By: TARA ALATORRE
NEW RIVER – Every day for years the students on their way to recess at New River Elementary School have crossed a concrete bridge that covers an unassuming desert wash, which no one ever really took much notice of – until recently.
The humble desert wash dissects the rural campus from the classroom buildings to the south and the grass fields and basketball courts to the north. It integrates the Sonoran Desert ecosystem into the students’ daily life as they cross it each day, witnessing its transformation through the seasons from a typical dry desert wash, to a flowing creek, to turbid and flash flooded.
But last week it became a permanent part of the New River Elementary School [NRES] and the surrounding rural community, as well as an official part of the State of Arizona after students and staff completed the process of naming the wash.
On April 12, NRES Principal Courtney Fredlund held a ceremony on campus after school for students and staff, officially dedicating the wash on their campus as Wildcat Wash.
The name Wildcat may seem like it has no place in Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Territory, but the local elementary school students chose it because that is NRES’s mascot, according to Rich Olsen a maintenance foreman at the school.
“We had the kids pick the name. There was a voting process and the kids overwhelmingly chose Wildcat Wash,” Olsen said, who also discovered the wash was unnamed last year and helped in the process of getting it named and registered with the state.
Last November when flooding brought major debris to the wash, the school was trying to find out if any government department was responsible for cleaning it up or if there were any right-of-way issues, according to Olsen.
While he and Principal Fredlund tried to research the issue, they discovered that the wash was unnamed.
Upon the happenstance finding, Fredlund, Olsen and other staff members started the process of officially naming the wash, which will now be recognized by the Maricopa County Flood Control District and the State of Arizona. It will also begin to appear on maps.
Last week at the dedication ceremony the school unveiled signs on its campus with the new official name Wildcat Wash, which is posted on fencing next to the bridge students cross daily.
A few weeks ago, Olsen contacted the Maricopa County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) about getting signs on the Interstate 17 Frontage Road for the wash since it was now recognized by the state.
MCDOT approved the petition and installed the Wildcat Wash roadway sign recently, which is located just north of the parent drop-off area near the playground and field area on the east side of the road.
“The MCDOT employee who came out to put the signs up with the name of the wash went to New River Elementary,” he said. “A Wildcat alumni was putting up the Wildcat Wash signs!”