Phoenix & Scottsdale Expand Land Preserves

The Arizona State Parks Board has awarded more than $40 million in grants to help Scottsdale and Phoenix cover the costs of acquiring lands for their respective land preserves, Arizona Republic recently reported.

From the Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians can access a network of over 45 miles of trails within the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. (Credit:

The cities have targeted more than 5,000 acres of rugged state trust land to acquire at separate auctions this year.

The cities sought matching funds from the state’s Growing Smarter conservation fund.

The Arizona State Parks Board approved the funding September 14.


Scottsdale plans to bid on more than 4,400 acres for its McDowell Sonoran Preserve in December.

Scottsdale’s grant funds total $36.2 million. The city plans to cover the remaining $50 million using proceeds from its voter-approved sales tax dedicated to preserve costs, said Kroy Ekblaw, Scottsdale preserve director.

The trust land that Scottsdale has identified is divided into two parcels:

  • 1,937 acres along 136th Street on both sides of Rio Verde Drive appraised at $41 million.
  • 2,482 acres northeast of Dixileta Drive and Pima Road, valued at $45 million.

Beautiful scenery and wonderful trails abound at Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve. (Credit: Ron Niebrugge/

The acquisition would expand the 17,000-acre McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale to more than 21,000 acres. The preserve, set amid the McDowell Mountains in northeast Scottsdale, is a major draw for Valley hikers and other recreational users.


Phoenix is preparing to expand its land preserves in November with a purchase of nearly 600 acres.

The city will accept nearly $4.18 million to help pay for land parcels south of Carefree Highway and north of Happy Valley Road for the city’s Sonoran Preserve. The land parcels of 318 and 271 acres were appraised at $5.8 million and $4.1 million, respectively.

Phoenix voters reauthorized the Parks and Preserve Initiative in 2008, which authorized a sales tax over a 30-year period to purchase state trust land and fund park construction and improvements.

The state grants were made available from the Arizona’s land-conservation fund, dedicated to conserving open spaces in growing urban areas.

Voters passed Proposition 303 in 1998, establishing a $20 million annual appropriation from the state’s general fund into the land-conservation fund. A total of $80.9 million was available for grants in fiscal 2011. Of that, $40.5 million was available for Maricopa County entities.


McDowell Sonoran Preserve

The McDowells are Scottsdale’s most striking physical feature, rising to over 4,000 feet and covering an area of 25 square miles.

Situated in the central part of Scottsdale, the McDowells serve as a visual backdrop from all directions.

Sunset at McDowell Sonoran Preserve. (Credit:

Location: East of Thompson Peak Parkway, north of Bell Road, Scottsdale

Phone: (480) 312-7013


Sonoran Preserve

The Sonoran Preserve in northern Phoenix has grown to more than 6,680 acres. The land in the new preserve is unique. Much of it is located in the transition zone to the Arizona Upland subdivision of the Sonoran Desert. This area is characterized by higher amounts of rainfall, up to 12.5 inches a year, which increases both the lushness and diversity of plant life.

South Mountain, Camelback Mountain, and Squaw Peak, on the other hand, are located in the Lower Colorado River Valley, the largest and most arid subdivision of the Sonoran Desert. With only 7.5 inches of rainfall a year, vegetation in these areas is sparser and less varied.

Location: Near I-17 and north of Pinnacle Peak Road, Phoenix

Phone: (602) 262-7901


Worth Pondering…
When I walk in the desert the birds sing very beautifully

When I walk in the desert the trees wave their branches in the breeze

When I walk in the desert the tall saguaro wave their arms way up high

When I walk in the desert the animals stop to look at me as if they were saying

“Welcome to our home.”

—Jeanette Chico, in When It Rains

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