This letter to the editor from McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commissioner Fred Klein was published in the Republic last week.
Questionable changes make preserve seem more like a park
About 20 years ago, when Scottsdale was beginning to acquire an open-space area and mulling how to run it, it had a number of examples near at hand, especially those of the Tonto National Forest, state trust lands and Maricopa County parks. All permitted a wide array of recreational uses.
Instead, Scottsdale chose to create a preserve, aimed primarily at protecting scenic views and the native plants and animals. Our McDowell Sonoran Preserve is the result. It’s the nation’s largest urban nature preserve, or will be — a place where the law encourages contemplative use, with the desert the focus. year, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission, of which I am a member, charged with advising the City Council on preserve matters, has given its approval to allowing competitive events — that is, foot and bicycle races — to be staged in the preserve, and continuing a latter-day provision that permits bow-hunting in season, one that’s incongruous because it contradicts other preserve rules aimed at wildlife protection.
I have no problem with racing or bow-hunting per se, but think they are inappropriate for an entity like ours. Mine was a minority view in commission votes on the issues, taken after public hearings in which (predictably) the voices of advocates of the activities in question predominated. The hunting matter was complicated by the fact that the hunter-friendly state Game & Fish Commission, not the city, has the final say, but even an effort designed merely to begin a discussion of the subject was defeated. The upshot is, we have less of a preserve and more of a park.
The issue will arise again more forcefully as the Desert Discovery Center advances. Proposed for the Gateway, the Preserve’s most-used portal, the center certainly would bring crowds and traffic to the trailhead area and, probably, food-service facilities and nighttime events as well. With proper separation and administration, the center and the trails could coexist, but the all-important details that would ensure this remain to be worked out. Directions can be changed, but the changes and their consequences should be made with open eyes.
Fred Klein is a member of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission.