Cave Creek and Carefree are preparing for the pivotal step toward taking control of land atop the north East Valley’s landmark mountain.
The respective town councils are to vote separately this week on seeking a transfer of 250 acres on Black Mountain’s summit from Maricopa County to the towns.
The towns want to protect the peak from development, and officials consider local control the best way to ensure its preservation, said Carefree Mayor Ed Morgan.
The tract is managed by the county under a land patent issued by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
The transfer effort recently appeared to be stalled when some county officials discussed making the plan dependent on having the towns provide a public trail to the mountaintop.
The scenic, cactus-studded peak, just north of Scottsdale’s boundary along Carefree Highway, is surrounded by private land. There has been staunch opposition from some Black Mountain property owners to an official trail.
That hurdle has been cleared, said Cave Creek Town Manager Usama Abujbarah.
The Bureau of Land Management has indicated the towns would have to ensure maintenance of a federal easement for access to the peak but would agree not to develop a public trail as a condition of the transfer, he said.
But the federal agency has said that the transfer could take three to five years, so an agreement must include arrangements with the county for care of the summit during that time, Abujbarah said.
"We’ll have to decide who will be responsible for maintenance, and liability is still a question,’’ Morgan said.
Members of the Black Mountain Conservancy, a residents preservation group, urged Cave Creek and Carefree to pursue control of the peak and offered to act as stewards to maintain and police a trail to a summit preserve.
The conservancy supports the transfer even without plans for a trail, said president Dave Mills.
"The first thing is to get local control, because preservation is the important thing. Then later we can further gauge (residents) on what they want done’’ regarding a trail, Mills said.
The Cave Creek Town Council is to meet at 7 p.m. today at Cave Creek Town Hall, 37622 N. Cave Creek Road. The Carefree Town Council is to meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Carefree Town Hall, 100 Easy St.