Friday, April 2, 2010

Catalina State Park

My friend Margarethe Brummermann was kind enough to invite me to join her for a hike in Catalina State Park last Tuesday, March 30. I had never visited this park in spring before, and this year is so spectacular that I couldn’t pass up the chance to see what the landscape looked like.

Catalina State Park actually lies within the Coronado National Forest, and is known for the nearly 5,000 saguaro cacti within its boundaries. Indeed, there are some truly magnificent specimens of this giant to be found there.

The park was slated to become a housing development in the early 1970s, known as “Rancho Romero.” However, a petition to re-zone the land for this purpose met with stiff public resistance. State Representative Charles King of Tucson then requested a feasibility study to assess the options for protecting the scenic and historical area. Though it was found the acreage met the criteria for a state park, a vote by the Arizona Parks Board on December 10, 1973 was against that idea.

Subsequent grassroots efforts and coalitions of non-profit groups ultimately led to King submitting House Bill 2280 to the 1974 session of the state legislature. It passed, and was signed into law by then-Governor Jack Williams on May 1, 1974.

The park’s master plan was crafted by many players, including students at the University of Arizona. It was approved on December 9, 1977. Still, the park’s current status was not fully achieved until April 22, 1991 when the last land exchanges became final.

Today, park visitors can enjoy all manner of passive recreation, from hiking to horseback riding, camping and picnicking. A day at the park costs $7 per vehicle, or $3 for an individual on foot or bicycle. Thankfully, despite closure of most state parks in Arizona due to a government budget crisis, Catalina State Park remains open, at least for now.

What can you expect to see in the park, besides saguaros? Well, how about some of the more than 150 species of birds that have been seen there? I can also attest to lizards, butterflies, and a seemingly endless variety of wildflowers that call the place home. You can see a few of them over at my Flickr photostream.

Thanks again to Margarethe for the great company, and sharing her own knowledge of flora and fauna.

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