Last weekend, I went to an outdoor “birthday party” at the Browns Ranch Trailhead to celebrate twenty years since the first official action taken to create the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The preserve is not yet the full acreage envisioned in the Recommended Study Boundary; still, it is amazing to realize how far we’ve come in just two decades!
The Preserve is already a 47 square mile, connected, living system of open space providing a wildlife corridor and habitat for plant and animal species. More than just a scenic backdrop, eleven trailheads and 135 miles of trails have made the Preserve a unique outdoor experience for residents and visitors. This signature landmark is the most iconic asset of our city. Without question, it is our most valuable.
There were dozens of blue shirts at the birthday celebration… stewards of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy…but there were dozens of ordinary citizens, as well. The only surprise was that more citizens were not there to take a bow and pat themselves on the back.
Joan Fudala shared the history of “The People’s Preserve,” quoting from her just finished book (available at www.scottsdaleaz.com/preserve). She reminded us of the fits and starts during the ‘70s and ‘80s to preserve the McDowell Mountains. Then, in 1990, things really began to happen when a diverse group of advocates (now the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy) came together. Like movements before, the drive to create the McDowell Sonoran Preserve that found its voice in 1994 involved more than just a few enthusiasts. It reflected a shift in our collective community conscience.
As Joan Fudala described the mood of the 1990’s, it was no longer accepted that open space was what’s “left over” after development occurs. Citizens voted for their visions when they approved the 2002 General Plan with guiding principles that included “…preserve meaningful open space…” and “…value Scottsdale’s unique lifestyle and character.” These were to be the foundations for future development.
From its earliest days, Scottsdale has been a participatory community. Citizens often gather to celebrate some grand vision their collective efforts have achieved. In the early 1970s, I suspect citizens would have congratulated themselves on having the foresight to incorporate their city twenty years earlier. They might have also celebrated the bold measures pushed forward to define their city’s character… ordinances to ban billboards and require utility lines be underground.
Years later, citizens might have celebrated the anniversary of turning Indian Bend Wash into a greenbelt of parkland, open space and recreational uses. In time, they would celebrate the creation of the TPC, Scottsdale Mall, Cactus League Stadium and other citizen-driven achievements. The nation took notice of what our united people could do when Scottsdale was designated America’s “most livable city.”
A lot can be done in twenty years! I’d like to be part of your city’s leadership, pursuing the next bold citizen vision. We’ll celebrate that vision in 2034 for insuring Scottsdale remained a great place to live, work and create. I would appreciate receiving just one of your three votes for Council on November 4.