A lot of interesting details were revealed about the elaborate Two Guns Resort proposal at Two Guns, Arizona, at a Coconino County Board of Supervisors zoning meeting last week.
We previously reported in August about John D. Gunderman’s 247-acre project through his 2 Guns Luxury Glamping Resort website. Gunderman, who hails from Indiana, declined to comment extensively at the time, but he stated in an email “we plan on honoring the History of Two Guns and building on Route 66.”
The Arizona Daily Sun, based in nearby Flagstaff, reported on the three-hour county meeting and zoning request. The newspaper had these details about Two Guns:
Plans for the resort, to be developed by Indiana-based Gunderman Designs & Concepts Inc., specify 787 total lodging units, including 395 recreational vehicle sites, 78 tipis, 43 wagons, 98 cabins, 19 yurts and a 13-unit Cliffside hotel. The resort would also include a Route 66 drive-in theater, steakhouse, water park, pet resort and helipad, as well as a military museum and Native American memorial. […]
Gunderman said the plan for the business also includes giving some of the profits back to community charities.
The county board declined to approve the project, citing a few concerns, and will take up the matter again sometime in February or March.
Gunderman told the county officials the site was “amazing” and added: “If it didn’t have Route 66 or if it didn’t have the Canyon Diablo, or any of these other things that are on this property, I wouldn’t even be looking at this.”
Route 66 fans will find interesting the application’s details on how to develop the existing ruins.
a) First Zoo – Located on the north canyon rim of the south fork of
Diablo Canyon the location of the first roadside attraction zoo was
originally constructed by Henry Miller in 1925. Most of the original
structure is gone, the walls for the original zoo pens are crumbling and deteriorated. Two rooms at the center of the original structure
remain approx. 80% intact, however, due to the building methods
used through the 1920s and 1930s even these existing remains are
not structurally sound. The building has no footings to support the
dry stacked stone walls, very little mortar of an unknown mix was
used to secure them, and due to their long exposure and advanced
deterioration significant work will need to be performed to rebuild
and preserve this structure. Plans currently call for the existing
center section two-room complex to be rebuilt and repaired. These
spaces will serve as a guest check-in and restrooms for a proposed
boutique hotel. New rooms will be constructed adjacent to the
center section in a style consistent with traditional route 66 roadside
motels and will feature native stone elements to complement the
historic center structure. The proposed plan calls for an adaptation
of this site to allow for preservation of what is left of the 1st zoo site
while creating a safe environment for guests and additional use for
the property owner.
b) Cundiff Gas Station and Hopi Roundhouse – Around 1920 the Hopi
style roundhouse and gas station were built to service the newly
constructed Route 66. The structures were built by Native Hopi
hired to recreate their traditional dwelling style to appeal to early
travelers. The gas station featured two visible pumps and an upper
platform accessible via a curved stair at the rear of the structure.
Structural analysis of the remains of this structure show similar
methods were used as the zoo. The buildings have no footings to
support the dry stacked stone walls, very little mortar of an unknown
mix was used to secure them, and due to their long exposure and
advanced deterioration significant work will need to be performed to
rebuild and preserve these structures. Plans call for these structures
to be restored to their original condition using modern methods that
will allow for their continued preservation for decades to come.
While no gasoline will be sold, the visible pumps, pump island, and
site paving will be recreated to present guests with an opportunity to
experience what the site was like during the height of Route 66
travel. The desire is to make this an educational and fun part of the
c) Cundiff Residence and Trading Post – Located adjacent to the bridge
crossing Diablo Canyon the Trading Post was originally built around 1930. Much of the original structure is gone or crumbled with
significant deterioration of the top walls, window lintels, and entire
front wall of the structure. Different methods were utilized in its
construction with tinted mortar used to set the native stone and as
such this structure is in better condition than the previously
mentioned. Plans call for a stabilization of this structure and
necessary repairs to rebuild the significantly damaged portions and
restore missing structural components above the window openings.
The structure will be re-purposed as a gathering and entertainment
venue for the proposed equestrian camping district. A new
lightweight steel canopy is planned to be built inside the existing
structure to provide cover and protection of the existing walls. The
goal with this site is to preserve the existing structure while adapting
it to modern use giving guests another opportunity to engage with
the story and history of Two Guns in a unique way.
d) Second Zoo – Constructed in 1934, the second zoo was a recreation
of the first after the relocation of Route 66 further north on the site.
