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Official Access in McDowell Mtns, AZ
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sonso45


Jul 9, 2009, 6:52 AM
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Official Access in McDowell Mtns, AZ
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Climbersí Alert Ė McDowell Access Update

The management plan for public access in the north end of the McDowell Mountains requires that climbers and all other visitors use the official parking areas and designated trails. The management plan is very much in line with the long term interests of the rock climbing community, by keeping access to historic rock climbing crags open, and in fulfilling the mission of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve to protect the natural desert environment for this and future generations.

Members of the rock climbing community have been working with City of Scottsdale staff to build new access trails. Some of the old routes will eventually be abandoned. They also have been re-working the old climber trails to ensure long term sustainability, an important requirement for the City.

As the new access opportunities are being opened, there will be a gradual closure of those road and trail segments that are not part of the long term plan. The City's main goal is to direct public use onto roads, parking areas, and trails/routes that are included in the master plan. Access into areas not included on the plan will be restricted.

Here are some updates. Please see the latest map, which can be viewed at the AMCís Access Page: http://www.amcaz.org/...ss_Issues/Access.htm

1. The new Tomís Thumb trail is now open and can be accessed from a Temporary Tomís Thumb parking area in the general vicinity of Morrell's Parking Lot (where the permanent parking will be located). This new parking is found by traveling from the intersection of 128th Street and El Paraiso (the east-west dirt road) and heading east on El Paraiso a short distance to the old road to Morrellís Parking Lot. The Temporary Parking for the Tomís Thumb Trail roughly corresponds to the familiar Morrellís Parking area. Signs have been installed along Paraiso directing users to this point.

2. The only access to the rock crags in the immediate Tomís Thumb cirque will be from the new Tomís Thumb Trail, as follows. To get to Fort McDowell, Half and Half Wall, and Lost Wall, take the new Tom's Thumb Trail and turn onto the climbersí path at emergency marker TT3. For those unfamiliar with the emergency marker system, they are small round markers mounted on posts, each of which depicts a unique set of letters and numbers. In the event of an emergency, the markers can be referenced, helping guide emergency personnel to the location. They also make good reference points for way-finding purposes! This climberís trail also hits the ridgeline west of Tomís Thumb and can provide access to Tomís Thumb itself, but it may be easier to get to Tom's Thumb by following the main trail.

3. Effective immediately the City is considering the Old Tomís Thumb trailhead off limits. This is the road past that lone house. The Preserve Management Plan, and the Rock Climbing Plan, recognizes this closure. Please do not drive on or park on the road that goes past that lone house. Instead, please follow the signs to the Temporary Tom's Thumb Parking area.

4. Gardenerís Wall is now accessed from a new climberís path that leaves the new Tomís Thumb trail at emergency marker TT5. It traverses across the hillside and into the wash beneath Gardenerís Wall, where it ascends to the base of the crag.

5. Glass Dome and Tomís Thumb can be accessed from the new Tomís Thumb trail. Glass Dome is actually just off the new trail. However, Tomís Thumb itself can be accessed by taking the obvious new climberís path at emergency marker TT7.

6. All the traditional approaches to Morrellís Wall, Sven Towers, Sven Slab, Rosetta Stone, Granite Ballroom, and Hogís Heaven are still in place. Improvements may be made to these routes to increase sustainability, but they will not deviate greatly from the historic routes.

Please give Erik Filsinger, COS staffís climber liaison, or Scott Hamilton, COS trails coordinator, with questions at smorefil@aol.com, and shamilton@scottsdaleaz.gov, respectively.

Remember the big picture when faced with momentary and perhaps annoying changes Ė rock climbing in the McDowells lives on!


sonso45


Oct 5, 2009, 10:32 AM
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The area of the old parking lot and original trail to Gardener's Wall and Tom's Thumb are now considered "critical wildlife habitat" and is off limits to all. Please use the trails and parking identified above.


ErikF


Nov 19, 2009, 10:19 AM
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North Access Area McDowells

Trail Sign Installation

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Note: You donít have to be an AMC member to participate, but we will ask you to sign a Liability Release for the dayís activities.

