YAVAPAI COUNTY, Ariz. - When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a lot about life changed. Most people went from busy commutes to working from home.
However, for a small group of Arizona Game and Fish employees, the transition was a bit simpler, because they live at work.
Page Springs Fish Hatchery shows us what it means to call your coworkers – your neighbors.
Nestled in the hills of the Verde Valley along Oak Creek, is the Arizona Game and Fish Page Springs fish hatchery, spanning about 3,000 acres.
The breathtaking views on the hillside grounds make the springs a pleasant place to work, and just maybe, a better place to live.
Page Springs Fish Hatchery in Yavapai County ( )
On the days Matt Lyons, a wildlife specialist at the hatchery, clocks in, he drives down his driveway, over the creek and through the woods.
About a half-mile commute.
He's one of eight employees who live at the hatchery. Two more live and work at Bubbling Springs Pond, also on the property.
"All employees are required to live on station in case things go wrong at night or on a weekend. We need to be there because we have 300,000 fish on station at any given time," Lyons said. "All the houses are required to live in if you have the position just because if things go on at night where you have issues with your three hundred thousand fish, you need to be able to be there within a few minutes to make sure you don't lose all of your fish."
Lyons says the crew raises hundreds of thousands of fish, mostly rainbow trout, which stock more than 100 bodies of water throughout the state.
"I think it’s all about providing recreational fish or fish for the public, but it is also a family that grows these fish at most hatcheries," said Cindy Dunn, western regional coordinator for Arizona Game and Fish. "You work together, you live together and you do things together off time."
She's worked and lived at the hatchery for 26 years.
"It’s the same in the sense that you’re taking care of animals, fish and you’re feeding them and you’re cleaning and then you’re stocking them. But it’s different and also in the respect that we work with Bubbling Ponds Hatchery – We'll go over there and help them," Dunn said.
Work at the Page Springs Fish Hatchery ( )
Hatchery's history dates back to 1800s
Page Springs Fish Hatchery historical image. Photo by the Arizona Game and Fish Department
The hatchery has a rich history – one that dates back to the 1800s when the Page family owned it. The Arizona Trout Company bought a 50-year lease in 1932 and they developed it and began growing trout.
Arizona Game and Fish purchased the lease in 1938 and then in 1949, they purchased the property – 116 acres with the water right for $50,000.
The hatchery was renovated in 1991. Concrete raceways were installed and those are where the fish are cared for, raised and fed.
Employees have to be on the grounds when they're on shift, ready at a moment's notice
"So just recently we’ve been doing a copper treatment on our raceways, so those we have to make sure that our levels are in check. We were getting up at 10 a.m., 10 p.m., and 2 a.m. every morning and going in and doing some water chemistry to make sure our levels were in check and that we weren’t killing fish," Lyons explained.
On a yearly basis, the hatchery stocks about 590,000 catchable rainbow trout in Arizona lakes.
At the end of the day when Lyons drives the half-mile back to his home, he's greeted by his wife and dog. When he harvests his cherry tomato garden, he's grateful to live among the views, he's grateful for a job he loves.
Page Springs Hatchery is the most labor-intensive hatchery in Arizona.
It's fair to say the comradery of the employees, the family that lives and works at the hatchery, is what makes it so successful.
Employment at Arizona Game and Fish Department
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