Desert Foothills Land Trust leaders recall the mid-1990s, five years after the group formed. They were still struggling to set a firm strategy to preserve scenic open Sonoran Desert expanses in the Cave Creek and Carefree area.
The stumbling stopped when Patricia Ann Seitts became executive director in 1996, said Chuck Bune, a founder of the nonprofit group.
"She gave us focus. . . . She brought us together when we were all over the landscape" trying to find direction, said Susan Svitak, a former land trust board president.
On Saturday, the trust will dedicate the P.A. Seitts Preserve at Go John Canyon to honor Seitts, who left the land trust in 2001 while battling cancer. She died the following year at age 52.
Seitts set the group’s sights on Go John Canyon, a roughly 500-acre stretch of state trust land in Cave Creek. "None of us had even
thought about it," Svitak said.
"We were talkers and dreamers," Bune said. Seitts, an architect schooled in the political environment of Washington, D.C., steered them onto a practical course.
The land trust now owns 271 acres of the canyon, the largest of 13 swaths of land the group is preserving. It’s working to protect the remaining 239 acres.
"We thought this would be the most appropriate thing to honor P.A. because it’s our biggest preserve and P.A. had big vision," said Mike Rigney, land trust director.
Seitts’ work went beyond local efforts. She was a driving force among preservationists whose advocacy helped bring about the Arizona Preserve Initiative and the state’s Growing Smarter programs to encourage open-space protection.
She helped get state leaders involved in establishing the 2,150-acre Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area in Cave Creek.
Seitts kept advocates united in the face of tough political resistance, said state Sen. Carolyn Allen, RScottsdale, who will speak at Saturday’s dedication.
Her passion is reflected today in the land trust’s expanding pursuits, said her husband, George Seitts, a public relations executive and former aide to the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz.
The group is targeting another 700-plus acres near Spur Cross. The land trust is working with The Nature Conservancy on a plan that envisions a chain of protected open-space sites across the northern reaches of the Valley linked by an extensive trail system.
The Nature Conservancy, the Center for Native and Urban Wildlife based at Scottsdale Community College and Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona will have exhibits at Saturday’s event. Land trust members will lead hikes into the canyon.
What: Desert Foothills Land Trust dedicates P.A. Seitts Preserve at Go John Canyon in Cave Creek
When: 9 a.m. Saturday
Where: Park at Christ Episcopal Church, 35500 N. Cave Creek Road, Carefree
Info: (480) 488-61631 or