Colossal Cave Road is now something to celebrate thanks to Pima County, The Regional

Transportation Authority and Southern Arizona Paving. The road’s redesign from Old Vail Middle School to Acacia Elementary have transformed Vail’s main street through its historic core and business district.  Thoughtfully designed roads are more than a means to speed from point A to point B. Safety is paramount, but thoughtful design includes much more. Landscaping, crosswalks, bus pullouts, public art, walkability, and incorporating places for residents to gather and connect are crucial to the quality of life in Vail. They are components that contribute to building a caring community with a strong sense of place.  Pima County accomplished all of the above with the Colossal Cave Road project by encouraging and facilitating partnerships. The Vail School District contributed funds to jump start the project and the Vail Preservation Society facilitated and funded public art. Now that the dust has settled and the road closures are a distant memory, it is time to celebrate!  Maybe even a little dancing in the street is in order! This project has transformed the Vail community.

Mark your calendar, put on your dancing shoes, bring your family and neighbors and join the celebration on Saturday, September 9, 2017, from 8:00 – 9:30 AM at the Shrine of Santa Rita in the Desert on the Success Drive side – look for signs. The Cienega High School Marching Band, Vail Youth Symphony, and others will provide music. The Vail Chorale, Old Vail Middle School, and Acacia Choirs will raise their voices in celebration. Plan to enjoy breakfast at Valeria’s food truck and a special commemorative cookie shaped like our new icon-the giant V for Vail created by Cienega High School Construction Tech students. The formal ceremony will be at 8:30 AM. There will be speeches, music and an opportunity to meet and thank our Pima County Supervisor Steve Christy, artists, and others who’s hard work brought this project to the finish line.

Colossal Cave Road was constructed in 1899 for the purpose of hauling copper ore from the Helvetia mines in the Santa Rita Mountains to Vail’s station where the ore was loaded onto Southern Pacific Railroad trains and transported to Globe, Arizona for processing. Its original construction included some political controversy.


Tucson’s Loss, Vail’s Gain

…Mr. Seager, general manager of the Helvetia mines, …offered to bear half the    expense of building a  fine road from Tucson to Helvetia.  After giving the supervisors ample time, and no action being taken on his proposition, a road was built to Vail’s station by the mine company. Tucson necessarily losing by the loss of freighting.

Arizona Daily Star, August 31, 1899

The Helvetia Mining Company spent $10,000 of company funds to build a wagon road to the closest rail point. The 17 mile-long Helvetia  – Vail Road led to Vail’s siding instead of Tucson. Until 2006 it was called Vail Road. Vail became the break of bulk point for mining and ranching from the Rincon’s south to the Santa Rita Mountains. Between 1895 and about 1914, Vail’s siding was a beehive of activity. Shipping charges from the busy siding more than recouped the road’s cost. The siding and ore dumps were located near where the Shrine of Santa Rita in the Desert is. In 1926 eleven Vail residents petitioned Pima County to officially accept the road and provide continuing maintenance.  Look for additional Colossal Cave Road history on the Vail Preservation Society Facebook page.  See you at the Colossal Cave Road Project Celebration on Sept. 9th!



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J.J. Lamb