Caretaker's Colossal Success

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Caretaker's Colossal Success

Postby Wayne Harrison » Jul 6, 2006 12:20 pm

Caretaker's Colossal Success

By Tim Ellis
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 07.06.2006

Fifty years ago, "a crowd of unbelievers" greeted Joe Maierhauser and his business partner as they walked out of the old Pima County Courthouse with a contract to lease Colossal Cave Park.

"He won't make it, not even for a year," Maierhauser recalls hearing after he and his partner, Earl Brockelsby, won a bid to sublease the the county-owned park — a dusty compound at the end of a dirt road in the far eastern reach of the Rincon Valley, about 30 miles east of Downtown Tucson.

It wasn't easy, he said, especially in the first several years after they took over operations at the park, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal agency that provided jobs for tens of millions of American workers idled during the Great Depression.

"For several years, it (the park) was a losing proposition," Maierhauser said.

But he proved the unbelievers wrong. Not only did the park survive — it thrived.

Under his 50-year tenure as park manager, he led efforts to transform the remote, 495-acre local favorite into a 2,030-acre nationally acclaimed attraction that now features a working ranch, a riparian area, a museum and a library.

It's also home to researchers who study two other caves that are closed to the public; the riparian area along La Posta Quemada Creek and another nearby along Cienega Creek; and other wonders of this part of the Sonoran Desert.

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Wayne Harrison
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