Current and Recent Projects

Some Accomplishments by Friends of Sabino Canyon 2015-2020

In 2015, FOSC removed a paid Executive Director and transformed our organization to an all-volunteer Board of Directors. Since then all donations have been directed toward projects in the rec area as well as toward operating expenses such as website, accounting services, and donor management services. Below are some of the accomplishments of our all-volunteer Board of Directors.

FOSC role in making the New Electric Shuttle possible

The new electric shuttle service went into operation on the weekend of November 10, 2019. FOSC played a significant role in bringing the quiet, environmentally friendly shuttle to the rec area.

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 (anonymous) 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, a local congresswoman’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, and for environmental and 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. FOSC has helped 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

IIn 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. The Forest Service is reviewing options for other signs, including “You are here” signs and “Waypoint” signs in areas where hikers often lose the trail or get lost. FOSC stands ready to assist the Forest Service in paying for signs.

 Invasive Grasses

The abatement of invasive grasses is an ongoing and critical effort in Sabino and Bear Canyons. It is a problem throughout our region. In conjunction with the efforts by the Forest Service, FOSC has provided the National Forest Foundation with a grant of $50,000 for the surveying, mapping and eradication of buffelgrass in the rec area. FOSC will review and consider contributing to further efforts regarding buffelgrass pursuant to requests by the Forest Service.

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 has set up a table and provided free gifts to runners and guests at the Southern Arizona Roadrunners 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, in March 2019, FOSC participated in the Tucson Festival of Books. 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: SCVN , SCVP , and SARA. 

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.

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.

Other Efforts

In 2016, we renovated a key restroom for use by the SCVN elementary students near the dam. 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.