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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.