White Tank Mountains Conservancy June 2017 Newsletter

Nancy Martin Earns Featured Steward Recognition

By John Laabs

In fall 2015, Nancy and Bruce Martin headed for the White Tank Mountain Regional Park to hear Interpretative Ranger Jessica Bland give a nature talk. While driving, Nancy noticed more new homes going up closer to the mountains. The observation got the couple talking about urban development and the impact on the mountain area and park that they often enjoyed. Since beginning to winter in the West Valley in 2014, Nancy and Bruce regularly hiked in the White Tanks and took advantage of the educational offerings in the Park and library. As a result of their discussion, Nancy learned about the White Tank Mountain Conservancy and promptly signed up for the first Steward orientation. Bruce and Nancy’s sister Ann did the same. Since the orientation class in January 2016, Nancy has been an active volunteer and contributor to the mission of the Conservancy.

Nancy considers herself from the “south side of Chicago,” but she now spends summers with Bruce in northwest Indiana near their children. She retired from her teaching career in 2013. Nancy taught primarily special needs students at the intermediate level, and she holds certifications in both Special Education and Social Studies. In 2009, Nancy and Bruce bought a home in Sun City Grand, and after retirement in 2013 became regular fall to spring residents.

Together they enjoy all things outdoors and share their enthusiasm for promoting and supporting the protection of the White Tank Mountains. Nancy calls out cycling, hiking, and water skiing as favorite activities. She balances these with reading and a keen interest in photography. She and Bruce also enjoy travel opportunities. Their plans for the summer of 2017 include an excursion to Seattle. They also have a friend who works as a part-time, short-term Ranger for the US National Park Service. Nancy and Bruce try to visit her during the summer months, and together they explored the Buffalo National River in Arkansas in 2016. Their friend has an assignment in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas in 2017, and if all goes as planned Nancy and Bruce will spend time in one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the US.

Nancy, Ann, Alice, and Bruce

After participating in new Steward Orientation, Nancy completed Budding Botanist training at the Desert Botanical Garden. She contributes to the program as an on-the-ground volunteer researcher working with Cass Blodgett and Dawn Goldman in the White Tank Mountains and reports the program activities in the Conservancy Quarterly Newsletter. In the Regional Park, Nancy assists on guided hikes working with Rodger Wilson and Cindy Smith. During the winter, both Nancy and Bruce volunteer time for the Friends of the White Tanks Annual Art Fair. Nancy brings her education background to the table at Conservancy Education and Outreach Committee meetings. When the Education and Outreach teams convene in the fall of 2017, she hopes to work on aligning available and new Conservancy and Park informational materials with Arizona state education standards, when possible, to assist teachers in getting the most out of field trips to the Regional Park. Nancy also hopes that she can help establish a coordinated effort to provide assistants for guided hike leaders. Nancy rounds out her volunteer time with the Conservancy working the information table at community marketing events, and she has participated in new Steward training by teaching the How to Earn the Steward Badge segment.

Budding Botanist

Nancy Martin brings her passion for protection of natural resources, her skills as an educator, and her energy to pitch in for a variety of tasks – all with great enthusiasm – to the White Tank Mountain Conservancy. Through her actions and ideas, she is emerging as a leader in achieve the organization mission and goals!

Chris Reed Logs 140 Hours

By Jane Fricke

A big thank you goes to Chris Reed who contributed 140 hours to the Conservancy in 2016 and was unable to attend the Appreciation Dinner on Saturday, February 18. Chris volunteers many hours at both White Tank Mountain Regional Park and Skyline Regional Park and is integrally involved in the floristic inventory being conducted in the mountain range. Thank you, Chris, for your continued volunteer service!

Chris Reed

Tales from the Trails

By Chris Reed

As a trail ambassador at the White Tanks, I walk the trails, talk with people, and enjoy the outdoors. Each week the desert looks different: from crispy brown in October to wet green and energetic in March to brownish and animate in May. This year was special with the outcome of all of the rain. The desert became surreal with lush green grasses and bushes pin flagged with abundant colorful flowers. Everyone wanted to test their skills as a photographer or artist. Added to this natural experience was the cultural parade of baseball hats and T-shirts during baseball spring training season. A highlight was to see the waterfall flowing. The adventurous would have to boulder hop around the rocks, slide their bodies through the rocks, or get their feet wet.

