and beyond (why you'll rarely see it flowing under I-10). The flow north of that is pretty iffy. The last time I was there (Cascabel, a remote area a few miles south of San Manuel) was late last summer, and there was quite a bit of water, but we did get a lot of rainfall.

The San Pedro is also one of the few unimpeded rivers in the state: no dams. The Verde is the other, and it is much more important that it remain that way. It's beautiful down there though. If you get a chance, head to the REAL (not Tombstone) ghost town of Fairbank. It's where AZ 82 crosses the river. Beautiful spot!

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From the maps I've seen (and there don't seem to be many, for whatever reason), the Sonoran Desert technically ends just east of Tucson. Cochise County is an upland transition between the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts, but the latter's boundaries also seem to be somewhat ambiguous. But I do love how you hit yucca-land all of a sudden on I-10 East.

SV is a horrible place. I don't understand how such an awful town can exist in such a beautiful environment. There are quite a few IT jobs there as well, but I'd consider the Phoenix ones before those.

My friend has a state parks pass and pointed out that she'd like to hit it. I've never been, so I'll probably go with her sometime soon. It certainly looks cool.

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My friend has a state parks pass and pointed out that she'd like to hit it.

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San Manuel Article in the Republic today, It kind of chronicles the history of the town. Talking about what San Manuel is banking on to survive.

linky

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