Just west of New Mexico and north of the Mexico border, nestled between the Graham Mountain and the Gila River, is home. It’s called Safford, and it is the county seat of Graham County in Arizona. To really appreciate Safford, I had to leave it. If a person is born in Heaven and never lives anywhere else, Heaven is simply home. To me, Safford was simply home. Now it’s Heaven.
Safford was named All America city finalist in 1999 and 2000 for obvious reasons. By far, the city’s most admirable quality is its community involvement. With a problem solving, project planning attitude the citizens of the Gila Valley pull together to make Safford a “great place to live, work, and visit”(http://safford.govoffice.com/). This diverse and progressively traditional community truly loves its home. Safford is a genuinely unique place because it has all of the traits desirable in a large city with a small town feel. Its interesting history and humble roots are not lost in its forward moving and innovative society.
In other cities, when I told friends and coworkers about my hometown, I realized that all the features I missed about Safford are the features everyone is looking for. Faces light up when I mention surroundings, like the vast beauty of Mt. Graham, the natural living desert, the extraordinary Gila River canyon walls, and all of their recreational activities.
In addition to the surroundings, business and employment opportunities abound and the area’s educational facilities are of the highest quality. Eastern Arizona College is just one of the many educational facilities and employment opportunities in the valley.
Safford is a city surrounded by places to have fun and relax, but is equally accommodating to those starting or continuing a career and/or building a family. Safford is a city with everything for everyone. There are plenty of peaceful secluded places as well as exciting events in busy places. And, the entire location, in all of its perfection, is set under the most clear, stunning night skies preceded by the most ravishing of Arizona sunsets in the kind of weather worth relocating for.
So far, I have conveyed what makes Safford great in the eyes of an outsider. But, what makes it so remarkable to me, are the details. Growing up in Graham County includes camping, hunting, picnicking, hiking, rafting, swimming, sledding, climbing, fishing and four-wheeling at Roper’s Lake, in various natural hot springs, at Riggs Lake, on Mt. Graham, at the sand dunes, in the Gila River, at Bonita Creek and in our back yards (a.k.a. the desert). It also includes community events like the Downtown Street Fair, the Gila Valley Family Festival and the Christmas Light Parade. Not everything was fun and games, but, looking back, everything was of the highest quality of living. School was full of inspirational educators and work was never too hard to find.
My favorite part about Safford is its people. These people must make up the kindest community of its size in America. Smile in Safford and you are guaranteed a smile back, most likely, because living here makes everyone pleasant enough to share in your joy. Neighbors, who become friends, will also share in your trials, and without expecting the same in return.
A few things I learned here are: “close by” means “in town”, the pace may be slow but word moves fast, if it snows, school is canceled and the snow melts by noon, two-year colleges are challenging, but not overwhelming and nothing smells as good as rain in the desert.
Safford is a heaven, full of the places, people and events that make life brilliant. That is why Safford is my home, no matter where I travel.