KINGMAN – Trees are down, but not out.
Al Barbarich, manager of Aileron Investments and the property owner responsible for the supposed “Joshua Tree Massacre” north of Kingman wants to assure the public that he went above and beyond in getting the green light to make way for a new development.
Concerned citizens have shared links to pictures of a large clearance of Joshua Trees near Greggs Hideout and Pierce Ferry Road. Project consultant Kathleen Tackett-Hicks reached out to The Miner after last Sunday’s article on the clearing and wanted to set the record straight.
She spoke on behalf of Barbarich, who’s currently developing an orchard and possible hotel, and delivered a statement saying he is in 100 percent compliance with local, state and federal regulations.
The company will begin planting various fruit and nut trees as well as grape vines on five 20-acre blocks in March. A well is drilled and irrigation lines have been installed. They’ll be permanent crops and depending on how well the plants grow, a first crop is slated for 2019.
Barbarich hopes to establish a local farmer’s market, restaurant and possibly a small winery with boutique hotel, which would be located on the existing commercial area along Pierce Ferry Road to cater to locals and tourists. He also has space reserved for a future residential 60-home community adjacent to the orchard.
“We have all the required permits for everything we’ve done,” he said. Those permits included land clearing, transplanting Joshua Trees and drilling the well.
As for the water situation, Barbarich said the development will use 59 acre-feet annually. Aileron Investments is constructing a 13-acre reservoir on the property to store rainwater to help offset the water usage.
“If we’re lucky, we may be able to get the majority of our water needs from reused rainwater rather than groundwater,” Barbarich said.
He added that the local economy is already getting a boost.
He said he’s used local contractors and purchased all supplies through local businesses for most of the project. The exception being a California agronomist, and any non-local employees stay at Kingman hotels. Barbarich said he hired a local rancher to build at least three miles worth of fence of which he purchased at the Dolan Springs True Value hardware store. He’s bought or rented construction equipment from local businesses, including Merten’s Heavy Equipment Repair of Kingman. He said the company has also purchased fuel from Rebel Oil Company in Kingman and irrigation equipment from other Arizona companies.
Barbarich estimated more than $500,000 has been pumped into the area.
“This figure will only grow over time,” he said. “The development process has created many jobs for local citizens, and we intend to employ many more on a permanent basis as we move forward with the project.”
As for the destruction of the Joshua trees, Barbarich said his company has followed environmental regulations and has worked extensively with the community and local environmental groups to preserve and transplant healthy trees.
“Beyond permit and fees, my team has also incurred considerable expense to carefully remove healthy Joshua Trees for transplantation to the local community,” Barbarich said. “We have done it because of our shared love of Joshua Trees and our desire to preserve them whenever possible.”
He added that the downed plants seen on the internet and social media were older, diseased trees not suitable for transplant. The young, healthy trees have been donated and removed for planting in the outlying communities – including Mt. Tipton Elementary School.
Barbarich welcomes the public to visit the site and pick a Joshua Tree suitable for transplant. The company will pay 100 percent of tags and permits and his crew will work at his expense for the necessary labor and equipment to remove and transplant the trees.
Interested parties can contact the company by email at PlantAJoshuaTree@gmail.com.
Tackett-Hicks said Barbarich is doing everything to protect the environment and facilitate a prospective economic asset to the area.
“He will be an example for the next developers,” she said.