Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children (PARC) was formed on Sept. 29, 2006. Not much about the group has changed besides having a new board of directors and an even deeper passion for the issue. It was started by a group of active residents who realized to make a difference, especially against large organizations like the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), they needed to get organized.
All of the current board members recall getting involved early. Jim Jochim, the group’s treasurer, is the only board member who has been on the board since its formation.
“I believed back then, as I do now, that it was a group with a very valid and sincere mission, which was to protect the environment,” he said.
As a nature-lover and someone who moved to the area specifically to be close to the mountains and in a tranquil village, Jochim said he has always been opposed to the South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway. When several members of the original board resigned, Jochim organized a meeting and recruited new members.
It was during that meeting that the board’s current president, Pat Lawlis, volunteered to become president.
“When I got with the group, and at the time there were only four or five of us that got together, it was clear that Jim was going to be treasurer and they needed a leader and no one really wanted to step forward and be a leader,” Lawlis said. “I’ve got a lot of leadership experience so I said, OK. I thought it was a worthwhile thing to do.”
Lawlis spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force before retiring to Ahwatukee Foothills. When PARC was being formed she said she was slowly realizing the small freeway she had pictured in the ’80s was not going to be so small and that it would have detrimental effects to the air quality in Ahwatukee.
PARC vice president Tim Lank had a different perspective. He has an Ivy League degree in engineering and a master’s degree in education and business administration. To him the freeway would be not only detrimental to the landscape, but also a large waste of money.
“I worked as an environmental engineer and I also have a business degree so I think it’s a terrific waste of money that could be used elsewhere, more effectively,” Lank said.” The two biggest things for me are traffic and crime. I’m far enough away that I wouldn’t expect noise to be a problem. Now that they’ve gotten this far I think there are other more useful ways to use the money.”
Lank admits he voted for the proposition when it was brought up in 1985, and he also moved to Ahwatukee knowing there could be a freeway down Pecos Road some day. He said he always had a feeling that he could help fight the freeway and that it could be stopped, much like the Paradise Valley Parkway that was included in the same proposition.
PARC secretary Connie Squires said she was told about the freeway by a family member shortly after she moved to Ahwatukee. She knew from the beginning it was a bad idea and has paid careful attention to the issue ever since. For her it has always been about the children.
“I have a 30-year teaching career in my past,” she explained. “I am acutely aware that every school child in Ahwatukee will be exposed to health risks and I think that’s very unfair of ADOT to pose those risks when the freeway is unnecessary. This is absolutely the most important issue I’ve ever participated in. Were David and Goliath an actual event I think most people would probably align their loyalty with David. It’s a challenge to have an opposite opinion. It’s a challenge that I needed to accept and put forth as much effort as I can muster to do what’s right. Laying this concrete to the tune of $2 billion down in Ahwatukee is wrong.”
The group considers themselves slightly naïve at the time of their formation. When ADOT and MAG finally did release an official Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway in April, they all got an education on how the system works. Through donations they were able to hire national experts who unearthed more than 300 pages worth of concerns about the DEIS and the freeway as a whole.
PARC submitted those comments to ADOT and MAG during the public comment period. It’s one of thousands of public comments ADOT will have to address in their final version of the statement, which will then be used to solicit a Record of Decision from the federal government, for permission to build the freeway.
Seeing all those issues, the board of PARC is confident they have enough ammunition to stop the freeway. They’re preparing to take ADOT to court once a final Environmental Impact Statement is released. That may not happen for some time but when it does, PARC is depending on donations from the public to help pay their legal fees. PARC is a 501(c)(3) organization.
The clear mission of PARC is to have the freeway moved off Pecos Road. According to board members, that could be accomplished by stopping construction of the freeway altogether or having the freeway moved far south to go down Interstates 8 and 85 and bypass Phoenix that way.
PARC will be hosting a small anniversary celebration at Ahwatukee’s Ironwood Library, 4333 E. Chandler Blvd., on Saturday, Oct. 5 from 1 to 3 p.m.
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