Scottsdale is nearing a crossroads for funding the purchase of unspoiled desert for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

But since the movement began in the early 1990s to create the preserve and residents have agreed repeatedly to be taxed to buy land for it, untouched desert in the bourgeoning north Scottsdale area has not only become scarcer, but with steady increases in real estate values showing no signs of abating, more expensive as well.

Now the city McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission has its eye on 400 acres belonging to the state land trust, the first of 20,000 acres in trust control the city wishes to one day include in the preserve. Trouble is, its projected price is upwards of $500 million that current funding mechanisms cannot meet.

Another half-cent sales tax is being contemplated, although wisely commissioners are backing away at this point from making such a call. Mayor Mary Manross, whose early efforts were key to establishing the preserve, has also expressed doubts about going to taxpayers again, despite a recent scientific survey showing resident support for additional taxes.

But tax questions are seldom voted on in a vacuum. The poll on the hypothetical tax didn’t ask respondents whether they simultaneously supported more taxes for education, roads and freeways, and so on. The responses might be different. Scottsdale hasn’t reached a point of distaste for more preserve taxes yet, but if they were rejected at the polls, future efforts to buy that state trust land could be hurt.

We remind city officials again of the need to include private efforts in the preservation of land in Scottsdale. Certainly those Scottsdale residents living closest to the preserve benefit more from it than those living long distances away. They can be encouraged to join with existing private preservation organizations to raise the money necessary to buy preserve land.

The recent Sunset Trailhead controversy involving residents of the nearby Hidden Hills residential development serves as an example of a small number of people who because they bought adjacent property, believed they have a vested first right to what happens in the preserve, one greater than that of the general public, which paid for it.

While neighbors’ legitimate concerns need to be incorporated in trailhead and parking area design, they cannot overly minimize public use of what is public property. That’s why the city Parks and Recreation Commission’s decision last week ensuring sufficient parking and support facilities for the trailhead was correct.

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