8:00 a.m. Meet at Tomís Thumb trailhead, North Access Area - Head out in work parties to Install Trail Signs in Tomís Thumb cirque

We will be installing the climber trail signage at pre-determined access points along main and climber trails that the AMC helped the City build. We will split into work parties with specific trail signs to install.

The City will provide all tools, etc. Just bring work gloves, personal items, food and water.

It would be a good idea to bring a larger pack (in which to put pre-measured bags of cement and water). A larger plastic bag to line your pack is suggested.

If you can come out and help, please contact Erik Filsinger at smorefil@aol.com.

Thanks, and see you there.
Erik Filsinger
AMC Land Advocacy Chair


sonso45


Nov 19, 2009, 1:12 PM
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Re: [ErikF] Official Access in McDowell Mtns, AZ [In reply to]
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Here's a map: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/...502_1baa94937d_o.jpg


(This post was edited by sonso45 on Nov 19, 2009, 1:24 PM)


ErikF


Dec 4, 2009, 11:50 AM
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Hi folks,

I bumped into climbers in the McDowells from Wisconsin, Oregon, and New York yesterday. Hopefully everyone is loving the granite. Recently
I have received some questions as to the best way to get to the new temporary trailheads. Here are two options that may be less well known that the Rio Verde Drive to 128th street approach. Both save 15 minutes of more travel time.

Approach 1 (this will go away sometime in the future when a neighborhood is gated)

From the 4-way stop sign at Happy Valley Road and 104th/Alma School intersection:
East on Happy Valley
Right on Alameda
Right on 119th Way to a stop-sign T-intersection
Left on Casitas Del Rio
When Casitas Del Rio splits into a "Y", take the left hand alternative to the top of the hill. The pavement ends and you are on a passenger car friendly dirt road. This is El Paraiso.
East on El Paraiso past the 128th Street intersection (coming in from left)
Follow city signs to Temporary Tom's Thumb trailhead or follow El Paraiso to end of road just short of old Sven Slab parking area.

Alternative 2 (will be permanent access)

From the 4-way stop sign at Happy Valley Road and 104th/Alma School intersection:
East on Happy Valley Road.
Continue on Happy Valley turns northerly (at some point that road may change names)
Right on Ranch Gate Road to head directly east (paved to entrance to Sereno Canyon housing project)
A short distance further east Ranch Gate intersects 128th Street.
Follow 128th Street south until it intersects with El Paraiso.
Go to either Temporary Tom's Thumb parking or to Temporary Sven Slab parking as desired.

Have fun!
Erik
Attachments: road-access-north-mcdowells-2009-email.jpg (65.6 KB)


ErikF


Dec 8, 2009, 1:23 PM
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Update on North Access Area planning

Monday night the City of Scottsdale Preserve Commission met and the City staff and Planner hired by the City to plan the North Access Area presented the results of their preliminary site analysis. They stated that from this point forward, they will continue the site analysis, hold a climber focus group sometime after the first of the year, followed by a public open house where all can attend, followed by a 30% plan submittal to the Design Review Board (DRB). The Commission will be updated prior to the DRB review, and periodic updates will be provided throughout the process. Construction is expected to begin in the late summer 2010 and be complete in mid 2011. Staff pointed out that the early planning that occurred was years ago, and did not include any level of site analysis, thus did not consider the extreme slopes and drainage constraints of the site, and related costs both financial and environmental. That is what they are doing now.


(Note: this was the first time I had seen these plans and I didn't know ahead of time what was going to be presented. I am simply providing you with information and am not trying to argue for the City in any way. The City and Planner are not yet done with their recommendations, but my feeling is that the result of the meeting was that some decisions appear to be fairly well along. Please keep in mind that the major goal I think all of us has Ė keeping the historic rock climbing Ė has been achieved already and that this discussion is only about where we will be able to park and where the trails to the climbing areas will start. I might also note that Staff has repeatedly stated that this will be a long process and that this is just the starting point.).

