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Flagstaff Acquiring Picture Canyon

At an auction held this morning on the steps of the Coconino County Courthouse, the City of Flagstaff successfully bid on the acquisition of Picture Canyon, located in northeast Flagstaff.  The minimum bid started at the appraised value amount of $4.778 million.  The City of Flagstaff bid the minimum amount and, as there were no other competing bidders, was awarded the purchase of the property at that amount.

With funding from the 2004 voter approved Open Space bond and a 2012 Growing Smarter Grant, the City of Flagstaff will now be able to protect and preserve 477.8 acres of land. As critical riparian habitat, a popular recreation corridor, and home to significant cultural and archaeological resources, Picture Canyon is a natural and cultural amenity for northern Arizona. The acquisition of Picture Canyon provides a natural place for members of the Flagstaff community to learn about ecology, geology, and archaeology, while participating in outdoor recreation.


“This acquisition is a true testament to the vision and tenacity of the group of Flagstaff residents who years ago imagined that Picture Canyon could one day be permanently protected. I am thrilled that the City Council has authorized the use of 2004 open space bonds to complete this long-awaited purchase and will make this unique historical, cultural, archeological, recreational and educational resource available for present and future generations to enjoy.” said City Councilmember Celia Barotz.


“With the City of Flagstaff’s acquisition of Picture Canyon and a nod to former County Supervisor Deb Hill, an important part of our past will be protected for future generations to learn from and to love,” said Coconino County Supervisor Mandy Metzger, chair of the Picture Canyon Core Group. “The acquisition is an excellent example of how our community using voter approved resources can protect a special place in perpetuity.  I remain in awe of the City/County partnership and the Picture Canyon Core Group who for the past decade have donated their time, expertise and determination to protect this gem.”


Background Information

Efforts to protect Picture Canyon began decades ago and continue today. A milestone was achieved in August 2011 when the City of Flagstaff Open Spaces Commission approved the use of the remaining Open Space bond funds for the acquisition of Picture Canyon. In April 2012, Council adopted Resolution 2012-12 approving a cultural resource policy for Picture Canyon, and the State Land Commissioner ordered that Picture Canyon be reclassified as suitable for conservation purposes.


On September 20, 2012, the Arizona State Parks Board awarded the City of Flagstaff a $2.389 million Growing Smarter Grant to apply towards the costs of acquiring 477.8 acres of State trust lands at Picture Canyon for conservation purposes.


Conservation values associated with Picture Canyon include:


  • Natural riparian corridor vital to the Rio de Flag greenbelt.
  • Home to a variety of native plants of ecological and cultural importance including Arizona grape, banana yucca, wolfberry, Indian paintbrush, and penstemon.
  • ·         Arizona Game & Fish (AGFD) has identified Picture Canyon as an important wildlife habitat and a significant site in their Watchable Wildlife program. An agreement between the City and Arizona Game & Fish provides for a Watchable Wildlife area to be located in the upper reach.
  • Cultural resources that include over 125 Northern Sinagua petroglyph panels, depicting 740 elements of archers, turtles, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, water birds, and geometric designs.
  • Part of the Centennial Forest used by the NAU School of Forestry for a long-range living classroom. It hosts a segment of the Arizona Trail and provides for future Flagstaff Urban Trail System segments that promote connectivity for non-motorized transportation and recreation.


The City of Flagstaff will host a public celebration of the acquisition at Picture Canyon in the spring of 2013.


For more information please contact McKenzie Jones at (928) 213-2153 or mjones@flagstaffaz.gov.



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