Blog Posts Tagged ‘apache-junction’

Arizona City and Town Police Officers Honored

Congratulations to Arizona city and town police officers on commendable efforts that were recently recognized!

Officer Wes Kelley of Apache Junction Police Department (Photo Courtesy of City of Apache Junction)

Apache Junction Police Department Officer Wesley Kelley was recently named the Officer of the Year by the local American Legion.

Kelley was given the honor on April 9 by American Legion Post 27.

American Legion posts nationwide name officers of the year. The American Legion then annually selects a National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award. It is awarded to a well-rounded law enforcement officer who has exceeded the duty requirements expected of his or her position and has demonstrated a distinct pattern of community service coupled with professional achievement, according to the American Legion website.

“It is always an honor to have one of our officers recognized by one of armed service organizations,” said Police Chief Thomas E. Kelly. “It is especially humbling as these are the same people that have previously placed themselves in harm’s way in defending our country.  Officer Kelley is one of those officers that requires minimum supervision and is respected by his peers. He presents himself well and treats all with dignity and respect as stated in the Apache Junction Police Department’s mission statement. Very proud of the recognition.”

Prescott Valley Police Department Officer of the Year Cozens (Photo Courtesy of Town of Prescott Valley)

The Prescott Valley Police Department also held its annual police recognition awards. The Officer of the Year was announced as Officer Caleb Cozens.

Officer Cozens started his career with the Prescott Valley Police Department in June 2015, laterally transferring from Chino Valley.  He demonstrates a positive, upbeat attitude and is known for his professionalism, representing the Prescott Valley Police Department and the Town of Prescott Valley with pride.

A team player, Officer Cozens consistently produces a high quality of work, especially in the handling of drug investigations. He is a leader within the department in drug arrests and is always willing to take on extra work. Over the last year Officer Cozens has written 83 citations/warnings, written 262 reports and supplements, and made 131 arrests.

The Town of Prescott Valley also honored other officers with awards:

Prescott Valley Police Department Rookie of the Year Officer Loughmiller (Photo Courtesy of Town of Prescott Valley)


2016 Rookie of the Year – Cameron Loughmiller

2016 Community Policing Ribbon – Officer Tyler Brown

2016 Unit of the Year – Community Services Unit

2016 Civilian of the Year – Jerry Ferguson

2016 Volunteer of the Year – Dave Demski




35 Years in the Making – Parks Director Jeff Bell Leaves Legacy

Parks and Recreation Director
City of Apache Junction


There wasn’t a blade of grass in the name of Apache Junction Parks and Recreation, let alone a ball court or a piece of playground equipment. The city itself was still in its infancy – just a few employees, some trailers that doubled as offices and a used dump truck.

That is what Jeff Bell walked into at age 23. Three and a-half decades later, he can look back at having developed more than 2,000 acres of park and open space in a thriving operation that employs more than 100 full and part-time staff, has hundreds of volunteers and serves a community of tens of thousands, winning accolades from peers and citizens alike over the timespan.

The first Parks and Recreation director in city history retired earlier this year after 35 years of building a department from scratch.

“Jeff started with nothing and ended up with beautiful parks, a sparkling Multigenerational Center, and a tremendous staff to boot,” said Apache Junction Mayor John Insalaco. “It is nothing short of miraculous to see what Jeff has done since arriving in 1980.”

That year, a few weeks before Ronald Reagan would be elected president, Bell took the position of “community services coordinator” since there wasn’t a Parks department yet. Ground had just been broken on ball fields and tennis courts near Apache Junction High School. Bell began his job working with the school district to develop agreements for joint use facilities. That led to many projects, including the aquatic center at what has become Superstition Shadows Park.

Of course, Bell was destined for a career in recreation. Growing up in Casa Grande, he started volunteering with that city’s parks department before he was a teen-ager. He worked there through his school years and even after he went to Arizona State University, where he earned a degree in recreation management.