A significant portion of the original structure remains and the native
stone with masonry mortar utilized in its construction has allowed it
to age much better than surrounding structures. The most
significant deterioration at this location is found in the rear animal
pens with very little of the original construction remaining. A
structural analysis of this portion of the site shows already failed or
failing walls at the rear portion animal cages and a mostly sound
structure at the top of the canyon edge. The uppermost portion of
the structure is an iconic piece of Two Guns history with a painted
“mountain lions” sign above the original entry door. Plans call to
stabilize and preserve this part of the structure by restoring the
failing masonry cap at the top of the wall and rebuilding portions that
have recently failed or fallen down due to vandalism on the site. The
short and crumbling walls at the rear section animal pens present an
unstable and unsafe condition to visitors and guests and will be
removed. Plans for development at this site call for a small patio space and educational placards telling the story of Two Guns. Future
plans call for a small pop-up retail component to be developed
adjacent to the “Mountain Lions” structure with an ideal tenant
being a featured native artisan(s) though identification of possible
collaborative agreements with native tribes or people is ongoing.
e) Modern structures Post 1940 – Various burned out remnants,
foundations, and debris from an additional hotel, three gas stations,
and an RV camp exist on the site. Plans call for the demolition and
removal of these remaining structures. No significant historical value
is tied to these areas with the exception of the swimming pool at the
former KOA Kamp. The pool has a recent value as a pilgrimage spot
for skateboarders and graffiti artists and plans are ongoing for a way
to continue to allow these activities in a controlled way within the
new resort. Ownership has engaged with some of these populations
and will continue those discussions as our design efforts continue.
f) Dumping Grounds – A significant portion of the site has been utilized
as a dumping ground for asphalt tailings, concrete debris, and other
trash. Plans call for the cleanup and removal of this area with a
return to native vegetation and landscape.
g) Culturally Sensitive Remains – The only identifiable area of the site
with important cultural significance is the canyon location historically
referred to as the “Apache Death Cave”. There are no development
plans for this area beyond enclosing the entrance to the cave and
adding barriers at the site to prevent guests from accessing these
areas. It is the developer’s belief that due to the past history of the
site and events that occurred at this location that it is inappropriate
to continue the past exploitation of this feature and as such no
activities are planned surrounding the Death Cave itself. There are
schematic plans for a possible education center and memorial
adjacent to the cave site, however, plans for this structure will only
move forward if support from the tribes involved can be earned.
Absent tribal involvement and approval, no additional development
tied to the death cave will be sought.
The county insisted on a few changes before approving the development:
According to current conditions required for the property’s zone change to Resort Commercial, development within the canyon, which serves as a wildlife corridor, would be prohibited and the developer would need not to only submit the findings of an archaeologist’s cultural resource review but also consult with the Navajo Nation, Hopi tribe and applicable Apache groups regarding this development. Current plans include sealing off the Apache Death Cave.
Other conditions established by the Planning and Zoning Commission include using shielded amber LED lighting, contracting with the Winslow Fire Department for fire and EMT services and establishing an onsite wastewater treatment system.
Gunderman wanted an exemption for the 50-foot setback and barrier from the canyon’s edge. County officials granted him a 20-foot setback for the undisturbed areas of the canyon’s edge.
They also allowed him to develop closer to the edge where existing structures stand, as Gunderman wants to preserve those. Safety barriers also would be required for observation points.
Board Supervisor Lena Fowler and Chairwoman Liz Archuleta found the tipis to be a sticking point:
“If you’re truly going to respect and honor the Native people, then do so,” Fowler said. “Don’t be building something that just really is a stereotype again. It’s very demeaning to us, and I don’t like seeing that on the interstate driving back from Window Rock back to Flagstaff or along that corridor like that. I would ask that of the developers: really learn about the local people, learn about us. We are a proud people. We have our language, we have our way of life, we have our culture, we have our arts and we are very smart and we want to reflect who we are today.”
Fowler suggested a revision to the conditions for approval that would require consultation with Northern Arizona University, tribal historic and tourism offices and museums to ensure local indigenous peoples are honored through the development, but the developer pushed back, arguing that the tipis are a part of the glamping industry as seen in campgrounds in Flagstaff and Williams and, because the tipis make up about a quarter of the project’s permanent lodgings, the site plan would need to be completely reworked. […]
“We’re asking that you recognize the sense of place where you’re at in Coconino County and that we hope that there be value in that people who would come to your development and your area of hospitality would also find value in that,” Archuleta said.
The zoning meeting was uploaded to YouTube here. The Two Guns portion begins about the 2 hours, 37-minute part of the video.
The Two Guns application begins here at Page 251 (Warning: The county’s link is more than 1,400 pages, so open at your own risk.)
(Images of artist’s renderings of the proposed Two Guns Resort via Coconino County Board of Supervisors documents)