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Bill Van Nimwegen

Bill Van Nimwegen has 776 articles published.

Lane Restriction Advisory – Tomahawk Rd Dec. 14

Street Pavement Repair

Patch repair to the pavement on Tomahawk Road from Baseline Avenue to the U.S. 60 is planned for Friday, Dec. 14.  Work is anticipated to be only during the daytime hours of 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The work will result closure of the northbound inside lane of Tomahawk Road. Motorists are encouraged to be extra cautious when traveling through the area.

Also, a reminder that there are still restrictions on Delaware Drive between Apache Trail and Superstition Boulevard for construction on that road. Please follow all signage in the area.

Superstition’s Real Gold

By Tom Kollenborn

Many years ago, I was riding in the Horse Camp Ridge area, when I came upon an interesting trail. The trail had been carved out of solid stone by animals carrying heavy loads. There were places were the hooves of the beast of burden had worn deep into the volcanic tufa.

This certainly excited my imagination. This trail may have been made by a pack train of mules carrying gold back to Mexico. The thought was provoking, even though it probably wasn’t true. Then reality set in. If mules had made this trail, there should be a large camp back in one of these canyons around Music or Hermann Mountain.

I followed the trail westward toward Music Mountain. I recalled a man named Michael Bilfrey in the 1980s who claimed he had discovered gold in the area, but was never able to produce enough evidence to convince the forest rangers to allow him to develop a mine. I soon found out it wasn’t Bilfrey’s trail.

This trail predated any activity in these mountains during the past century. It was easy to convince myself of this, when I looked at what appeared to be an ancient Spanish drag stone in the bottom of a deep draw. At first, I thought I had found one of the Peralta Mines that Barry Storm wrote about in the late 30s and early 40s.

When I examined the drag stone carefully, I concluded it was used for something else. It appeared to have served as a weight to keep a fence from washing away. Cattlemen often tied large rocks to the bottom of a fence to keep it from washing away during a flash flood. It soon dawned on me that a cowboy had found the stone somewhere else and dragged it to the site of the fence. The drag stone was quite heavy and probably wasn’t dragged very far by any cowboy on horseback.

It was also possible a cowboy used some hand steel to drill a hole in the rock so he could anchor it to the fence with an eyebolt. Also, some of these trails were probably used by woodcutters who cut firewood for the steam engines at the Silver King mine between 1877-1884. Thousands upon thousands of cords of wood were gathered in these mountains to feed those boilers at the mine some fifteen to twenty miles away.

Now the mystery really deepened for me. It was either Sims Ely or Jim Bark who had talked about such a drag stone on Peter’s Mesa. Walt Gassler had mentioned one also. I wanted to believe this was a drag stone used as part of an old Spanish arrastra to crush gold ore.

I searched the entire area, hoping to discover the origin of the drag stone. I did not find the mill trace where the stone may have come from. This further eliminated the idea that there was a mine in the immediate area. The entire area appeared non-conducive to gold-bearing rock or ore.

I rode on eastward until I reached Tortilla Creek. The area around the old Miller Mine produced no better clues. As I searched the area closer, I wondered if an old cowboy had hauled the stone up from the Salt River. I thought that was highly unlikely. The actual stone appeared to be some type of very hard gray basalt common to the immediate area.

The Barkley’s had an old drag stone around their ranch for many years. Nancy and Kenneth McCullough gave a drag stone to the Superstition Mountain Historical Society several years ago. I don’t believe this stone and the one used on the fence line were one and the same.

The mystery of this old drag stone will continue to fascinate people and cause them to speculate about things that occurred in these mountains more than a century ago.

I have found many clues that are indicative of mining in the wilderness, but very few clues pointing to smelting and refining operations. This would lead one to believe, if there were any rich mines in the area, the ore was concentrated, then transported to another location to be processed. This mountain mystery will be passed on to others, and they can try and resolve it. This is the nature of things when it comes to the Superstition Mountains and stories of lost mines in the area.

I must say, during the past fifty years, I have never found anything within the Superstition Wilderness Area that would convince me a mine of substantial worth ever existed here. I will admit there are many examples of prospects and some very extensive prospects within the wilderness. The truth is, none of these prospects turned a profit or produced profitable ore. My father spent three decades wandering the region and was never convinced anything worthwhile existed in the region.

Dad enjoyed the beauty and solitude of the area. His friend Bill Cage told him many wonderful stories about the old days involving those who believed the Superstitions were filled with mineral wealth.

