Arizona Highways-Will Parker Soon Be A Ghost Town?

This is from a blog post for Arizona Highways:

Future Ghost Towns?

I’ve always been intrigued by the stories of those folks who live in tiny, rural communities — Who are these people? What do they do? Where do they work? What’s an average day-in-the-life like?

My curiosity has deepened thanks to my gig here at Arizona Highways… you see, one of the perks of the job is that I get to travel around our amazing state.

Along the way, I’ll sometimes pass through a middle-of-nowhere outpost… I usually want to stop the car, get out and wander for a bit. Sometimes I’ll take that moment… I did that recently when I passed through Quartzsite.

Occasionally, a stop-over can turn out to be very fruitful, like when my colleague (and sometimes partner-in-crime-slash-fellow-jerky-girl), Managing Editor Kelly Kramer and I (I, being Kathy Ritchie the Associate Editor in this outfit) stumbled upon Daniel’s Really Good Fresh Jerky in Parker, AZ.

Whoda thunk it? Really good jerky in Parker.

Unfortunately, rural America is shrinking fast. And rural Arizona is certainly no exception. The 2010 Census Report shows that places like Parker, Bisbee and Tombstone have lost a good chunk of their populations.

■The town of Hayden shrank 26 percent, dropping to 662 people in the past decade.
■The Sun Valley area in Gila County dropped 79 percent, to 316 residents.
■Parker dropped 2 percent. Superior fell 13 percent.
■Tombstone and Bisbee each lost 8 percent of their populations.

The reason?

According to Mark Mather, Associate Vice President of the Population Reference Bureau, a research group in Washington, D.C, “many rural areas can’t attract workers because there aren’t any jobs, and businesses won’t relocate there because there aren’t enough qualified workers. So, they are caught in a downward spiral.”

Here’s another interesting tidbit, as some rural areas simply wither away, metropolitan areas are ever expanding and exploding… In fact, according to the report, of the 10 fastest-growing places, all were small cities incorporated into the suburbs of expanding metro areas, mostly in California, Arizona and Texas.

But let’s face it… many of the off-the-beaten-path-hamlets in Arizona are not going to be absorbed by the bright-lights-big-city.

That means a day will come when many these places will simply cease to be much of anything at all… maybe some will be resurrected or maybe some will fall off the map completely.

I don’t know how or even if we can save some of these rural outposts, but what I can suggest is that the next time you drive through a Parker or Superior, get out and walk around.

You never know what you might find.

~KAT, Associate EditorShare this:

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Here’s My Reply:
Parker Area Tourism
July 28, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Dear Miss Ritchie:

I first want to thank you for telling people to stop in Parker and get out and look around. I am confused though, as to why would you include Parker, AZ in your “Future Ghost Towns” story with a 2% reduction from the 2010 census. You failed to mention that although the Town was down in their count for the census, our county was up. So, they moved outside of the one-square mile township. These numbers do impact our local government because counties and municipalities generally are allocated a portion of these receipts based on resident population. Our economy is based on tourism and our county and town are far from becoming “ghostly.” La Paz county saw a 6.7% increase in total travel spending for the year 2010. In 2009, we saw a decrease of almost 17% in total travel spending. The entire State of Arizona was down 10% in total travel spending. So, we’re on our way back up. In recent and consecutive years, La Paz County has provided up to $216 million in total travel spending. (Per Dean Ruyan Associates for Arizona Office of Tourism.)

The Town of Parker is in great financial shape and our Downtown Shopping Area will be full this year. Four new businesses have moved into the downtown area that include Sears and the return of a NAPA Auto Parts store. Furthermore, the County is in negotiations to house a 2500 ft tall solar power plant that will employ 1500 people for 2-3 years and 41 permanent employees. Plus, it will provide another “destination driver” attraction to our area.

In addition, for the year 2010, according to Dean Runyan Associates for the Arizona Office of Tourism, La Paz County is tied for third place in State Transaction Privilege Taxes Generated by Direct Travel Spending. That’s ahead of Mohave County and Yuma County on Arizona’s West Coast and includes Maricopa County! Unbelievable!

And, your readers should know that Parker, Arizona is the home of the famous “Parker Strip Recreation Area.” Parker is the home to many beautiful hotels, motels, RV Resorts and camp sites along both the Arizona and California sides of the 16-mile stretch of the Colorado River. We boast the best boating on the “West Coast” of Arizona, the “East Coast” of California and “Best in the Desert Racing Association” has tagged Parker, Arizona as the “Off-road Capital of the USA.”

So, don’t put us in that category just yet, Kathy! And, by the way, when you and Kelly were in Parker at Daniel’s Really Good Jerky, you were right across the street from our visitor’s center. It is surprising to me that a managing editor and an associate editor for an Arizona Highways “blog spot” wouldn’t stop in a visitor’s center to learn more about the community.
Thanks for your time!

