In our last update on the Apache Trail, we described the position of the State Historic Preservation office. In that update, we expressed SHPO’s position from the perspective of a long-time Archeologist who has been dealing with the historic preservation of the Apache Trail for several years. He is by far the most vested individual in state government who has knowledge of the Apache Trail, and his input has been considered.
Nonetheless, in our most recent meeting, a different State Historic Preservation Office representative surprised our group, firmly asserting historic preservation is not an obstacle for ADOT. According to SHPO, the Arizona Department of Transportation has not discussed the Fish Creek section of the Apache Trail with them at all.
SHPO argues that documented history such as a book about the Apache Trail could be considered “mitigation.” It would give ADOT the OK to make improvements that make the road safe without the interference of historic preservation. Furthermore, it would make the road ineligible for federal designations under the National Preservation Act, thus removing federal oversite of a state-owned RS2477 Right-Of-Way. Of course, our group must hurtle other obstacles, but for now, we know SHPO is ready to continue with the Apache Trail project.
It’s important to understand that the State Historic Preservation Office is not a regulatory body. They consult with state agencies and individuals while improving historical properties and provide insight into preserving the historical aspects of said properties. They have no regulatory authority to force ADOT to do anything. SHPO obtains much of its power from the National Preservation Act, a non-binding federal law that promotes the preservation and recognition of historic properties and places. They work hand in hand with the National Park Service to list historic properties in the National Register of Historic Places.