Off-road riders gathered Saturday in support of National Public Lands Day to clean up the desert near Florence Junction on U.S. 60.
The volunteers were part of the Off-Highway Ambassador Program. Their mission was to pick up trash and ensure that signs and fences would steer off-road riders to the proper trails.
Several volunteers set up a kiosk to provide information on the cleanup effort, while others took trash bags and headed for the desert.
Maps locating open and closed trails were distributed to volunteers, who were urged to report large debris or missing signs along the paths.
According to Tonto National Forest official Kelly Jardine, similar maps are being developed for off-road riders by the U.S. Forest Service. The plan for these maps was outlined at the Sierra Club’s Saguaro Group meeting Sept. 19 in north Scottsdale.
The Ambassador Program worked Saturday with organizations such as the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and RideNow Powersports, which provided food and water for participants.
Planning for the event took almost a year.
“We’re stepping forward, and trying to make an impact,” said Troy Waskey, an official from the State Parks Department and the Ambassador Program.
“We put together these collaborative efforts to educate the public,” said Tom Holt, a wildlife management supervisor with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Amy Racki, an official with the Ambassador Program and the State Parks Department, said the cleanup at Desert Wells near Florence Junction was one of many across the state on Saturday, including popular sites in the Gila Conservation Area, Cottonwood Canyon and Sycamore.
“Every single week there’s a new cut fence, a new sign down,” Racki said.
She urged off-road riders to be responsible and to minimize dust, which cuts visibility. As a result of dust, the State Land Department enforces control measures, which often result in trail closings, she said.
Waskey predicted cleanup days will be held at least once a month, with smaller groups of volunteers gathering on their own and cleaning as often as three weekends a month.
“It’s our privilege to ride,” Waskey said. “We want to ride right.”