“For several years in our organization, Jeff was known as ‘Senor SOAR’ (Service Over and Above the Rest),” city manager Bryant Powell noted. “Jeff was our senior staff lead on this work. He embodied the idea. This was a several year assignment where Jeff took on extra duties to provide expertise to many city teams, helping them review and implement city staff customer service and process improvement projects.”

It started with Veterans Memorial Park on the city hall complex and now encompasses a system of parks, facilities and awards that rival any city. Bell oversaw the first programs, including a senior softball league that began right after he started to the comprehensive offerings of today. It was under Bell’s vision and leadership that Prospector Park was developed and, of course, the Multigenerational Center.

“Two things stick with me about Jeff,” said Klindt Breckenridge, president of Breckenridge Group, which designed the Multigenerational Center. “In designing the facility, Jeff brought up the idea of ‘connections’ – more than physical connections; but how the center would connect with all members of the Apache Junction community, seniors; young families; millennials; longtime residents and newcomers; fitness fans and leisure pursuits  – making the Multigenerational Center a welcoming place for everyone.”

Recreation Management magazine selected the center for its Innovative Architecture and Design Award in 2006 and Athletic Business subsequently featured the project in its publication.

But the list goes on – the Little League Park, Superstition Shadows Park and Aquatics Center which includes the skate park, Silly Mountain Park, and the Focal Point, all came to be over his time. Remarkably, Bell worked with the school district and the federal Bureau of Land Management to acquire the trails and open space, some of which became developed parks.

The agreement with the Bureau of Land Management led to what is now Prospector Park and the Rodeo Grounds, the Sheep Drive Trail (city multi-use trail) which extends for more than eight miles as well as the trails up Silly Mountain. The last 35 years also have included community partners, like the Superstition Area Land Trust and the Association for the Development of a Better Environment.

Acknowledgements abound over the years, from the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association and others. In 2004, the state association named Superstition Shadows Park the “Outstanding Facility for a community with a population under 60,000,” and the Arizona Department of Commerce and the Governor’s Office gave Parks an award for “Excellence in Rural Development” for Superstition Shadows Park.

In 2008, the Phoenix New Times honored Lost Dutchman Days with their award for “Best Place to See a Homegrown Rodeo.”

Bell also built a staff that is the envy of the region. Many have been acknowledged by the city and the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association. One of his protégés, Liz Langenbach, became the second Parks director in city history after Bell’s retirement.

Bell’s efforts continued right up to early this year in initial plans for the first downtown park, off North Apache Trail. The grass hasn’t even been planted yet – much like how Bell arrived in Apache Junction more than 35 years ago.

Southeast Valley Aquatics – Apache Junction, Casa Grande & Maricopa

Photo Courtesy City of Apache Junction

Photo Courtesy City of Apache Junction

Superstition Shadows Center 

Whether you’re a seasonal pass holder, or a first-time visitor, the Superstition Shadows Aquatic Cetner is the place to be for lap swimming, open swim, swim lessons, water aerobics, and other special events hosted all summer long. Other options include renting the facility for birthdays, office parties, or family picnics.  Come on out, and jump in – the water is fine! Located at 1091 W. Southern Avenue (between San Marcos and Ironwood Dr.). Call 480-474-5210 for more information.

Photo Courtesy City of Casa Grande

Photo Courtesy City of Casa Grande

Palm Island Aquatic Center

Bring the whole family down to Casa Grande for an afternoon of fun at the Palm Island Aquatic Center! The center includes open swim hours all summer long and continues weekend hours until Labor Day.

The pool has a giant water slide for the adventurous and a shallow entry pool and splash playground for the younger ones. Swim lessons also continue through the summer and fall months.


Photo Courtesy City of Maricopa

Photo Courtesy City of Maricopa

Copper Sky Aquatic Center 

Maricopa’s Copper Sky Aquatic Center is the perfect place to bring the family and cool off. An eight-lane, 25-yard lap pool with diving boards awaits experienced swimmers, while a leisure pool with a waterslide awaits families with children. The center also boasts a rock-climbing wall, lazy river and interactive splash pad for younger children.

