Some Accomplishments by Friends of Sabino Canyon 2015-2019

In 2015, FOSC removed a paid Executive Director and transformed our organization to an all-volunteer Board of Directors. Since then, all our donations have become available to do project work, to advocate for Sabino, and to communicate with our partners and donors.  Below are some of the accomplishments of our all-volunteer Board of Directors.

FOSC role in making the New Electric Shuttle possible

As of April 2019, the new Regional Partnering Center (RPC Inc) electric Shuttle is almost here. The gas-powered interim buses will continue through spring until the 5 new electric shuttles are fully tested and put into service this summer.  What role did FOSC play to get us here?

In 2015 and 2016, the Forest Service solicited public opinion about what Sabino users like or did not like about the long running Sabino Canyon Tours Shuttle.

The FOSC role in facilitating this change came about by our urging political, business and community action to encourage the Forest Service to open the reissuance of the Shuttle permit to outside competition. It is difficult to know the extent of our impact, but we gave voice to the wishes of the majority of Sabino community regulars. We became certain of that after requesting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) release of over 500 (anonymized) public comments. We categorized those comments and estimated over 85% of respondents found fault with the prior Shuttle operation especially around noise and fumes. FOSC, concerned that the Forest Service would give the old Shuttle operator a right of first refusal, worked with the local AZ District 2 U.S. Congressional Office to argue for an open competition via the US Dept of Agriculture leadership in Washington and Albuquerque. In the process, we solicited letters broadly from the public and influential business and leaders of local government. As a result, Congresswoman McSally’s office was deluged with appeals from interested advocates for opening the Shuttle Permit to competition.  Ultimately, she picked up the banner and advocated for an open bid process. The open RFP was released in 2017. That competition has led to the Forest Service selecting as the permit winner the new non-profit RPC Shuttle Program that is operating today in Sabino Canyon. We count this as a major success.

New Shade Ramadas

Our biggest, newest, most dramatic shade ramada at Shuttle Stop #9 (shown below) is now standing and being used by Sabino Canyon hikers and shuttle riders.  Adjacent to the ramada is a bicycle rack we installed to meet a request by some Sabino users. This whole project took two years from our conception of it. From the architectural drawings through gaining Forest Service approvals for drawings for environmental and for archeological concerns, the selection of a contractor, then flooding delays, until its final construction in March 2019.

Shuttle Stop 9 Shade ramada
Shuttle Stop 9 Shade ramada

Before the Shuttle Stop #9 Ramada, under our “Got Your Kids Covered” program of 2015-2017 FOSC erected or capped seven other shade ramadas for instructional activities put on by our Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists (SCVN) in Lower Sabino at the dam, and in the Cactus Picnic Area. The success of those first seven educational ramadas inspired us to propose the newest shade structure at Shuttle Stop #9.

A note about the SCVN educational programs. These are an important asset to both adults, and especially to the school children of Tucson.  The SCVN educates over 6000 students every year, many from financially strained schools that need help delivering their students to Sabino for the nature education.  The FOSC regularly helps the SCVN with the funds to help cover school busing costs to Sabino for these children.  The shade ramadas enhance the learning experience by covering the work area and cooling the temperatures considerably.  In a hot dry climate as ours, shade makes a big difference.

Better Signage

In 2017-2018, we implemented a request from a regular Sabino hiker for better signage. That effort began with an anonymous donation of $6000 to mount a new multicolor orientation sign at the south end of the main parking lot.  That Bear Canyon orientation sign was the first of several we are planning to place at key locations around the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.  The process of gaining approval for the additional signs has been very slow, but now things are happening again.  We will fund installation of five “You Are Here” signs with smaller versions of the big color map originally developed for Bear Canyon.  In addition to the You Are Here signs we will add several Waypoint signs at locations where hikers often get lost or take a wrong turn.

 Invasive Grasses

The abatement of invasive grasses is an ongoing effort in Sabino and Bear Canyons.  It is a problem throughout our region.  FOSC is not a major contributor to the massive effort needed to reduce this problem and its ecological and fire dangers but we try to help in small ways. The Forest Service and Pima County are the first line of defense. However, through funding of various groups over the years FOSC has contributed several thousand dollars to the equipment and supplies needed to meet this threat.

Community Outreach

The FOSC Development Committee has put on educational activities around town speaking to community groups such as REI and to new businesses that have arrived in Tucson.  Twice annually for several years FOSC helps the Southern Arizona Roadrunners put on their youth and adult runs up the Sabino Canyon Shuttle Road.

In 2016, FOSC entered into an arrangement with Simply Bits to provide free satellite dish WiFi to visitors and volunteers.  This has proven to be very popular near the Bookstore where the signal is strongest.  

Also, for the first time this year, FOSC participated in the Tucson Festival of Books during the March 2-3 event this year. FOSC arranged for a booth and invited our 3 key partners to share the space while we introduced ourselves along with our other Sabino volunteer groups: the SCVN naturalists, the SCVP patrol, the SARA search/rescue, and the FOSC Friends of Sabino. 

Members of each group took shifts of two or more hours during the two-day affair. All found it to be a wonderful opportunity to engage with visitors who wanted to know more about Sabino Canyon, and for our safety and rescue partners to educate hikers on how to enjoy our Sonoran Desert beauty safely.

FOSC Website Redevelopment

With help from a new BOD member who brought decades of experience in website hosting and information technology, FOSC is in the early stages of improving our online public information and enhancing the value of our outreach efforts. Our email communication with the public will be much improved going forward.

Donor Database and Communication Management

Donor management procedures are in good hands. For three years, FOSC has had on its Board a member with professional expertise in this area. As a result, FOSC procedures have become much more professional and are fully in keeping with appropriate ethics for donation handling. In 2019, we obtained the GuideStar Silver Seal of Transparency. We are also registered with Benevity.  Our approval by Benevity alone has yielded several corporate employer – employee matching donations.

The Tile Walls of Friends

FOSC maintains commemorative tile plaques to recognize our donors whose contributions help FOSC protect, preserve and enhance Sabino and Bear Canyons.  The most recent tile program has now entered its fourth year with options ranging from $500-$50,000 tile installations for donors.

Other Efforts

In 2016, we renovated a key restroom for use by the SCVN elementary students near the dam and in 2018 made $8000 available to the Forest Service through October 2019 to replace two of the current tar and gravel restroom roofs with permanent steel ones. In 2017-2018 we helped address the Forest Service’s desire to be able to close off the Main and Auxiliary Parking Lots in times of emergency such as fire, floods and difficult rescue situations.