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.

2008: Breaking Ground at the Gateway to the Preserve

On June 7, stewards and the community celebrated the long awaited opening of the Gateway to the McDowell So-noran Preserve with a groundbreaking ceremony. Located off of Thompson Peak Parkway in the DC Ranch area, Gateway would become the most visited access to the Preserve. By October, parking was available as a prelude to a May 2009 grand open-ing of the trailhead.

For some time, Conservancy volunteers considered how to engage more families and children to learn about the McDowell Mountains and Sonoran Desert. A program began to emerge that would soon attract hundreds. Officially launched in October, the “Family Fridays” series of programs featured experts talking about the Preserve’s flora and fauna. “Family Fridays” attracted parents and children throughout the community and the audience gained a new appreciation of the environment.

With the formation of an equestrian patrol unit, equestrian stewards joined the hike and bike patrol units to cover all areas of the Preserve. The first group ride took place in December 2008.

2009: Bajada Nature Trail Opens

On May 2, the community gathered to celebrate the long awaited opening of the Gateway to the Preserve. Soon to follow, on Sept. 26, the Bajada Nature Trail opened at the Gateway. The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy donated, designed and created the Bajada Nature Trail as a barrier-free nature trail

The Bajada Nature Trail made access to the Preserve easy for those with mobility challenges or seeking an easy stroll into the Preserve. The new nature trail was made possible through the generous support of long-time McDowell Sonoran Preserve advocates, the Richard and Christine Kovach Family, and the Conservancy.

As the year came to an end, and after years of an informal partnership with the City, the Conservancy signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding in December. The new relationship formally outlined the volunteer staffing responsibilities of the Conservancy with regard to the city-owned Preserve. This was clearly a new relationship giving the Conservancy an official status on the Preserve. The new agreement also outlined clear-cut roles that would bring greater stability for the Conservancy and Scottsdale in return would save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in potential labor and services.

2010: Launching the Field Institute

As the City of Scottsdale continued to acquire land for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a group of forward thinking individuals recognized that very little was known about the acquired land. In 2010, the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy received grants from an anonymous donor and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust to conduct a three-year survey of the flora and fauna of the Preserve.

The grants launched the Field Institute and enabled it to organize and conduct scientific research programs to uncover facts about the flora, fauna, geology, and human history of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The scientists and experts who led the flora and fauna research worked with trained volunteer citizen scientists to document the populations of plants and animals inhabiting the Preserve, and began to monitor those populations over time. The studies established the Field Institute as the research center of the Conservancy.

The results of one Field Institute study, led by Research Geologist Brian Gootee of the Arizona Geological Survey, focused on the mineralogy and geologic history of the Lost Dog overlook area. A research paper on the findings, written by Goottee and Field Institute citizen scientists, was peer-reviewed and published by the Arizona Geological Survey.