There have been plenty of scams perpetrated by unscrupulous promoters over the years that have separated many unfortunate people from their money. You might say this is “the land of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine.”

I have found the real treasure of the Superstition Wilderness Area, and it falls into three categories: 1) the beauty of the area, 2) the history of the area, and 3) the enormous archaeological resources that lie hidden within the wilderness.

We might all remember the wilderness was set aside to preserve the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert for future generations of Americans to enjoy. This goal has led to the preservation of many other valuable resources associated with the 159,780 acres of wilderness.

We all owe a tremendous debt to men like Pinchot, Muier and Leopold for being activists about the conservation of public lands in the 1920s and 30s. Everyone may not be in agreement, but someday our nation’s greatest resources will be the public lands we have preserved in their natural state. The Superstition Wilderness may not have survived as such if it had not been for the legacy of the “old Dutchman” and his lost gold mine. All this legend focused efforts toward preserving the Superstition Mountain area by both private and governmental groups.

Today, when I ride through Garden Valley and down into Second Water Canyon and on to La Barge Canyon, I’m thankful we call it the Superstition Wilderness Area, and it remains today much like it did two or three hundred years ago—undisturbed by rooftops and commercial development.

There is no price tag on solitude, beauty, wildlife and nature. The real treasure of Superstition Mountain.

Photo above: Drag stones (or Arastra) is a primitive milling process for grinding and pulverizing (typically) gold or silver ore.

Editorial ~ IMHO: Give Local

By Dana Trumbull

According to a press release from Giving USA, American individuals gave an estimated $287 billion in 2017 to charitable causes. The amount represents an increase of 5.0% over 2016. The outpouring of goodwill, however, seems to be slowing to a comparative trickle in 2018. Economists are pointing to new tax laws, which nearly doubled the standard deduction on 2018 federal income tax. With fewer taxpayers needing to itemize their deductions, the financial incentive of being able to deduct charitable contributions has taken a nosedive.

AJ area organizational leaders confirm that local funding dollars are following this national trend. Despite impressive rallies by community members to meet specific needs – such as $6,000 to repair the Food Bank’s refrigerated truck and $10,000 for new football helmets for Apache Junction School District – donations supporting day to day services have taken a dramatic hit.

JoElle Hurns, executive director at the Apache Junction Food Bank, reports that their funding is down an estimated 50% this year. The United Way of Pinal County (UWPC), which also relies on local funding for 100% of its operation and service dollars, reports that annual funding is 40% less than last year. Hurns and Bowler both commented that they have lost some of their corporate sponsors and grants this year as well, whether due to changing tax laws or shifting priorities.

Virtually all AJ/GC charities stress their appreciation for the value of volunteer hours, which remains strong (a benefit of active retirees, winter visitors, church groups and service organizations), allowing charities to keep administrative costs to a minimum; however, without monetary donations, programs cannot be sustained indefinitely at the level of need.

Residents are frequently reminded to “Buy Local.” It is just as important, though, to “Give Local.” Through your contributions, local children are fed, homeless veterans receive therapy and job assistance, Superstition trails and open spaces are maintained, and local students learn teamwork through sports and embrace music and other interests – all of which help to keep them in school.

Whatever your favored cause may be, you can support it locally and make a difference in the lives of your neighbors and the livability of your community.

If tax considerations are still of primary importance to you, Arizona has a unique program that allows you to make a donation to an eligible organization and receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit toward your Arizona income tax liability. It doesn’t actually reduce your taxes; but you can choose to apply your tax dollars to your favored cause.

This is true for School Tax Credits supporting extracurricular activities at all area schools. You can also apply tax credits to numerous qualifying organizations, including the Apache Junction Food Bank, the Boys & Girls Club of the East Valley, CAAFA, Empowerment Systems, Genesis Project, Hope Women’s Center, Salvation Army and more. Be sure to ask when you donate, as you will need a tax credit receipt. (

One more thing: Please, be sure, when you drop your toys and canned goods into a collection box, that the recipient organization serves our local community. For example, food placed in the donation box at our new Fry’s Market goes to St. Mary’s Food Bank. St. Mary’s is a wonderful organization, BUT they do not serve the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon area.

Thank you for caring. Thank you for your efforts to GIVE LOCAL.

Photo above: $6,000 was raised locally to repair the AJ Food Bank’s refrigerated truck 

Raptor Program at Tractor Supply Co.

