Helping People Explore and Learn About the Preserve
The Guided Hike & Bike program offers education and fitness-oriented tours in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve for the general public and for private groups. the program includes hike and mountain bike guided tours to promote the Preserve and to educate the diverse audiences who visit.
Ambassadors and Advocates on the Trails
Patrol Stewards monitor over 225 miles of beautiful trails on foot, mountain bike and horseback. We are the eyes and ears for the Conservancy and the City of Scottsdale on the trails, on patrol to support the objectives of the Preserve. We are also the face of the Preserve for visitors on the trails, helping them enjoy the Preserve safely as they learn more about this very special place. Patrol Stewards are McDowell Sonoran Conservancy volunteers who educate visitors and help them enjoy their visit to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in a safe manner. They also observe and report on unsafe trail conditions so they can be repaired and made safe again.
Ambassadors and Advocates at the Trailheads
Pathfinders are McDowell Sonoran Conservancy steward volunteers who serve as ‘trailhead hosts’ for the City of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Pathfinders help visitors to the Preserve pick the best hikes by learning their interests, abilities and the amount of time they have to spend on that visit.
Pathfinders are stationed at major Preserve trailheads and perform the following services:
- Welcome visitors to the Preserve by initiating interaction, being friendly and positive.
- Promote visitors’ safety by assessing and advising visitors on preparation for desert activities (e.g., need for water, a cell phone, a map, a hat and sturdy shoes) and informing them about Conservancy guidelines for “sharing the trails” with people, cyclists and animals.
- Guide trail choices by asking how long visitors wish to go and what kind of terrain or sights they are seeking; then recommending trials and routes accordingly.
- Promote the Preserve and Conservancy by answering questions about its flora, fauna, history, geology, describing the relationship with the City of Scottsdale, describing the work of the Conservancy and ways to support it.
Preserving the Past
The PastFinders Program focuses on the human history and the cultural resources of the McDowell Mountain region by researching, preserving, protecting and sharing the historical heritage of our area.
Conservancy stewards who volunteer as citizen scientists typically have a science-minded curiosity and desire to ask questions, work in a professional manner, participate in lifelong learning and share what they have learned. It is a permanent program run by volunteers who work side by side with professional scientists on Parsons Field Institute research projects. By becoming a citizen scientist, you can expect to meet interesting people, learn about new concepts and creatures, participate in science projects, get great exercise and have fun.
Typical Citizen Science project areas are:
- Animal Monitoring
- Phenology (Plant Lifecycle)
- Non-native Plants
- Corridor Viability
- Water Resource
Ensuring Access to the Preserve
The Construction & Maintenance (C&M) program works closely with City of Scottsdale staff to maintain the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, utilizing the time and talents of an all-volunteer workforce to perform work including trail maintenance, non-native plant removal, trimming vegetation and trailhead area beautification. C&M efforts help assure safe, barrier-free access to the Preserve for visitors of all ages.
Construction & Maintenance workers are Stewards and members of the public who volunteer their time and talents to maintain more than 225 miles of Preserve trails. Their program of work includes:
- Scheduled Steward projects to perform trail maintenance through ongoing preventative maintenance or as required due to trail conditions
- Periodic corporate projects, Eagle Scout projects and community service days in which C&M trains and supervises non-Steward volunteers
- Cooperative efforts with the Conservancy’s Field Institute and Citizen Science program to remove non-native plants using best scientific practices
- Additional training for experienced C&M Steward volunteers to become crew leaders capable of managing C&M projects without additional supervision; and
- Ad hoc small crew leader projects to quickly address maintenance issues identified in patrol reports or other communications
Bringing the Preserve to Life Through Education
The Nature Guides Program provides opportunities for the community and visitors to learn about the value, significance and wonder of the Sonoran Desert through interactive tours and trailside learning on the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. We promote stewardship of natural open space by fostering an appreciation of the natural and cultural resources of the Sonoran Desert.
The Nature Guide Program offers activities that include the following:
Interpretive Guided Tours:
Nature Guide Stewards provide educational theme-based interpretive tours for school age children, senior groups, scouts, families and private groups. These hikes are conducted as “walk and talks” and are led by Nature Guides who use the plants, animals, and geologic features seen on the trail as well as preserved specimens to teach the participants about the Preserve and Sonoran Desert.
- Trailside Naturalist Stations:
Trailside Naturalists provide educational table displays at various trailheads usually on Saturday mornings using hands-on material, specimens, pictures and activities. The atmosphere is an informal one, allowing the visitors to ask questions.
- Sonoran Sundays:
These scheduled afternoon presentations about plants, animals, geology, and desert safety are designed to connect the community to the wonders of the Preserve. They are given by individuals from our partner organizations, as well as Stewards.
- Spectacular Saguaro:
This is our classroom workshop and accompanying field trip program for 3rd graders that is based on STEAM principles.
What We Do
The Steward Experience program serves the Conservancy’s pillar of Stewardship through five teams:
Stewardship 101 – recruit, train and inspire new stewards
Mentoring – train and support effective mentors who guide new stewards through the badging process
Steward Events – plan and conduct informative and inspiring all-steward events
Steward Engagement – develop ways to engage stewards; survey stewards to advance program effectiveness and high-quality volunteer management
Steward Recognition – recognize steward achievements.
We welcome stewards who want to help enhance the steward experience and who bring critical thinking skills and fresh ideas to our efforts. This includes experience in HR, communications, leadership and training, NFP management and research/data analysis.