Photos by Chris Reed

There are always diverse groups of hikers: family members chatting, dogs with their owner, mothers with children and strollers, runners, and winter visitors. I always ask the dog owners what are the dogs are sniffing – mostly rabbits and lizards. Many like to talk about snakes, few were seen this year. I direct people to visit the nature center with our collection of living snakes. One day everyone was getting excited spotting a chuckwalla showing off on a boulder. Near the petroglyphs, I ask the viewers what these images mean. Their insight was interesting to hear, but we may never know the true meaning. At the end of the trail in the cool shade by the waterfall, the visitors will ask me to tell them a story about this scenic and historic park.

Volunteer Coordinator Highlights CAZCA Program

By Jane Fricke, Volunteer Coordinator

Get Involved - Volunteer

So far this year, we have volunteered 1,147.30 hours with the Conservancy!

A few “Days” to keep in mind:

  • September 30 is National Public Lands Day
  • October 14 will be the next New Steward Orientation
  • October 21 is “Welcome Back Party” for Conservancy volunteer
  • November 17 is National Take a Hike Day

Upcoming Special Project

We will be partnering with Central Arizona Conservation Alliance (CAZCA), as well as Maricopa County Parks, Maricopa Park and Trail Foundation, City of Buckeye, and Desert Botanical Garden.

Although CAZCA calls it Citizen Science, we are naming our Stewards as a team called Desert Defenders. Here is CAZCA’s description:

We are recruiting for citizen scientists who will help identify and map invasive species found in the White Tank Mountains utilizing the iNaturalist App. This is part of a region-wide effort to gather baseline data on invasive plant species such as buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) and fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum). This initiative will assist the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance (CAZCA) in gathering baseline data for further research into invasive species management and native plant restoration. This is an action item in the Regional Open Space Strategy for Maricopa County (ROSS:MC).

This means we will want you to walk all over the mountain, on and off trail, and probably in rugged areas, to take pictures of invasive species with your cell phone. The first class will be Saturday, September 23 at White Tank Mountain Park where you will learn to identify the species we want you to photograph. Field work will be on October 7 and November 4. For those who can’t attend the September training, we are planning on an evening class - probably in November or December.

Look for the flyer and job description on our website this summer.

If you want to see what CAZCA is doing and how we will fit in:

Link to iNaturalist mapping. (once on the website, please scroll down to see mapping)


Here’s the link to the Pennisetum one for City of Phoenix

Also, here’s the general flora/fauna one we created for City of PHX and would also do for White Tanks area.

iNaturalist - City of Phoenix and Preserves

Thank you for volunteering, and See you on the Trails.

Park Supervisor Heads to Montana

Raymond Schell, Supervisor of White Tank Mountain Regional Park, has moved on to serve as manager of two Montana parks, Tongue River State Park and Rosebud Battlefield, near Busby and Decker, respectively. He leaves the White Tanks with many good memories and improvements to the park.

JudyRae and Raymond Schell

After nearly 13 years of service to the Maricopa County Park System where he started in maintenance and worked his way to park supervisor at WTMRP, Schell and his wife JudyRae have set out to fulfill a dream of living in Montana. With a wide array of skills developed from maintenance positions in Denali National Park in Alaska, to hotel maintenance, and park maintenance with Maricopa County and seven years as WTMR Park supervisor, Schell chose to accept yet another new challenge.

In his time at White Tank, Schell has seen several significant improvements in the park facilities and amenities. Among those have been the development of the Nature Center/Library, the butterfly garden and tortoise enclosure, campground upgrades, and the windmill and pond, as well as the progress in natural and cultural resource inventory.

Encounters with wildlife in the mountains rank high among his special memories, but experiences with the people with whom he worked are the best. Very recently, he and newly hired Ranger Justin Williams attempted to resuscitate a speckled rattlesnake. Schell also warmly recalls his interactions with volunteers, park visitors, and staff including past rangers Doc Talboys and Jessica Bland. He also enjoyed studying petroglyphs with Jessica and Ned Sleigh and botany with Cindy Smith.