The Arizona Raptor Center will be at Tractor Supply Co., 10545 E. Main St., Apache Junction, on Saturday, December 15 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. presenting an educational program. Come and see birds of prey from four continents, and learn what to do and not to do with young raptors.

This unique program is designed to help educate the conservation-minded public about the importance of birds of prey. Raptors help to maintain a well-balanced eco-system, thereby preserving the environment and the existence of all creatures on earth. “We assist the public in their understanding of how to co-exist with wild raptors in urban, suburban and rural settings,” explained Al Wagner, Arizona Raptor Center event coordinator.

The Arizona Raptor Center uses falconers and falconry techniques to aid in the recovery of sick and injured birds of prey and to increase the probability of successful release. These techniques have been honed over the 3,000 year history of falconry. The center works with experts in the fields of falconry and avian medicine, striving to minimize the birds’ stay in captivity and ensuring their physical condition and hunting skills are adequate for their return to the wild.

Volunteers with the center evaluate each raptor that comes in, looking for clues as to what may be happening in various Arizona ecosystems and around the globe. “Our goal is to be able to address the challenges faced by birds of prey in the ever changing landscape of our modern world.”

Photo above: Indy, Harris’s Hawk, hatched 2017

AJ Kiwanis Provide Reading Support

The Kiwanis Club of Apache Junction, in conjunction with Superstition Mountain Promotional Corp. (Lost Dutchman Rodeo), recently provided Title One curriculum material to Desert Vista Elementary School. The material is used to help improve the reading capabilities of students.

Kiwanis is centered on serving the children in our community by providing assistance during Thanksgiving and Christmas, in addition to the curriculum material and other education needs in the community. We also sponsor the “Building America” program in the fifth/sixth grades of our local elementary schools.

Currently, we are planning the 2nd annual AJ Kids Idol, which will be held January 27, 2018, at Barleens Dinner Show.

Our club meets the 2nd and 4th Mondays of every month. If you are interested in joining and/or learning more about our organization, you can contact Jeff Struble at 480-694-5100. You are more than welcome to stop in at our meetings and share in our quest of building the youth of our community.

Pictured above with the Kiwanis Club of Apache Junction reading materials donation are Principal Pat Smith, Rachel LeMaire, Lauren Falconburg and Jeff Struble

Arizona Lecture Series

Popular programs kick off Jan. 7

The Arizona Lecture Series is proud to present its 2019 season lineup. The first lecture is on Monday, January 7, 2019. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the lecture starting at 7 p.m. All presentations are held at the Performing Arts Center on the campus of the Apache Junction High School.

Tickets are $5 per show (available one week prior to event). Season tickets for the 12 lecture series are $50.

Tickets may be purchased on the night of the event at the box office window, or in advance at the Apache Junction Unified School District office, 1575 W. Southern Ave., Apache Junction (office closed for Winter Break Dec. 24-Jan. 2), or online via credit card at, under the Payment Center. Advance purchase is recommended for this popular series. Season tickets will also be sold at the box office window on the night of the first lecture.

We look forward to seeing you for another fun-filled season! Whether you come for one evening or the entire series, we guarantee that you will leave with a greater appreciation for Arizona, its people and places.

For more information, please contact Zach Lundquest at 480-982-1110 x2250.

2019 Arizona Lecture Series Line Up:

  • January 7 – Bill Harrison: “Legends of the Superstition Mountains”
  • January 14 – Erik Berg: “Aviators and the Archaeologists: The Lindberghs’ 1929 Southwest Aerial Survey”
  • January 21 – Marshall Trimble: “Trimble Tales”
  • January 28 – Brad Dimmock: “The Three Grand Canyon River Legends”
  • February 4 – Gregory McNamee: “Cowpokes, Crooks and Cactus: Arizona in the Movies”
  • *February 11 – Bill Harrison: “Annie Oakley-A Lady, A Sharpshooter, A Legend
  • February 18 – Jim Turner: “The Four Corner States”
  • *February 25 – Wildman Phil Rakoci: “Desert Dwellers”
  • March 4 – Wyatt Earp: “Wyatt Earp: Life on the Frontier”
  • March 11 – Bill Harrison: “Arizona-Stepping Stone to the Moon”
  • March 18 –  Kevin Schindler: “Dauntless Courage and Boundless Ambition: The Life of Buckey O’Neill”
  • March 25 – Jack San Felice: “Stagecoach Robbery Trail”

*Editor’s Note: Brochure dates are incorrect for these two performances. Lectures are always on Monday nights, as shown here.

