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.
2011: Preserve Treasure Trove
Mike Nolan took over the reins as executive director of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy in January 2011. As the organization celebrated its 20th anniversary since incorporation, the Preserve had reached 18,000 acres. Now one of the largest urban preserves in the nation, abundant with wildlife and countless varieties of Sonoran Desert plants, it was a research treasure trove.
Nolan’s support for scientific study invigorated citizen scientists and the McDowell Sonoran Field Institute. The Field Institute stepped up its work on the flora and fauna surveys. Scientific partners led each study with volunteers from the Conservancy and other organizations. They worked hundreds of volunteer hours collecting data.
In September, there was a change in the size of the many of the commissions advising the Scottsdale City Council. The Preserve Commission overseeing the Preserve, on which many Conservancy supporters served, was reduced from eleven members to seven members, but the reduction did not affect the Conservancy’s mission.
2012: Tom’s Thumb Trailhead Opens
January started with Walter Thurber, the principal investigator of birdlife for the McDowell Sonoran Field Institute, leading the first bird survey in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. After this first survey, Thurber trained McDowell Sonoran Conservancy stewards to continue with birdlife surveys. The trained stewards conducted follow-on surveys visiting the same six sites in the Preserve several times a year to identify species, migration patterns and other activity.
The Tom’s Thumb Trailhead opened on October 18, giving access to the northern reaches of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, including the Marcus Landslide Interpretive Trail. A month later the city acquired 6,400 acres in the northern part of the Preserve. The new acquisition provided a long hoped for connection to the Tonto Forest and included Cholla and Granite mountains. The new land had extensive areas of exposed bed-rock, boulder outcrops, and lush upper Sonoran Desert full of vegetation supporting a habitat for wildlife.
2012 also saw the launch of the Sonoran Desert Women as an affiliate of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. The women’s membership group organized under the leadership of Leslie Dashew. The group stated their purpose as follows. “Through engagement of women leaders in the community, we seek to raise awareness and support for the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy mission by sharing the history of the McDowell Mountains and Sonoran Desert in the McDowell Sonoran Pre-serve, promoting visitation, education and preservation.
2013: New Trainheads Open in the Preserve
Brown’s Ranch Trailhead quietly opened on June 10. The new trailhead, located at 30301 N. Alma School Parkway,
had its official public dedication on Saturday, October 19. The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy and the City of Scottsdale hosted the dedication. The trailhead features displays depict-ing the area’s rich history and amenities including: a 200-space parking area, 24 horse trailing parking spots, restrooms, water fountains, administrative building, a shaded amphitheater, and trails for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.
The Conservancy and the City of Scottsdale opened the Granite Mountain Trailhead at 31402 N. 136th St, two miles north of Rio Verde Drive, in July. It included parking and a map display of trails. However, it did not include water for hikers and other users.
With the expansion of the Preserve, its trailheads and trail system, the Conservancy also expanded its steward program. During 2013, the Conservancy trained 133 new stewards, bringing the total to over 500 active stewards. They dedicated nearly 40,000 hours to patrolling and maintaining trails, welcoming visitors and educating the community through hikes, outreach programs, school tours, and other events and programs.