Reviews & Comments
Ajo, AZUnique, Scenic & Connected
Ajo is a great little place that affords residents access to unsurpassed, pristine desert as the gateway community to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and nearby beaches and resort amenities as Arizona’s closest city to the ocean by way of Rocky Point, Mexico. Ajo also has the choice of two big cities with different characters that are not all that far away. Not only can you drive to Phoenix or Tucson for the day, but Ajo enjoys daily, affordable public transportation to both. Architecturally speaking, Ajo is a true gem. It has a national historic district comprising of many mission-style bungalows built around the turn of the 20th century. This is quite rare in Arizona, as only 1.5% of housing in the state is older than 1935. As a result, owners of these homes in Ajo enjoy a deep discount on property taxes as an incentive to maintain and preserve them. Social life in town is homegrown and enhanced by an influx of seasonal visitors who invest time and energy to promote clubs, events and volunteer activities. Local food production is highly valued and is supported by a weekly farmers market. Art and a cultural exchange among the various ethnic communities in the area, including Mexicans and the Tohono O’odham people, are fostered by a local and influential nonprofit called the International Sonoran Desert Alliance, which used its expertise to restore a grand, old school complex in town for artist housing. This complex helps to anchor a picturesque Spanish Colonial plaza with extensive colonnades which serves as the town’s cultural heart. I have lived in Ajo for 15 years and have formed strong relationships with my fantastic neighbors. Like many residents of Ajo, I am a snowbird, but that does not mean that I am not a local. I have read elsewhere in these reviews that some people think otherwise, but I have always felt like I am a part of my community. Ajo’s drawbacks are the same that affect many small communities in the United States. Drugs and petty crime are present. For some reason, the hundreds of high-paying jobs offered by the Border Patrol station nearby have not lead to economic growth for the town like they should have. This surprised me, but I think it has something to do with Ajo not having a city government that can be responsive to the Bureau’s needs for housing and the social/educational services wanted by employees and their families. Government services are provided by Pima County and are based in Tucson, which makes Ajo seem isolated. But Ajo also benefits by having a branch of the Tucson/Pima County library system which means you can request materials from the big city to be delivered to our local branch. In my opinion, the lack of restaurants is the town’s biggest negative. Another reviewer commented on the town’s remaining mining presence. It is true that the company has not closed down though no mining has been conducted here since the 1980s. Per the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, this means that the company does not have to clean up or remediate its own, fenced-off site. But, the company does ensure clean water for residents as the owner of Ajo’s main utility and it has conducted free soil testing for contamination around town including in my yard. My results were negative. I am not aware of anything so harmful as to require Superfund designation.
Butte-Silver Bow, MTUnique, Cheap & Scenic
I feel compelled to comment on my adopted hometown after reading the interesting and not entirely incorrect reviews posted here, particularly Disappointed’s. I have lived in Butte for 15 years. I was able to buy an incredible, historic, Victorian home for a very cheap price. Like many of the homes on “The Hill,” which one can still buy at a great price, it has a sweeping, panoramic view of the area’s mountains and valleys. Butte is the largest National Historic District in the country. Nowhere else can you find such beautiful, affordable homes with these incredible mountain views. With that said, all of the challenges mentioned in the other reviews stand true. This is a small city with many of the attitudes and shortcomings one would expect. It has slow growth and is relatively arid and cold. The community is unusually insulated from outside influence. And its hard rock mining past has left environmental hazards to clean up. But, there are some particularly outstanding attributes that make Butte a wonderful place for somebody with some ingenuity and creativity to find success. While small in population, citizens often have a big-city outlook, which seems to come from Butte’s former, though long-standing, position as Montana’s premier city. It is true that people are insular and tight-knit, but they are also very open-minded and accepting of differences in ways that you may not find in other small cities. Uptown, which is the city’s cultural heart, was built big and still looks like a cosmopolitan place. Someday, people are going to make a killing off of the cheap real estate that can be bought here and turned into something fantastic. Because of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, polluters have been required to provide large clean-up and revitalization funds that have been used to improve the town. There are amazing incentives to revitalize the older commercial buildings and homes that other reviewer’s have mentioned. With money set aside to help create livable and commercially productive space in Uptown, owners can realize substantial savings through cheap loans and grants that are easy to get from the city government. And there are comprehensive programs available to remove contamination that may exist in any home or yard soil within the older section of Butte that are free to homeowners. In Butte, instead of covering over industrial pollution, which can allow cities to pretend or forget that it exists, Butte faces its challenges head-on. This is a mountain town, and like any other mountain town, it has easy access to hiking, fishing, skiing, hunting, camping and all the other outdoor activities. It is also close to several mountain ranges that had been considered for national parks until people in the West turned against creating any new parks. When it snows, the accumulation is usually small and is often so dry that you can sweep it rather than scoop it, an important distinction to make relative to other snowy places. What Butte does not have is a plethora of chain stores that would make it look like any other town in the United States. This is not your typical American city. It has mom and pop services in industries that have long been taken over by corporations elsewhere. As a result, what it does offer is local, home-grown and special. Butte could use an influx of new people with new ideas, which I think she would welcome. With more people could come more cultural pursuits within the city limits. But do not come expecting opportunities to be laid out for you. In many ways, Butte is a wild frontier. But, with its extremely low cost of living, particularly in housing, there is an opportunity to begin entrepreneurial endeavors without the initial high costs of operation that you would find in just about any other city its size.