As he departed, Schell expressed that he felt very privileged to have the opportunity to meet and/or work with such “amazing volunteers, staff, partners, and visitors” with whom he interacted during his tenure at park supervisor.

Schell will be missed as a visionary, dependable, and knowledgeable anchor to the park. We wish him the best!

Ranger Justin Williams Aims to Create New Footprints

by Alice Neal

Ranger Justin Williams

With abundant energy, a winsome smile, and plenty of qualifying education and experience to implement his passions, Justin Williams has assumed the role of White Tank Mountains Regional Park Interpretive Ranger.

Williams replaces Jessica Bland who was promoted within the Maricopa County Park system to supervisor at Hassayampa Vulture Peak Preserve.

A native New Yorker, he earned his B.S. degree in Bio/Chemistry from SUNY Postdam College and later moved on the University of Southern Mississippi to earn a degree in Marine Biology. While at SUNY Potsdam, Williams gained experience in adult education by teaching Sustainable Agriculture.

After moving to Arizona, he worked at Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium learning to care for and “play with” the animals. He did outreach programs and news with many different animals including mountain lions, lizards, snakes, skunks, and more.

Williams stated that he simply loves to answer people’s questions about the plants and animals around them. His patience is truly a virtue as he helps individuals gain knowledge and confidence related to their environment.

When asked about his biggest challenge ahead, he stated that it was filling the shoes of his predecessor Jessica Bland. “Jessica has done amazing things for the WTMRP and, hopefully, I can fill those footprints that she left behind,” Williams shared. He also cites the volume of history to be learned about the park and mountains as a challenge.

Williams stated that he is very excited about this career opportunity which gives him a chance to share his passions with the park visitors and get paid for what he loves to do! Given the energy, passion, and knowledge William has, there is no doubt that his ranger footprints soon will be evident throughout the programs at WTMRP.

A White Tank Mountains Conservancy steward since he moved to Arizona, the Conservancy and our partner Maricopa County Parks welcome Ranger Justin Williams!

Tales from the Trail: Invisible Leashes and Rattlesnake Sniffers!

By Sam and Debra Melfi

This story could just as easily be captioned “Tails from the Trails” as it shares interesting encounters we had with canines and their owners while hiking.

As usual, if a dog is not on a leash, we remind the owner that the dog must be leashed for the dog’s safety. The first dog was obviously an experienced hiker since he had his own backpack complete with doggy bags and water. The owner showed us the dog’s electronic leash. How clever!

The second dog was walking with his owner on the Lost Creek trail. When asked about the dog’s not having a leash, it was explained to us that he was in training as a rattlesnake dog. He had been to school to learn to seek out, but not harass, snakes. I wonder if he found one since we saw a rattler on that trail today.

2017 White Tank Mountains Plant Inventory Update

By Cass Blodgett and Dawn Goldman

The spring collecting season is over now. As you know this was a particularly abundant spring at the White Tanks and we had many extraordinary collection outings with Lupines and Fiddlenecks up to your chest and the appearance of plants not seen every year. That was a stroke of good luck for us.

Early Spring Growth (Feb 27) Later Spring Growth (Mar 11)

In all, from late February to early May, we made almost 400 collections. We still have to go through the formal identification of each plant, but it is clear that we have greatly expanded our flora checklist and we have at least 7 new species never before found in the park. Perhaps the most interesting of these new finds is a cactus, Cylindropuntia fulgida (Chainfruit Cholla). It was hiding in plain sight off the main road. Thanks to Cindy Smith for bringing it to our attention.

Scott Rowan working the plant press The crew on the hunt

All the plants are now at the Desert Botanical Garden Herbarium where they are being processed for storage. First they spend several days in a dryer which desiccates the plants completely. Then they go into a freezer for 10 days or so to make sure there are no living bugs or bug eggs on the plants. After that they are stored in a cabinet in the Herbarium and each plant is positively identified with botanical keys and a microscope, and the documentation loaded into the Seinet on-line plant database. Finally the plants are mounted on archival paper with an attached label of field notes.

