One of Flagstaff’s most iconic views of the San Francisco Peaks can be seen from Schultz Meadow. The three acres of untouched land at the corner of Schultz Pass Road and Fort Valley Road is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to enjoy the beauty of Flagstaff. However, this won’t be the case if the area is developed — which is exactly what Save Schultz Meadow is trying to prevent.
A member of the Save Schultz Meadow committee, Staci Foulks, said the group is a citizen ballot initiative that is currently collecting signatures to put Schultz Meadow on the ballot. This would give voters the opportunity to vote on preserving the land as open space, which would protect the land from development.
The citizen initiative process bypasses the legislative branch of government. When it is passed, only the voters can overturn the decision with another citizen initiative, Foulks said. The legislative branch cannot repeal it. If the voters approve this question, the Flagstaff City Council will not be able to reverse the decision. She said this means with enough signatures, Save Schultz Meadow is guaranteed to be on the ballot.
“We believe that the citizen initiative process is the purest form of democracy, better than having our elected officials decide for us,” Foulks said.
Over 4,500 registered voters signed petitions to put Schultz Meadow on the ballot, Foulks said, and volunteers are continuing to collect more signatures. She explained that the majority of voters who have interacted with her have been supportive of saving Schultz Meadow.
“The overall response has been extremely positive,” Foulks said. “The Flagstaff community is passionate about preserving Schultz Meadow as open space. We have learned that many in Flagstaff feel that Schultz Meadow is an iconic piece of Flagstaff.”
Although Foulks said most people have reacted positively to the Save Schultz Meadow movement, there are some community members as well as city council members who oppose the initiative and are in favor of developing the area. Despite the minor opposition, the initiative has collected and continues to collect a large amount of signatures.
4,500 signatures is more than enough for an initiative to be put on the ballot, but Save Schultz Meadow is opting not to turn them in for the election in November. Foulks said the reason they decided to wait is because the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the volunteers from collecting signatures out and about in the community.
“Because public health and safety was our first priority, we decided to stop collecting signatures,” Foulks said. “Had the pandemic not hit, we undoubtedly would have collected enough signatures to ensure a comfortable margin of error.”
One challenge in getting signatures is the regulations on who can actually sign the petition, Foulks explained. Citizens of Coconino County cannot sign the petitions if they don’t live within the city limits of Flagstaff. She also said many who live in the county but outside of Flagstaff limits were disappointed they couldn’t give their signatures.
Along with the regulations on who can sign, the signatures themselves go through a strict review of validation, Foulks said. This is why Save Schultz Meadow aims to collect many more signatures than the 4,000 that are needed to get on the ballot, in the case of any errors.
Foulks explained that although the city council cannot stop a citizen’s initiative, Schultz Meadow is not on the ballot yet, which means the city council could discuss taking action before citizens can vote on the matter.
“We trust that our elected officials will not attempt to take advantage of the toll the pandemic took upon the initiative by taking action on the land before voters have had the opportunity to vote,” Foulks said.
The Save Schultz Meadow initiative is completely run by volunteers and has no paid staff, Foulks said.
Nancy Evans is a member of the Flagstaff community who has actively participated in collecting signatures and supporting the Save Schultz Meadow initiative. She said she has worked as a volunteer to collect signatures a few times in the past.
“I strongly support voter initiatives, especially when it comes to development of open space in Flagstaff,” Evans said. “I really hope the city respects the voters’ rights and lets the residents of Flagstaff decide.”
One thing Evans said she liked to stress when collecting signatures was that putting Schultz Meadow on the ballot does not automatically mean it will remain undeveloped. However, putting the matter on the ballot will allow the people to be in control of the outcome — regardless of what that may be — rather than leaving it up to government officials.
Evans said there have been several occasions in Flagstaff when a piece of land was developed without residents having the opportunity to vote on the matter beforehand. A few examples she mentioned were when The Jack, formally known as The Hub, and The Standard apartment complexes were built.
“We’ve seen some development that after the fact, has really been scrutinized by Flagstaff,” Evans said. “People would have opposed them if they were given the chance. Growth is inevitable and I’m not opposed to all growth, but I am a supporter of planned growth and protecting special and unique places.”
Foulks and Evans encourage everyone who is interested in protecting Schultz Meadow to get involved. The initiative is looking for more volunteers to collect signatures, people who can make donations to the campaign and community members who are willing to sign the petition.
“There aren’t many views that I would make the effort to protect, but [the view from Shultz Meadow] is one of them,” Evans said. “It makes you remember how lucky you are to live in northern Arizona. I encourage everyone who hasn’t signed the petition to get a hold of Save Schultz Meadow.”