The pool is open through September 15.



Apache Trail Historic Road

Photo Courtesy of Apache Trail Tours

Photo Courtesy of Apache Trail Tours

The Drive

Just east of the city of Mesa, turning off at State Route 88 (Idaho Road) from State Route 60, is the historic Apache Trail. The 42-mile long trip offers a bumpy, back-door, Salt River route from Apache Junction, on the eastern outskirts of Phoenix, to Theodore Roosevelt Lake and then on to the mining town of Globe. The paved portion of the Apache Trail leads past a ghost town, a gold mine, a desert mystery and a cliff-sided lake.

Beyond the city lights and nearby residents of the East Valley, the Sonoran Desert  on display with yuccas and saguaros can be seen as you make the journey down a roller-coaster descent to a robber’s refuge, past a lazy lake, through a river canyon, and on to the extrinsically constructed dam, which paved the way to what Phoenix is today.

Patient drivers with no fear of heights are rewarded with three awe-inspiring desert lakes and the history and mystery of thousands of years of human adaptation to a volcanic landscape of drought, shard and thorn. The road, completed in 1905, initially used to aid in the construction of Roosevelt Dam, offers a jagged stretch of the Salt River, which first nourished a thousand years of Salado civilization, receives its waters from the White Mountains and the Mogollon Rim country.

The Lost Dutchman

The route continues to amaze with its rich history as you are lead past the touristy ghost town of Goldfield and then to the rugged Lost Dutchman State Park. Goldfield enjoyed a flurry as a gold-mining town in the 1890s when a rich gold strike supported a population of up to 5,000, and yielded about $1.5 million in bullion before the mine shafts flooded and the ore played out in 1897. The town revived a few years ago as a tourist attraction, with reconstructed buildings, exhibits and a simulated mine tour. The Mammoth Steakhouse and Saloon caters to meandering visitors, actors put on weekend gunfights, and mine tours offer a glimpse of the deadly life of a hardscrabble miner.

The Lakeviews

Apache Lake comes into view from a striking vista point. Protected by the harrowing drive and the minimal facilities, Apache Lake offers excellent fishing and some of the best lakeside camping opportunities in central Arizona. It has a marina, complete with boat rentals, a restaurant, fishing shop and motel rooms, but remains much less developed or visited than Canyon Lake. When full, Apache Lake stretches for 17 miles and measures 266 feet deep, although drought has lately lowered lake levels. Isolated stands of cottonwoods, accessible only by boat, provide good camping spots.

Roosevelt Dam. After a succession of floods and droughts repeatedly debilitated a string of farming communities along the Salt River in Maricopa County, a coalition of politicians, farmers and others convinced the federal government to build a massive dam on the river to control floods, store water and generate power

Photo Courtesy of US Bureau of Reclamation

Photo Courtesy of US Bureau of Reclamation

Roosevelt Dam

Faced with the floods and droughts, early Phoenix farmers pressed the federal government to build the dam that launched the reestablishment of the West. Roosevelt Dam created what was in 1911 the world’s largest artificial lake – Roosevelt Lake with a million-acre-foot capacity, a depth of up to 190 feet and 89 miles of shoreline. Wrestling the 344,000 cubic yards of masonry into place in the remote, flood-prone canyon proved unexpectedly dangerous. During construction, relying on an innovative 1,200-foot-long cable line with iron scoops that could hold 10 tons of rock and mortar, 42 men died.