AJPD’s Operation Home Safe Program

Operation Home Safe is under way! The Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD) has partnered with the Apache Junction Walmart (2555 Apache Trail) and the Superstition Circle K (85 W. Superstition Blvd) in Operation Home Safe.

This partnership, along with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS), asks all community members and guests to travel the roadways safely this holiday season.

From now through January 4th, 2019, there will be increased efforts in traffic enforcement that are focusing on drivers who are being distracted or driving aggressively.

On a positive note, there will also be some “positive reinforcement,” whereby those driving safely may find themselves encountered by an AJPD officer who may recognize them as safe, courteous and patient drivers. In these encounters, the driver may receive a gift card from Walmart or Circle K instead of a traffic ticket!

Chief Thomas E. Kelly states, “Help us reward you this holiday season, decrease those chances of injury and save lives. Put away the distracting devices within your vehicle and focus on safe vehicle operations. Be considerate, slow down and make it HOME SAFE. Have a safe Holiday Season, and be careful out there. We care about you.”

If you should have any additional questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact the AJPD Community Resource Coordinator at 480-474-5442 or

Thank you for allowing us to serve you, and please, stay safe and enjoy our community.

Apache Junction Turns Out for Holiday Event

By Beth Ashby

Last Saturday, December 1st, the city of Apache Junction held its 22nd Annual Holiday Program and Light Parade at Flatiron Community Park, and what an event it was!

Around 5,000 people attended the free festival, enjoying activities such as face-painting, bounce houses, live music, delicious food and games from local vendors, 30 tons of snow and, of course, a visit with the big man himself, Santa Claus.

J.J. Underwood, director  of special events for the city, expressed his pride over the successful event. “We are proud to be keeping the tradition alive and excited to be utilizing Flatiron Park, which is designed for such community events.”

“It was surreal to see our favorite little splash park holding such a huge sprawling event,” said Mick Clark, a long-time resident of Apache Junction and first-time festival attendee. “AJ just keeps getting bigger and  better, and yet, it hasn’t lost its small-town feel.”

Other local attendees also commented on how wonderful, appealing and close the community is. Tiffany Triana has been a resident since 2005 and has been attending the city’s special events since 2008.  “My family is happy living in this safe community. I grew up in a very small town in Pennsylvania, and Apache Junction has that small-town feeling, which is rare now.”

Local businesses are also showing their Christmas spirit with the Light Up the Trail storefront light competition. “We want to be known as the go-to place for Christmas lights. If Queen Creek can do it, AJ can do it better,” stated Christa Rizzi, city councilwoman and proprietor of Arizona Tiremen. You can vote for your favorite storefront at the A.J. Tourism focal point page on facebook.

The evening was, all in all, a great way to kick off the holiday season, bringing in four large bins of donated food items to our local foodbank, as well as inspiring community spirit.

The next Parks and Rec. sponsored family event is the AJ Sleepover, an overnight family campout held at Prospector Park the first weekend in March. Visit\parks for more Parks and Rec info.

AJ Youth Conducting Holiday Benefit for CAAFA

Collection to continue through December 22

By Dana Trumbull

Madeline “Maddie” Drake is conducting a holiday donation drive for Community Alliance Against Family Abuse  (CAAFA) to support the children of families uprooted by domestic violence. She started planning where she would want to place collection boxes last summer, organized the effort and began meeting with store managers and city officials in September to gain necessary permissions. The drive, thus far, is proving to be enthusiastically successful. Maddie is 12.

“My dad introduced me to what CAAFA was shortly before Christmas last year,” she explained. I wanted to do this, because these kids have to walk away from everything, in the middle of the night sometimes, and they don’t get to bring anything with them. So this is a chance for them to get what they need and maybe some nice stuff, too, for Christmas.”

Helping with the legwork is Maddie’s friend, Arie Sornberger. “We’ve been friends since second grade,” Maddie shared. “She just thought this was so awesome, so I brought her on as a partner.” Maddie’s parents, Steve and Melissa Drake, both of whom work for the city, purchased the donation boxes and have chauffeured the pair to local businesses, but Steve proudly asserts, “This is totally her.”

“I am just very thankful to all the people who donated,” said Maddie. “It has been so awesome seeing how much stuff we’re collecting for these kids.”

The list of items needed is varied, including baby wipes and diapers, toys, children’s DVDs and books, arts and crafts supplies, sporting equipment, personal hygiene items, makeup, purses, pajamas, underwear and shoes (children and adult). All items must be new and in the original packaging.

