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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced plans to protect over 1,000 acres of public lands surrounding the Goldfield Ghost Town as a new special recreation area near Apache Junction.

The proposed “Goldfield Recreation Area” aims to expand recreational access while combatting issues like illegal dumping and camping that have become prevalent in recent years.

The federal lands northeast of Apache Junction and near the Superstition Mountains have seen increased unauthorized use, prompting the BLM’s Lower Sonoran Field Office to pursue an environmental assessment and proposal to designate the area as an official recreation zone.

“The BLM plans to develop a recreation area management plan to identify appropriate recreational uses, avoid user conflicts, ensure public health and safety, and protect natural and cultural resources in conformance with laws and land use plans,” detailed the BLM in their project description.

The proposed recreation area could allow new opportunities for off-highway vehicle driving, horseback riding, staging areas and corresponding routes around the iconic ghost town that was abandoned in the 1890s after a slow decline.

A contractor through the Arizona State Office is currently completing a route inventory per the BLM plans. Specific travel management decisions will be made once recreational uses are solidified through the forthcoming recreation area plan.

goldfield recreation area plan map

The area considered for Goldfield Recreation Area is outlined in maroon. Map courtesy of: Bureau of Land Management

According to the BLM assessment, creating an official recreation area will help address multiple issues that have arisen from increased camping activity on the lands in question. “Many campers exceed the 14-day limit on camping which has led to illegal activities such as trash dumping and unauthorized fires,” the report states.

One long-time resident of Apache Junction told local media earlier this year that illegal camping near Dutchman State Park has increased notably over the past few years. “I see people taking a dump in the bushes, people crapping in buckets, I see tires dumped, I see broken down vehicles that aren’t titled or registered or insured,” the resident described of the BLM lands.

By developing a structured recreation area plan, BLM officials hope to resolve such public health and safety issues while expanding access and activities around the iconic Goldfield Ghost Town. The proposal includes roughly 1,100 acres initially but could grow in the future.

The BLM approved the proposed project on October 19, 2023 after completing the requisite environmental assessment. The agency will now develop a comprehensive management plan for the special recreation area through a collaborative public process. The plan will identify appropriate recreational uses, mitigate conflicts between users, ensure safety, and protect natural and cultural resources.

Interested parties will have the opportunity to provide input as the BLM determines the future direction of the proposed Goldfield Special Recreation Area and the public lands surrounding this Arizona ghost town.

Cover photo courtesy of: Rick Schwartz

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