Decades later, an analysis of the growth rings on ancient trees in cliff dwellings scattered throughout the Salt River watershed disclosed that the Salt River could generate much larger floods than the original dam engineers had anticipated. The discovery triggered in 1996 a $430 million upgrade of the dam, boosting its height 77 feet to 357 feet. The work included a $21 million, 1,080-foot-long bridge that stands as the longest, two-lane, single-span, steel-arch bridge in North America. The bridge, like a giant outstretched arm, reaches across the canyon of Roosevelt Lake, taking traffic off the top of the dam, which was barely wide enough to accommodate two Model T Fords abreast. Engineers significantly lowered the level of Roosevelt Lake during the project, and Arizona State University archaeologists conducted a series of archaeological digs around the lake. They found a huge complex of buildings that accommodated Salado farmers who irrigated with canals.

While it’s still unclear why the Salado Natives abandoned their homeland, this piece of mysterious history is tied into the rest of the amazing sights and antiquity – all on display along the Apache Trail.

Peralta Trail – Superstition Wilderness

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of

The Peralta Trail is located on the southwest edge of the Superstition wilderness, stretching through two diversely vegetated canyons highlighted by Weavers Needle – a 4,553-foot spire that towers over the landscape.

This hike is rather strenuous with varied terrain, and can easily do a loop of 6.2 mile’s worth of hiking. But the terrific views and useful insight to the canyons’ complex volcanic origin, which begins at the mouth of Peralta Canyon and climbs earnestly on a rugged, heavily vegetated path, make the hike an all-around pleasant experience. Oak and mesquite envelop portions of the trail along the canyon’s seasonally flowing creek, and once you’ve reached the Black Top Mesa, the view is breathtaking.

Plan a late-afternoon hike to watch the sunset, or early morning while it is still cool and sun begins to creep its way over the top of the majestic peaks. What you decide, you will not be disappointed in this serene desert hike.

Superstition Mountain Museum

Photo Courtesy of Superstition Mountain Museum

Photo Courtesy of Superstition Mountain Museum

Nestled in the east valley of the city of Apache Junction the Superstition Mountain Historical Society was formed on December 27, 1979.  As a non-profit corporation under Section 501 (c) 3, funding goes to organizing, collecting, and preserving the history and legends of Arizona’s Superstition Mountains, as well as the research, education and publications necessary to preserve history.

Perhaps nowhere in the entire United States is there an area full of legend, history and intrigue as the rugged 160,000 acre Superstition Mountain range in the Tonto National Forest in Central Arizona.

Archeological evidence indicates that people were here some 9000 years ago. Later inhabitants included the Salado, Hohokam and Apache Indians, followed by Spanish explorers and Mexican Gold Miners. Early American trappers and adventurers migrated to the area and were soon followed by cattlemen and farmers. Eventually, the U.S. Cavalry was sent in to establish forts to protect this rapidly growing population.

As modern times approached, men and women began searching for what they believed was the richest gold mine in the world. This mine was made famous by Jacob Waltz, known as “the Dutchman”, who took the secret of “his mine” to the grave in 1891.

Even today, treasure hunters scour the mountains searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine, but now they share the region with campers, hikers, horseback riders and conservationists in what has officially become the Superstition Wilderness Area.

City of Apache Junction City Manager George Hoffman

George Hoffman PhotoIn Apache Junction, George Hoffman serves as the City Manager. Serving his community since 1987, Hoffman is an excellent leader, implementing long-lasting improvements and holding high ethical standards. He has prepared the community for growth, positively positioned the community with a low level of bonded indebtedness and demonstrated that Apache Junction is a community on the forefront with the first LEED Certified municipal building in Arizona.

George has not only benefited the citizens of Apache Junction; he strives to ensure positive and proactive partnerships with the business community, as well as other government entities in the region. Hoffman said that as city employees, they are “blessed to have responsibility for an organization and for a community.” He said that they “do not ‘own’ the organization, but we have the opportunity to serve others and to leave an organization and a community better than when we started.”

For his leadership and dedication, George recently received the 2013 Dwight W. Patterson Lifetime Achievement Award from the East Valley Partnership.

City managers like George are some of the many people who make Arizona cities and towns work!