Just five short years ago, we celebrated the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy’s 25th Birthday. As a part of that celebration, we remembered some of the most significant things that happened in each of our first 25 years.

We are now approaching our 30th Birthday, and we are taking this opportunity to reflect again on our past achievements, important moments, and dear memories that rise to the surface amongst hundreds, if not thousands, of individual moments for individual people.

With reflection, gratitude inevitably comes, and we are truly grateful for nearly 30 years with each of you.

Originally published in the 25th Anniversary Edition (Spring 2016) of Mountain Lines, our quarterly magazine of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy.

1999: The Preserve Grows

he Preserve Grows

Growing advocacy for Preserve protection got a boost in the 1999 election when 77 percent of Scottsdale voters approved issuance of “general obligation” bonds for Preserve purchases. Public support for the bonds came in large part as a result of a fourth Save Our McDowells campaign co-chaired by Art DeCabooter, Virginia Korte and hotelier Darren Smith. That same year, the City made additional purchases in the southern Lost Dog Wash area, and also bought historic Brown’s Ranch that expanded the northern desert preserve.

Dedicated to fulfilling the promise to increase access for residents and visitors to the Preserve, the Land Trust’s hiking program expanded to include mountain biking and equestrian trails. Working with the City, Land Trust trail builders continued to plan and build access as land was acquired while increasing the number of trails through existing trailheads.

Solely supported by individual, corporate and foundation funding, with no tax dollars being spent, the web of trails grew. The Preserve now offered trail access from WestWorld, McDowell Mountain Ranch and Lost Dog Trailhead.

2000: New Rules Spelled Out for the Preserve

In May 2000, five years after the first preserve tax vote, due in part to the continued advocacy of the Land Trust, the City Council passed a new ordinance outlining the scope, purpose and management of the Preserve. The new objectives also outlined rules and regulations regarding its use.

The new rules spelled out clearly what would not be allowed on the Preserve: no motorized vehicles, no littering or illegal dumping, no camping, no fires, no smoking, no glass containers, no firewood collecting, no collecting of natural or archeological materials, no feeding of wildlife, no graffiti and no wandering off-trail.

In June, after Sam Campana opted to not run for re-election, another great advocate for the Preserve, Mary Manross, was elected mayor. With Mayor Manross’s background as a two-term council member and parks commissioner, she was well known for her passionate support of the Preserve. Mayor Manross’s leadership played an instrumental role in advocating for reform in the state land trust. Her hard work paid off when reclassifications of trust lands within the Preserve study boundary were categorized as “suitable for conservation.”

Preserve Director Bob Cafarella continued working to negotiate the purchase of land in 2000. By the end of the year, he reported to the City Council that the Preserve now consisted of 9,825 acres of city-owned land.

2001: Land Trust Celebrates 10th Anniversary

The McDowell Sonoran Land Trust (MSLT) celebrated the 10th anniversary of its incorporation in 2001. A lot had been achieved over the preceding 10 years, but much more was to come.

Mayor Manross and the Land Trust, led by Executive Director Carla, had spent close to two years building community partnerships and organizing an Arizona Preserve Initiative (API) hearing where more than 1,500 people turned out. During that time thousands of letters were sent in support of the Arizona State Land Department reclassifying state land to grow the Preserve

On February 15, the State Land Department held a public hearing to determine if 16,600 acres of state trust land in northern Scottsdale should be reclassified as “suitable for conservation.” On August 30, the State Land Commissioner reclassified 78 percent of the state land (13,021 acres) within the study boundary. Further, public auction of the remaining 22 percent was put on hold giving the City time to explore funding options.

By the end of 2001, there were 665 acres of private land remaining for possible acquisition and inclusion in the proposed 36,400 acre Preserve. But as the economy boomed in 2001, land prices skyrocketed and the need to purchase state land and build trailhead facilities became challenging. It became obvious that the City was going to have to ask the voters for the fifth time for more money and for broader authority to use the existing Preserve tax for Preserve access and improvements.