Major Acquisitions in November 2012 Add to Preserve
Brown's Ranch Trailhead Update
Temporary Closure in Northern Preserve
Gateway Access Area Receives "Platinum" LEED Certification
State Land Reform
Proposed Desert Discovery Center
The city of Scottsdale acquired 6,400 acres of land for the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve at three state land auctions on November 21, 2012 in which the city was the only bidder.
The city’s combined successful bids totaled $ 88.2 million – approximately $16 million of that will come from a Growing Smarter State Trust Land Acquisition Grant approved by the Arizona State Parks Board in September. The remainder of the purchase price will come from money generated by two dedicated sales taxes approved by Scottsdale voters in 1995 and 2004. The use of state grant funding frees additional dollars to be used on future purchases.
“This week marks a major accomplishment for Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve,” said Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane. “With these three auctions, we have combined our citizen-approved dedicated sales tax dollars with $16 million in state grant money to add 10 square miles to the preserve. Those 27,800 acres now connect to the Tonto National Forest – a milestone ensuring a sustainable wildlife population in our preserve.
“By leveraging state grant funds over the last four years we have been able to save the city more than $88 million while extending the purchasing power of local sales taxes dedicated to expanding the preserve.”
With this acquisition, Scottsdale’s mountain preserve encompasses approximately 27,800 contiguous acres – more than 43 square miles. That is over 81 percent of the long-range goal to preserve about 34,000 acres, nearly a third of the city’s land area. Preserving these lands achieves a primary goal to establish an important wildlife corridor connection to the nearly three million acres of Tonto National Forest.
The preserve land acquired today includes the majority of Cholla and Granite mountains and extensive areas of exposed bedrock, boulder outcrops, lush upper Sonoran Desert vegetation including Rawhide Wash and a number of other large washes housing abundant wildlife.
The lands generally are located north of the Ashler Hills Drive alignment, south of the Stagecoach Pass alignment, east of the 100th street alignment and west of 136th street. It is within a “recommended study boundary” that includes all of the land targeted to be part of the preserve, permanently protecting the acreage from development.
Click here for more conceptual designs of Brown's Ranch Trailhead.
The Brown’s Ranch Trailhead will be the first trailhead to provide access to the northern region of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The Trailhead will be located approximately 1.25 miles north of the intersection of Alma School Parkway and Dynamite Boulevard. The design process began in March 2011, and will continue through the remainder of the year. Construction is estimated to begin in the first half of 2012, and be complete in early 2013.
The first phase will include 200 passenger vehicle parking spaces (additional phases could bring the total up to 300 spaces), parking for horse trailers, hitching rails, water trough, bike racks, restrooms, interpretive signage, shade ramadas, water fountain, an entry drive with access control gate, and a small office and maintenance yard.
The municipal use master site plan for the trailhead was approved by the Planning Commission in December 2011 and the City Council in January 2012. The City's Development Review Board approved the design of the trailhead in January 2012.
The purpose of this new underground powerline is to provide electric utility service to the northeast region of Scottsdale. A temporary closure of the vicinity near the construction site has been implemented. See map of the closed area here (pdf/927kb/1p).
For your safety, please observe this closure. People entering the closed area are subject to prosecution under State and City laws. For more information, visit the APS website.
The Gateway Trailhead at Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is the entrance to one of Arizona’s most picturesque environments. The building and grounds of the Gateway, themselves, are also environmentally special.
In January 2010, the Gateway received a “platinum” designation, the highest certification possible through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
Only six Arizona structures are certified platinum through the LEED program. Two are in Scottsdale: the Preserve Gateway and the Downtown Scottsdale Fire Station, 7522 E. Indian School Road.
LEED is a national standard for “green” buildings that use environmental techniques to conserve materials, resources and reduce energy consumption while contributing to the health of its occupants.
There are four progressively higher and more demanding levels of certification (from lowest to highest): Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
The Gateway Trailhead is designed to have a minimal impact on our desert. It features public restrooms, a staff office, 200 parking spaces, an educational amphitheater, shade ramadas, multi-use trails and an accessible interpretative trail loop.
The Gateway’s green building elements include solar power generation, rainwater harvesting, rammed earth walls constructed of native soil from on-site excavation, structural steel made of high recycled content, native landscaping and parking lot and path surfaces made of stabilized, decomposed granite.
The Gateway is a “net zero” energy facility, meaning in a given year it generates more energy than it consumes from the utility grid.
For more information on the Gateway Access Area, visit: Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve Gateway.
For information on other Trail Access areas, click here.
For a number of years a broad based, diverse consortium of interests from around the State have been meeting to achieve State Land reform. This effort is important to Scottsdale because 16,100 acres of State Trust Land in the planned Preserve Boundary has been reclassified as suitable for conservation by the State ( State Trust Land Status ). Numerous strategies have been attempted including working through the state Legislature and submitting a proposition to Arizona voters.
There is general consensus that the rules and regulations controling the use of the millions of acres of State Trust Land need updating. Existing State Land laws were put in place at the time of statehood in 1912. Most agree the Arizona of today is much different than the Arizona back then. Laws pertaining to State Land need to be modified to address the needs of the State today. This is particularly urgent and necessary in Arizona's urban areas.
Currently, the State is required by law to sell State Trust land at its highest and best use value. Proceeds go to aid State institutions, primarily the public schools. The State Constitution does not recognize conservation as a possible use of State Trust land. In 1996, then Governor Symington signed into law the Arizona Preserve Initiative (API). The API provided a tool for appropriate State Land in urban areas to be conserved. Strict criteria relating to biological, scenic, and intrinsic values were used to determine whether proposed State Land was eligible for conservation consideration. Eligible land would still need to be sold at the highest and best use price. Recently, issues with the legality of the API have surfaced. This is all the more reason many have been advocating State Land reform.
In November 2010, the City Council accepted the Phase II Feasibility study and the recommendations from the Phase II subcommittee to proceed with further detailed study of how such a facility might be funded and established. The discovery center is envisioned as an educational center which will provide opportunities for residents and visitors to discover the story of the Upper Sonoran Desert and instill a sense of harmony and respect for the desert environment in which we live through exhibits and environmental programs/experiences presented in a natural setting, located at the Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in north Scottsdale. The council appointed the Phase III committee in April, 2011 and directed them to formulate recommendations for the City Council on the operating, funding, and business model for the DDC. The committee recommendations are expected to be completed and presented to the Council in the first quarter of 2012.
More on the Desert Discovery Center