By Bob Cafarella and Art DeCabooter (originally published by the Scottsdale Independent, July 29, 2016)

Our intent is to provide historical information to assist in the community input to the consultant’s work to determine the preferred scope and content of this long planned amenity.

The Gateway was long ago identified as the most suitable location

Prior to the sales tax vote for Preserve land purchases in 1995, the boundary of the planned Preserve was extended to include the land that is the Gateway. This was done in response to community comments the Preserve must be accessible to everyone not just hikers, bikers, etc.  By including this flat, developable land, uses/activities that serve the broader community could be provided on the periphery.  The idea of a visitor’s center here gained support when the original location at Pinnacle Peak Park became untenable.

The 1999 Access Area Report that has been the guide for trail-head amenities, states in part “The largest and most strategically located access area is…the Gateway.  The Gateway will serve a broad range of needs and users…tourist experience…a focal point for educational facilities and programs…”  A visitor center was specifically cited both as a visitor amenity and for education purposes.

The approved Master Plan for the Gateway provides for a future DDC.  Renderings depicting Gateway amenities include an illustrative DDC footprint and profile.

The Preserve Ordinance was written in anticipation of and to allow tourist and educational amenities that fit with the Preserve purpose and management objectives.  The ordinance and the Access Area Report define permissible uses and activities.  The DDC proposals to date, including ancillary functions, would be consistent with these documents.

The ordinance provides that only the city can approve and create amenities on Preserve land.  The City Charter was amended to ensure Preserve land and amenities remained in public ownership.

Why is an amenity focused on tourism, education and research appropriate in the Preserve?

Further enhancing Scottsdale as a tourist destination, and providing education about and studying the Sonoran Desert were original justifications for creating the Preserve. Tourism leaders emphasize the importance of open space to attracting visitors.  One of the first partnerships preservation advocates secured was with the Scottsdale SD.  Field trips led by Land Trust stewards to areas desired for preservation were added to the elementary school curriculum.

Citizens have been the driving force behind Preserve decisions

The Preserve was conceived by and became a reality through the tireless efforts of citizens. Not only were citizens in the forefront shaping the preservation program, they have ensured decisions affecting the Preserve are beneficial to it.

The DDC concept has evolved over time based on planning processes led by consultants and guided by public input.  Proponents intend for the current effort to start with previous work and to conclude with a comprehensive proposal.

The two of us have seen the significant contributions citizens can make to the preservation effort.  We urge citizens to get involved, to voice their opinions and to engage the consultants and the proponents during this process.  We are confident the DDC can be a bold and innovative statement that is consistent with and furthers the vision of the Preserve, and is an amenity the community is proud of and augments Scottsdale’s uniqueness.

Editor’s Note: Art DeCabooter was the long-time chairman of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission and an early community leader advocating for creation of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  Bob Cafarella was Scottsdale’s Preservation Director serving in this role from its establishment until late 2009.  Bob was the primary author of the Access Area Report and the Preserve Ordinance while Art managed the public input and review of both documents.