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April 2005 Messenger Text

McDowell Park Association General Meeting

Wednesday Evening April 20th, 7:00 pm

Fountain Hills Community Center, 13001 La Montana Boulevard
Fountain Hills

An illustrated slide lecture and a live Gila Monster

“Arizona’s Gila Monsters in Fact and Folklore”

By David E. Brown
Arizona State University Wild Life Biologist
And co-author of Gila Monster: Facts and Folklore of America’s Aztec Lizard

For more information, please phone 816-0018

Well behaved children are welcome.


Park Ranger Paul “Crash” Marusich has been in charge of finding a replacement windmill head for the windmill tower at the Pemberton Ranch historic site in the Park. Crash and Park Superintendent Rand Hubbell want to rebuild the windmill and have it once again function to bring water into two tanks – one for wildlife and one for equestrians’ horses. Crash was able to locate the appropriate head out of state. MPA has agreed to assist. We are using the donations we receive this year to help the Park restore the site.

It will take a year to transport the windmill part and complete the installation. The County Parks Department required that the new head either exactly match the one that was original to the Pemberton Ranch or a completely modern one.
Kudos to Crash for finding the historic part!

For more about the Pemberton Ranch site, please see page 2.

The spectacular spring wildflower display is about over. I hope all of you have been able to spend some time in the desert enjoying it. The flowers at McDowell Park have been beautiful. Even from a distance, brittlebush on the hillsides adds a bright yellow patchwork to the unusually green background.

MPA Work Day
On Saturday, March 5th, a group of MPA members worked with Park manager Rand Hubbell at the site of the Pemberton Ranch. We cleared out shrubs and tree limbs from the area around the well base. The concrete base platform is still intact, and water continuously rises out of the pipe and runs into the desert. Current plans are to put a waterproof liner in the existing nearby catch basin, so this can serve as an oasis for animals in the park. Further site improvements are planned, including installation of a windmill like the one previously present there. Your MPA Board has voted to help with funding these improvements. Furthermore, we have decided to use all contributions (above basic dues) this year for this project.

We all felt a sense of accomplishment in helping the Park with the Work Day. We will possibly have another day this season, involving landscaping with desert plants around the Welcome Center. We will have more information about this at the April 20th membership meeting in Fountain Hills. If you can't make that meeting and would like to help with the planting project, please call me at 471-3818.

The Welcome Center will be completed shortly. Those who have already signed up to help staff the center will be hearing from us when it is functioning. Others may volunteer by calling me or by signing up at the April 20th meeting.

MPA recently supplied a work party to assist Park Supervisor Rand Hubbell in doing some pruning and cleaning at the historic Pemberton Ranch site in the Park. The site is located on the southern branch of the Pemberton Trail about a mile southwest of the main Park road. MPA is also pleased to be able to help fund the restoration of the site.

Pemberton Ranch was established about 1917 by Henry Pemberton. He filed for a lease of two 80 acre sections of land from the State of Arizona in 1919. He built a three room house with a dirt floor and walls composed of saguaro ribs, adobe, and 2” by 4” studding. The house contained an adobe fireplace. Water was supplied by a windmill to two tanks – one for the family and one for the cattle and horses. There were also three corrals and two concrete watering troughs. Remnants of these amenities are still visible.

For more information, please see Rio Verde resident and MPA member Bob Mason’s MORE Verde Valley Lore, pp. 165 – 168.


The Federal Enabling Act granting Arizona statehood conveyed to the State of Arizona 9.3 million acres that were designated as State Trust Lands. The Enabling Act required that revenue from the sale or lease of State Trust Lands be used to support "public institutions", mostly the "common schools".

Under the present law, the State Land Department must get the highest and best economic value from the sale. These rules are also embodied in the Arizona Constitution.

State Trust Lands are sprinkled all around the state and many are breathtakingly beautiful. Cities and towns such as Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Fountain Hills very much want to acquire State Trust Land within their boundaries or on their borders to preserve open space. But because land prices in or near urban areas have escalated so much, cities and towns cannot afford to pay the market price that current law mandates the State Land Department charge.

There are also many areas of rural lands worthy of conservation for their unique beauty or for important wildlife habitat. These, too, should be preserved.

Attempts to change the Constitution and Federal Law to recognize the use of State Trust Lands for open space and conservation bump into many competing and conflicting interests including funding for education, grazing interests, and land developers.

Past efforts to resolve these conflicting interests by the legislature, voter referendums, and the "Fox Commission" composed of representatives of some of the competing interests have failed.

Proposed Ballot Initiative
For approximately ten months another group consisting of conservation groups, land trusts, hunters and fishing groups, have been meeting and working to prepare a voter initiative for the November 2006 General Election. In part because of our interest in the 1300 acre tract of State Trust Lands just north of Fountain Hills, the McDowell Park Association is member of this group. This group is proposing a very simple single issue ballot initiative that would amend the Arizona Constitution to recognize conservation and open space as a purpose of State Trust Lands as well as public education. As this article is being written, representatives of this group are consulting with Governor Napolitano to obtain her support.

If such an initiative were to pass in November 2006, many details would need to be worked out to provide some alternative funding to the public schools to make up for revenue lost by reason of the land which would be held for open space. Other changes would need to be made in future legislation as to how State Trust Lands are classified and managed. But the initiative proposed by the conservation group, if passed and approved by the US Congress, would avoid the necessity of future Arizona Constitution changes and future involvement by the US Congress.

At the time of writing this article it is impossible to tell where all of this is going and what is going to happen. Keep tuned in on this issue as it is very important to the future of Arizona.

Merideth Hale has been proofing the Messenger text before I do the layout. Her service is invaluable and has saved me from many gaffs. Many thanks, Merideth!
Myrna Smith, Messenger Editor

Jim Urban, President
John McNeill, Vice President
Merideth Hale, Secretary &
Membership Chair
Frank Jakubs, Treasurer
Bob Bohannon
Margaret Daleo
Ed Kehe
Dick Oliver
Myrna Smith, Messenger Editor

MPA vice-chairman John McNeill is the webmaster for MPA’s web site: www.McDowellParkAssociation.org. The site includes announcements of meetings and events, MPA newsletters, photos of Sonoran Desert landscapes, plants and animals by Mike Maggio and John McNeill, a McDowell Mountain Regional Park Annual Pass application and much more.
Thanks, John, for an excellent job!

Our members are vital. You make the organization work. We welcome your attendance at meetings and your help with projects. The following memberships have been received since the February Messenger and up to March 28th. Please note that donations received since the first of the year will go towards the refurbishing of the Pemberton Ranch historic site in McDowell Park.

[Hiker (H) = donations up to $49], [Trail Blazer (TB) = donations $50 to $99], [Mountain Climber = (MC) = donations over $100]

The North Trail is one of the easiest and most scenic trails in McDowell Park. This three mile trail is flat and passes through lush Sonoran Desert Upland that was not touched by the 1995 Rio Fire. About half way round the trail are the two benches MPA donated in honor of founding president Jack Fraser. You may want to rest there awhile and enjoy the view. Be sure and bring water!

The wild flowers will soon disappear, but the cholla flowers will soon follow. These beautiful flowers come in a variety of colors — vermillion, rust, chrome yellow and orange. One theory is that they have not yet determined which color attracts the best pollinators, so they’re still displaying a variety.

Did You Know that the smaller cacti bloom first followed by the medium ones and finally the magnificent saguaros?

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