More people than ever are visiting Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, so needed more than ever are volunteers.
The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, which helps to run the city-owned preserve, wants 280 people to come forward to donate their time and labor.
An orientation course will be Saturday for prospective hike leaders, pathfinders, trail construction and maintenance workers, as well as office help.
According to the group’s managing director, Ruthie Carll, last year’s opening of the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead sparked a renewed interest in the preserve’s south trail system.
“Now that we’ve got this 100-spot parking lot and restrooms, it’s acting like a funnel and we’re seeing a lot of usage,” she said.
The conservancy estimates at least 19,000 people visited on weekends between Oct. 1, 2006, and April 30. That’s double the number during the same span in 2005-06, Carll said.
“That creates a need for more people to manage all of that, because we don’t have a lot of city staff,” said Bob Cafarella, Scottsdale’s director of preservation.
Last year, the conservancy had 180 volunteers upon whom it relied for an estimated 18,000 hours of service, valued at more than $370,000.
With the growth in foot — plus paw and hoof — traffic, the conservancy is looking for 100 more volunteers.
“As the trails are used more, we need to be on them more to make sure we haven’t had a washout or vandalism,” Carll explained. “The flip side is, as usage increases, our volunteers interact with people a lot more and we keep them safe.”
Duties of hike leaders and pathfinders include giving away water and warning hikers of dangers.
Volunteers must sign up for a minimum of eight hours a month, but Carll said she hopes people will give at least four or five hours a week.
“That’s one good hike,” Carll said.
Carll would like to draw from the pool of Scottsdale residents who live near the preserve and already are out on the trails.
Also, the conservancy needs volunteers who aren’t afraid of manual labor.
“Trail maintenance is not easy,” Carll admitted. “What we really need are people who are rugged.
“People don’t realize that when they see a sign that’s cemented into the ground, three miles into the preserve, somebody carried that cement in there.”
Meanwhile, the American Institute of Architects bestowed its top Honor Award for the ecologically sensitive design and construction of the preserve’s Lost Dog Wash Trailhead, the city announced Wednesday.
How to help
What: McDowell Sonoran Conservancy stewardship orientation course
Where: DC Ranch Village Health Club and Spa, 18501 N. Thompson Peak Parkway
When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
How much: Fee for the course is $30, which covers conservancy shirts and badges for volunteers, lunch and resource materials. No one wishing to volunteer will be turned away for lack of funds.
Information: (480) 998-7971, Ext. 105; firstname.lastname@example.org