The new bridge over the Santa Cruz River will remain nameless for the time being, after a heated exchange at the County Board of Supervisors meeting resulted in a stalemate.
The $4.5-million bridge near Palo Parado Road in Rio Rico was inaugurated last week with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in which the three supervisors acknowledged the years of cooperation needed to finish the project. That sense of cooperation was nowhere to be seen at Wednesday’s regular meeting.
For the second week in a row, the supervisors attempted to name the 820-foot bridge, but the discussion quickly devolved into a heated exchange between Board Chairman Manuel Ruiz and Supervisor John Maynard, whose district includes the bridge.
“I even heard someone say that you wanted the bridge named after you, Mr. Maynard,” said Ruiz, who for the second week in a row, proposed a vote to name the bridge after Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza.
“That’s not true, Manny, and I resent you even saying it. I made it very clear that that’s not where I’m going,” Maynard responded.
At that point, Ruiz began to bang the gavel, telling Maynard to “let me finish,” while the board’s third member, Rudy Molera, tried to calm the situation.
“And I hope that does make it into the paper,” Maynard said.
Ruiz responded: “I hope it does, I really do” because “we stuck our necks out here and you go out and you try to take credit for it.”
In the discussion that followed, Maynard stuck with his preference for Palo Parado Bridge, as he said it is known locally. Ruiz repeated the attempt he made at last week’s supervisors meeting to name the bridge after Anza, who led an expedition in 1776 from what is now Santa Cruz County to found what would become the city of San Francisco. The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail runs past the bridge, and future plans call for the construction of a trailhead at the site.
Supervisor Rudy Molera, who could have broken the tie at last week’s meeting but was absent because he attended a hearing on the proposed Liberty Utilities water rate hike, suggested that the residents of the area near the bridge should decide.
After talking about the importance of promoting local tourism and the area’s history, Ruiz said: “I apologize, Mr. Maynard, for getting mad at you, I really do, and I’m really sorry that I made that comment.”
He went on to say that it was “short-sighted” of the board not to promote tourism, before ceding the floor to Maynard, who said, “I have no comments.”
“I think it’s unfortunate that we make something that in my eyes could be simple and we blow it up,” Molera said. “I take pride in our board and I wish us to continue being a very professional board.”
Saying that he had “asked around” about what the bridge’s name should be, Molera said he heard that Palo Parado Bridge was the preferred name.
“I’m not ready to name it anything right now, to be honest with you,” he said. “I’d like to see the consensus of the people that live in that area and see what, have them decide.”
Molera asked Maynard what he thought the residents would want. “What I basically heard is it’s not broken, why does it need to be fixed? People just want to leave it alone,” Maynard said.
Ruiz said that he heard differently at the ribbon-cutting ceremony last week, adding: “I don’t know if we’re talking to the same people.”
Ruiz said that he would not bring up the bridge naming again. “I’m not going to expend my time getting angry over something that I think is a no-brainer,” he said.
Kathi Campana, chair of the Baca Float Coalition, took the podium and agreed that local residents will probably call it the Palo Parado Bridge.
“But I think that because it is part of the Historic Anza Trail, even if you don’t name the bridge, at least request (Arizona Department of Transportation) to put a designation on the freeway ‘Anza Trailhead,’” she said.
Bill Cox, a Rio Rico resident, added: “This is the first bridge that the county’s built and I think the county has the responsibility to step up and do exactly what is being asked, that they name this bridge and try to gain some of the historical past that we cling to.”
After discussing the issue and hearing from the public, the moment arrived for a vote.
“Well, gentlemen, what’s your pleasure?” Ruiz asked his fellow supervisors.
No motions were offered.
“I look at ways of trying to work with my two colleagues and I was hoping that I would get at least one member to support and it’s unfortunate that it didn’t happen,” Ruiz said.