When is a road not a road?

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: The Branding Iron restaurant offers a scenic dining view from its hilltop perch. The only problem is the crumbling road one must travel to reach the spot.

The long, strange twist to the saga of Branding Iron Lane

By Jon Johnson


SAFFORD – The Branding Iron restaurant sits on a hillside with a stunning view of the Gila Valley below. The only catch to having such a property, one must be able to access it.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central:

To which, the Branding Iron Lane was built roughly 30 years ago by the city of Safford to enable access to the restaurant, which was annexed into the city for its sales tax revenues under the reign of then Safford Mayor Gary Curtis. The road was an easement that was exchanged to the city in order for it to annex the restaurant.

The road was then “dedicated” to the public and has never been officially recognized by Graham County, in which it resides. The road has since fallen into disrepair and is in need of a facelift.

That being said, Graham County Board of Supervisors Chairman Danny Smith told Gila Valley Central that the county has maintained the road for its life even though it is not in their system.

Branding Iron owner Robin Cantrell spoke to the Safford City Council at its Nov. 13 meeting and said it was the city’s responsibility to repair the road. 

“I don’t own the road,” Cantrell said. “The city of Safford owns that road. If you pull up your map, it shows it is in the city of Safford. When you look at the map when they dedicated it to the public, the city of Safford is the one that did that.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Branding Iron owner Robin Cantrell addresses the Safford City Council.

Safford Mayor Jason Kouts suggested using $4,300 in savings from the city’s Central Avenue road project to help fill in the potholes in the road.

Safford City Manager Horatio Skeete said he is open to looking into fixing the damaged sections but that the city doesn’t have full jurisdiction over it since it is in the county. Also, he said filling in some potholes would be just a temporary fix and that the road really needed to be redesigned and fully replaced, which could cost roughly $300,000. He suggested attempting to annex the road, in which the city would also have to annex the upscale residences surrounding the Branding Iron property which are also serviced by the road, to have the city take over and replace it.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Safford City Manager Horatio Skeete said the tale behind the road was full of inconsistencies.

Safford City Engineer Randy Petty said he asked the county if Safford rebuilt the road to county specifications if the county would then accept it into the county’s system, to which the Graham County Board of Supervisors declined.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Danny Smith: Graham County Supervisor Chairman Danny Smith said the county already has plenty of roads it needs to fix, including Buena Vista pictured here.

Smith confirmed the county’s decision and said they already have plenty of roads that need repair and that it would be irresponsible for them to take on roads from Safford. As an example, he provided a picture of Buena Vista Road that is five miles long and in need of repair. He said that stretch of road is being considered for chip sealing in 2020.

“There may not be much left before we get to it,” Smith said. “County government is a fixed income form of government trying to stay out of the nursing home.”

Skeete said he is committed to finding a solution to the problem that Kouts said has been ongoing for a “very long, long time.” Kouts then again suggested using the $4,300 to patch the road in the meantime.

“I’m not asking for street lights or sidewalks,” Cantrell said. “I just want the road repaired.”