Mary Hamilton
Executive Director
Parker Area Tourism

11 comments

  1. Too many journalists have no idea what takes place in rural America, because their points of view are rootbound, in the same way that a plant’s container limits nourishment. It’s tragic how many urbanite comments posted on the heels of publicity about Quartzsite, for example, reveal a degree of hypocrisy and bigotry that can only come from inbred thinking and over-socialization. They remind me of the Beloit College’s Mindset Lists, where students have no meaningful recollection of life beyond the end of their noses. Traveling provides opportunity for education that money can’t otherwise buy, but few bother to actually travel today. Instead, they sign up for group tours, complete with destination purveyors that only serve to isolate travelers from the local population, the outcome being that every single traveler goes home with the same experience, as though it’s a trip to McDonalds for a Big Mac.

  2. You guys make no sense. The author wrote about getting out and taking a walk in these rural communities. Methinks you get your feelings hurt waaay to easy!

    Thanks KAT! Great article!

  3. I think this says it about Parker,

    According to Mark Mather, Associate Vice President of the Population Reference Bureau, a research group in Washington, D.C, “many rural areas can’t attract workers because there aren’t any jobs, and businesses won’t relocate there because there aren’t enough qualified workers. So, they are caught in a downward spiral.”

    Sound familiar?

  4. Hi Michael!

    Guess what I got out of this post? Go on, guess….

    Two editors from an Arizona Highways Blog that now know some great facts about the Parker Area and two editorials for the 2012 Calendar. For free.

    Just doing my job…..

  5. Keep up the great work!

  6. Hi Lost in La Paz!

    That quote is exactly why tourism is so important to our area. Tourism is the most powerful and resilient industry in our area.

  7. If the economy tanks further, the people of this county are going to regret allowing Supervisors and Administrators who are hostile to business to rule over them. This economy is hanging by a thread and if anything goes wrong, and it gets worse, there goes the tourists…

  8. Mr. Roth, the sad thing is that Supervisors, Administrators, and Councilmen who are anti-business is par for the course in La Paz County. The bunch we have now aren’t the first. The vast majority of those elected by this community have been anti-business people since the county was founded in 1983.

    There is just to large of a portion of the community who doesn’t want things to change. This is why it took Wal Mart 20 years to come to Parker, the community fought it. Any of the long term residents remeber the Fort Howard Paper Plant that was coming here in the late 80s, but also got shot down?

    The Tierra Buelna Community in Parker South, affordable new homes designed for county residents. Never happened because The Parker Town Council installed water lines too small. How about the Mancation vacation center that wanted in Parker South? It may be silly, but would bring business and jobs to an area that NEEDS it. Also shot down by the council out of concerns for Gun Range Saftey, in an area with no residents. Ignoring the fact it would have been a range with a full time Range Master. The Range in Bouse is MUCH closer to businesses and residences, has no range master, yet has had no problems.

    Notice the promised Bar at the County Park hasn’t happened yet, even though it was planned to be done before this summer? There are plans for the new Solar Towers and a Manufacturing plant along Highway 60 in Vicksburg. Given the past history of county management, dont beleive it will happen until its open. Even if it opens, don’t assume the county won’t destroy it. (Yakima anyone?)

    This county has elected leaders who are anti-business for the past 30 years. They find any reason to stop new business from coming here. And we wonder why so many of our youth leave the first chance they get.

    The only solution is to STOP electing the same groups of people we always do. If a candidate is connected to someone currently in office, don’t vote for them. If the candidate is involved in the Rotary Club (the main club of almost all county politicians) don’t vote for them. We need NEW people without past political connections in order for anything to change.

    If we keep electing the people we have been for decades, then this artcle might be right.

  9. Hey Mary. I think you guys at the chamber are doing a great job! Of course we need to continue our support of tourism but tourism historically provides low income jobs with little or no benefits. In order for La Paz to grow we will nave to compete with other AZ counties to get higher paying jobs to attract professionals and folks that create revenue. Tourism brings tons of folks here but the loins share of the revenues go to taxes and business owners. Although it doesn’t provide high paying jobs for folks. That needs to come in the form of industry. Industry, as CS said above has been loathed by the La Paz County supervisors from day 1 in 1983. We have lost more industry in the County since inception than attracted. La Paz County at one point in the past was the melon producing leader in the United States. The summer jobs to be had were the jobs in the Parker valley with the growers. Same out in Salome. They paid more than twice the hourly wage of tourism jobs. I have and always will help to support tourism here but in order for the County to provide an acceptable “Level of Service” to the residents we need industry. And a government to support it. In my humble opinion, the Tribes will be the leader in attracting industry to the area and the County will continue to suffer. I salute the efforts of yourself and the others at the Chamber, even that MEATHEAD Randy, for doing a great job!

  10. C.S., At some point the people of this county are going to have to grow up and realize that you get the government you deserve. This county is where it is at because of years of bad decisions by both the politicians and the people who put them there. I agree with you about electing people related to the Establishment, it has to end if you want a successful La Paz County.

    Poverty is a choice, just like prosperity. We decide our future with our actions and deeds. What most people don’t think about is that the decisons you make today will affect you 5 to 10 to 50 years down the road…

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