April 2023
A Developing Issue
Long-planned Sundog Connector project lumbers toward public scrutiny

Plans for a 3.5-mile road currently called Sundog Connector that would cut through a wildlife corridor in an undeveloped area proposed as a regional park have stirred controversy among Prescott and Prescott Valley residents.

The proposed route runs northeast from the roundabout on Prescott Lakes Parkway near the Justice Center, across open land, Klein Mesa and the southern flank of Glassford Hill to Sundog Ranch Road, which connects with State Route 69 and serves as an entrance to the Prescott Valley Crossroads shopping center.

Land-ownership map showing range of proposed routes for the Sundog Connector, courtesy CYMPO

Building Sundog Connector was first explored seriously in 2013, ten years after the Prescott City Council voted down buying land to secure the regional park. The proposal by the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization met vocal public opposition. A later study concluded that improvements on SR69 would be needed and higher population levels met before reevaluating the project, with an estimated timeline of 2033.

In August 2021 CYMPO revived the plan, raising it from low-priority to ranking it second priority after a study session. The road would be a four-lane divided highway cutting through an open area abutting Glassford Hill, a dormant volcano and regional landmark.

Area residents including Save the Dells have been working for many years to establish the regional park, and Rep. Selina Bliss has introduced legislation in the current Arizona House session to pay for related land purchases. As of this writing the bill has been approved by three House committees.

Previously, CYMPO had removed an option to not build the road from its plans, but after opposition in public meetings, the group has restored it.

Prescott Mayor Phil Goode is on the CYMPO board, and in minutes of the organization’s discussion of the Sundog Connector he emphasizes that public input should be important for decision-making by the board. Prescott Valley Mayor Kell Palguta made it clear that he supports the project in an opinion piece on the Prescott Enews website. Two other Prescott Council members have publicly given their views: Steve Sischka stated on a radio show that he is in favor of it, and Cathey Rusing, who is running for re-election, has said that she is against it.

Prescott City Council Mayor pro tem Brandon Montoya said that because CYMPO is mandated due to the growing size of Yavapai County to stay on top of transportation planning, it has to consider all possibilities to alleviate traffic congestion.

“That being said, I don’t think anyone opposing or supporting it has enough information about it yet, because the study hasn’t come to a conclusion,” Montoya said. “I walk into every single meeting with an open mind. I will listen to CYMPO and the City staff charged to provide expertise, I will listen to the rest of the Council, and then I will listen to the public. I would suggest that adhering to that decision tree is necessary for any kind of complex decision-making for the Council.”

Sundog Connector Timeline

1997: Prescott General Plan first mentions the idea of a Sundog Connector.
2002: Prescott Valley General Plan includes Sundog Connector.
2005: CYMPO first includes it in the Regional Transportation Plan.
2013: CYMPO conducts first Sundog Connector Corridor Study.
2021: CYMPO Technical Advisory Committee raises project’s priority status from Low Medium to Top Priority.
2022: CYMPO hires firm to conduct new Sundog Connector design study.

Dells Regional Park Timeline

1991: Granite Dells Community Plan calls for preservation of space between Glassford Hill and the Granite Dells.
1994: Prescott Valley General Plan calls for preservation of the land.
1997: Prescott General Plan calls for preservation of open-space land. Prescott and Prescott Valley begin discussing joint preservation of open space.
1998: With approval of bonds to buy Watson and Willow Lakes, the City considers purchase and preservation of 1,800 acres of land, including Glassford Hill.
2003: Prescott City Council votes down proposed purchase of Granite Dells land.
2018: Prescott purchases 160 acres of Sundog Ranch in Granite Dells.
2021: Prescott acquires 474 acres in the Dells for public use.
2022: Prescott purchases an additional 302 acres of Sundog Ranch; Prescott, PV and Yavapai County form IGA to purchase 3,200 acres on and around Glassford Hill for the Granite Dells Regional Park and Preserve.

Journalist Toni Denis is a frequent contributor.

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