Cass identifying plants in the herbarium A mounted plant specium

As the temperatures climb we will spend more time working on the identification and documentation of this year’s bounty.

Dawn and I want to thank the park staff and all the volunteers for their help and support for this project. Thanks for your help wrangling the plant press and adding your eyes and hands to the hunt. And we would like to give a special thanks to Cindy Smith who rarely missed an outing and whose knowledge of the park and keen eyes have resulted in many interesting collections.

Sometime between this fall and spring, Dawn and I would like to have a live discussion of the project and our findings, so far, at the visitor’s center. We will keep you updated on that and on the outcome of the 2017 collecting trips.

Colorado, The Flying Horse Makes Appearance at Skyline A True Arizona Story!

By Bernadette and Ray Baun

Less than a month ago, my son and his family, who live in Bethesda, Maryland, visited us during their Spring Break. One of the days Ray and I, serving in our role as Trail Stewards, took our older granddaughter, Noa, who is eight on a hike at Skyline.

While she loved the trails and the cactus, she kept saying how exciting it would be if she met a horse on the trail. We told her that was a possibility and we would keep looking, but deep down we thought that since we had not seen any horse trailers that would not happen. Just as we were nearing the intersection of the Mountain Wash and Lost Creek Trails what do we see coming down the Lost Creek trail not only one horse, but three horses and riders and one “horse in training”. Noa was very excited to see the horses, and the riders invited her over to pet all of them. They were super nice people and really made our granddaughter’s hike!

So, we hiked around Mountain Wash and down Turnbuckle (it was a little warm for folks from the East Coast!) and went to the Ramada at the beginning of the Watson Overlook Trail to have our snack. Soon we see Noa’s horse friends coming toward us, and they stop again to chat. It was then that we found out that one of the horses was famous! Apparently, the horse had been swept away crossing the Gila River and was rescued. The horse’s name is “Colorado” and there is a children’s book about the event titled “Colorado, The Flying Horse.” This is a true Arizona story! We have ordered the book for our granddaughter, and can’t wait to read it ourselves.

You never know who or what you will meet on the trails!

Tales from the Trails: Sunrise, Petroglyps, and Plants

By Rodger Wilson

Conservancy Nature Guide Rodger Wilson and early morning hikers left Area 4 before dawn on April 4 and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise near an area of petroglyphs on the Black Rock Loop.

Once the sun peeked over the horizon, the group checked out the petroglyphs and their representation of three historic cultures in the park. The Archaic, Hohokam, and Yavapai people conveniently left their markings on the rocks aligning those symbols although 100 years apart.

As reflected in the picture, the hikers enjoyed the abundant wild flowers along the way as Wilson pointed out native plants and their uses by the ancient cultures.

In addition, those wanting a fitness hike and more education on petroglyphs hiked on to the Waterfall Trail completing the Black Rock Loop and a two-mile trek.

Wilson noted that he had a hiker who enjoyed the trail so much that she brought a friend and repeated the hike in May. Check out the White Tank Mountains Park program listings for more of Wilson’s hikes.

Skyline Popular Hiking Destination

In its first year, the City of Buckeye estimates 206,000 people visited Skyline Regional Park in its first year based on information

Visitation spiked in January 2017 with over 16,000 vehicles driving into the park. Residents were eager to get outside and exercise after the bustle of the holiday season. Thus far, the highest date of visitation was on Saturday, January 7th when over 1,100 vehicles arrived into Skyline Regional Park. Visitation is slowly dropping now that the weather is warming up.

The park put on a great show of wildflowers this spring with Mexican poppies appearing along Chuckwalla Trail and upper Quartz Mine near Lost Creek. Another interesting plant making an appearance this spring was dodder, a parasitic plant.

Dodder, a Parasitic Plant

Check in on July 7 when Skyline hosts a venomous creates hike! For more information, visit www.skylineregionalpark.com.

White Tank Mountains Conservancy: Destination Arizona

Two minute introduction about WTM Conservancy

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