Donations must be dropped off by December 22 at a participating business: Hacker’s Grill, Crazy Horse Saddle Shop, Dirtwater Springs, Ace Hardware, Shopper’s Supply, the Apache Junction Library or the Multi-Gen Center. Items donated will supplement CAAFA’s annual “Holiday House” drive.

About CAAFA:

CAAFA’s mission is to empower individuals, families, and communities to be free from abuse through collaboration, prevention, awareness and support.

The agency was founded in 1998 by community members who were confronted by the tragic reality that local victims of domestic violence and their children were living in their cars and out in the desert, because they had nowhere to go.

CAAFA has grown substantially since then, now serving victims of domestic violence from east Maricopa and northern Pinal counties and victims of sexual violence from eastern Maricopa and all of Pinal County. CAAFA provides a 16-bed emergency shelter, support groups, legal advocacy, case management, sexual assault victim advocacy, nutritional support and community outreach services.

Photo above: Maddie Drake (left) with the owner of Crazy Horse Saddle Shop, Paula Smith (right)

Dec. 4 City Council Update

At their meeting on Tuesday, December 4, the Apache Junction City Council approved 6-0 an ordinance amending Apache Junction City Code, Volume 1, Chapter 9, Health and Sanitation. The code amendments include stricter rules for garbage containment, inoperable vehicles, debris, trash accumulation and structural conditions. The amendments also increase the fines for violations and a third offense within a 24 month period will become a criminal offense.

Also approved 6-0, an ordinance amending the Apache Junction City Animal Control Fee Schedule. The amendment allows the city manager to convene a panel of city residents for a civil hearing in lieu of a citation for animal noise nuisance. The amendment also eliminates the class 3 kennel permit, allows alternative owner notification of animals impounded during the arrest of owner and provides for abandonment determination.

The amendment allows the city to recover animal care costs for animals found in motor vehicles when the owner is not present, eliminates the licensing and other fees for potbellied pigs, clarifies jurisdiction and quarantine of potbellied pig bites and adds clarifications and terminology to criminal filings and penalties.

The mayor and city council recognized individuals and organizations who have made donations to support city activities, programs and projects through the Friends of Apache Junction. In fiscal year 2018, donors gave $262,137.37 in gifts. Recognized on Tuesday were Safe Schools Youth Program and Horizon Health and Wellness for their support of the Apache Junction Police D.A.R.E. Program. For their support of the city’s Parks and Recreation department, Arizona Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association was recognized. Prim and Proper Pet Sitting and the Mountain Bridge Community, Henry and Mary Jo Duilus, Debbie Tuller, Jackie Oversen, Debbie Robertson and Gene and Edith Berry were thanked for their generous support of the city’s Paws and Claws Care Center.

Apache Junction Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Krista Anderson made a presentation to the city council and invited them to join the district in recognizing the importance of education to this community. She introduced a “Whatever It Takes” campaign to build support among the community and promote graduation and higher learning.

Vicky McLaughlin, president of the Superstition Mountain Historical Society, introduced the Superstition Mountain Museum’s newly hired director, Annie Vaugier. She echoed Dr. Anderson’s recognition of the importance of education in the community and pointed out the museum’s efforts. Vaugier said she was new to the area, but looked forward to establishing a good relationship with the city.

The council unanimously recommended a temporary extension of premises liquor license for Elks BPOE #2349 for the Paws 4 Life Annual Car Show on Saturday, January 19, 2019, and a special event liquor license for the Elks for their Annual Beer and Brats event and Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo Dance on February 21 and 22, 2019. The approvals will be forwarded to the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control.

After a presentation and discussion, the council unanimously gave direction to staff to establish a public art commission. Heather Patel listed different efforts the city has been involved with in the past and reminded the council of public art’s importance to the downtown revitalization plan. Establishing a commission as the authority in the community would be staff’s recommendation. It would be subject to open meeting laws and would defer to the city council as the final decision makers. There would be a consultant hired, using funds now available, and ordinances written for future funding.

Finally, there was a discussion and council direction to staff to fill an upcoming Planning and Zoning Commission vacancy. The council agreed to interview candidates on February 4 and vote on nominations on February 5.

The council will meet next in an Executive Session at 6:00 p.m. and a Work Session at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, December 17. There will be an Executive Session at 6:00 p.m. and Work Session at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 18. City council meetings are open to the public and held in chambers at 300 E. Superstition Blvd. in Apache Junction. Complete agendas and supporting materials are available at

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