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Observatory Mesa Bid Video

City of Flagstaff Acquires Observatory Mesa

Flagstaff, AZ. At an auction held this afternoon on the steps of the Coconino County Courthouse, the City of Flagstaff successfully bid on the acquisition of Observatory Mesa, located in west Flagstaff.  The minimum bid started at the appraised value amount of $11.6 million.  The City of Flagstaff bid the minimum amount and, as there were no other competing bidders, was awarded the purchase of the property at that amount.  

With funding from the 2004 voter approved Open Space bonds and a 2013 Growing Smarter Grant from Arizona State Parks, the City of Flagstaff will now be able to protect and preserve 2,251 acres of land west of Lowell Observatory. As critical wildlife habitat, a popular recreation corridor, and protection from light pollution for our dark skies, Observatory Mesa is a natural and cultural amenity for northern Arizona. The acquisition of Observatory Mesa provides a natural place for members of the Flagstaff community to learn about ecology, geology, and astronomy, while participating in outdoor recreation.

“This acquisition is a true testament to the vision and tenacity of the group of Flagstaff residents who years ago imagined that Observatory Mesa could one day be permanently protected. I am thrilled that the City completed this long-awaited purchase and will make this unique historical, cultural, archeological, recreational and educational resource available for present and future generations to enjoy.” said City Manager Kevin Burke.

Background Information

Efforts to protect Observatory began decades ago and continue today. A milestone was achieved in August 2012 when the City of Flagstaff Open Spaces Commission approved the use of the remaining Open Space bond funds for the acquisition of Observatory Mesa.

In March 2013, the State Land Commissioner ordered that Observatory Mesa be reclassified as suitable for conservation purposes through the Arizona Preserve Initiative.

On September 18, 2013, the Arizona State Parks Board awarded the City of Flagstaff a $6 million Growing Smarter Grant to apply towards the costs of acquiring 2,251 acres of State trust lands at Observatory Mesa for conservation purposes.

Conservation values associated with Observatory Mesa include:

-          Observatory Mesa is an elongated, flat topped, volcanic feature lying west of Flagstaff and south of the San Francisco Peaks. A-1 Mountain is at the higher, northwest end of the Mesa. This 8,300 foot cinder cone was the source of a 300,000-year-old volcanic flow that formed Observatory Mesa.

-          The vegetation throughout is primarily Ponderosa Pine and Gambel Oak forest, with open sections supporting extensive grassland tracts and shrub steppe. There are woody species that provide important wildlife forage including New Mexico locust, mountain mahogany, juniper, smooth sumac, Apache plume, wild rose and wax currant.

-          The Mesa top provides seasonal grazing for elk, deer, mountain lion, and antelope. Fox, black bear, porcupines, skunks, Abert squirrels, song birds of the open grasslands, pine forest and oaks, and birds of prey like the northern goshawk and great horned owl call the Mesa home.

-          Observatory Mesa is attractive as a recreational area for both residents and visitors. Camping, biking, hiking, running, snowshoeing, bird watching, and cross country skiing are just a few of the uses.

-          The expansive viewshed of Observatory Mesa enticed the founders of Lowell Observatory to locate here near the turn of the century. Lowell Observatory has been a significant and stalwart Flagstaff economic factor for over 100 years. In particular, its reputation attracted the Flagstaff Station of the U.S. Naval Observatory and the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeological branch to locate here.

The City of Flagstaff will host a public celebration of the acquisition at Observatory Mesa in the summer of 2014.

For more information please contact McKenzie Jones at (928) 213-2153 or .