The Planning team (architects, engineers, etc) presented their preliminary analysis of the opportunities and constraints of the site. The main constraints they took into account related to the topography, but also potential costs. They presented an analysis of how the site alternatives might affect the user groups - climbers, horse riding, mountain biking, and hiking. The main constraints to the site were the washes that run predominantly from southwest to northeast and drain the whole mountain facade. They included graphics that showed the various drainage paths. The biggest constraints were two major washes that show on a 100-year flood plain map. As climbers, we know where these are because they produce the largest wash-outs of the east-west dirt road (El Paraiso).

The City stated that they are planning for 100 parking spaces now, but allow for up to 200 in the future if the need warrants. The Planner presented 4 possible alternatives, and then presented a matrix rating the feasibility of each of the 4 sites, given their criteria. Site A was roughly where the new Temporary Tom's Thumb parking is. Site B was roughly the Sven Slab parking. Sites C and D overlapped El Paraiso closer to the intersection of 128th Street and El Paraiso (further west and north of where the temporary parking is).

The biggest constraints for the City and the Planner with both Sites A and B are the two 100-year floodplain washes that cross those sites. They stated, to the Commission, that it might cost an extra $1.25 million to build either of those sites because all weather access is required per the Fire Department regulations.

These public hearings are a very formal process (I attended the whole meeting from 5:00 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. just to make sure that all climber issues were heard.) I filled out a Public Comment card and was allowed to speak. Here are roughly the points I made (not having prepared ahead of time, I'm sure that ideally I might have been able to say something better). The process did not result in anyone asking me any follow-up questions.

1. The climbing community appreciates the good working relationship we have had with the City.

2. This area is a major rock climbing resource and climbers come here from all over the country (I had recently met climbers there from NYC, Wisconsin and Oregon).

3. Given the Pinnacle Peak experience, the climbers would prefer to have as large a parking allotment as possible. The 200 spots identified at PPP probably are in the ball park for what the North Access Area will demand.

4. I stated that in my opinion Climbers would prefer parking access as close as possible to the historic parking, which was much closer to the crags than seemed to be the rated higher Alternatives C and D. (In fairness to Staff, C and D were ranked highest based on the outcome of the detailed site analysis that took many aspects into account, like topography, wildlife habitat, viewshed impacts, user access, financial implications, etc.)

5. I asked them to consider splitting the parking into parking nodes, with maybe some of the nodes closer to the historic climbers' parking areas.

6. I suggested they look at a split of the facilities, maybe with the major buildings and infrastructure closer to 128th Street to minimize costs, but that with wet crossings of the washes the remote parking nodes could be considered. I also suggested that bridges might not be needed if they would consider culverts to pass the drainage under key road wash-outs.

After I was done the Staff and Planner responded and heard Commissioners' comments. Of note, the Staff stated that the Fire Department would not want wet crossings of major washes because of emergency requirements of the City - they don't want folks stranded on the other side of a wash where they can't get to them. Some commissioners liked the idea of the Parking Nodes, while others wanted to keep "all that stuff" in one place to minimize impact on the Preserve. Some commissioners also stated that they like the parking pulled back to minimize human impacts in general.

All in all I wasn't necessarily totally surprised, but I was disappointed at the problems identified in the detail site analysis with what were the conceptual plans for the North Access Area (the parking basically where the temporary parking is). It would have been nice to at least park where we can park now. Iím trying to keep in mind that we will still be able to climb and that the City has been very supportive of the rock climbing plans.

If you have any comments or concerns, feel free to express them to me at smorefil (at) aol (dot) com. I know that you can also direct questions and comments to the key City staff person, Scott Hamilton, at SHamilton (at) ScottsdaleAz (dot) gov.

Erik


ErikF


Jan 27, 2010, 8:01 PM
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Hi folks,

Quick update -- tonight (Wed, Jan 27) the City of Scottsdale held a Climbers' Focus Group on the North Access Area. Their goal seemed to be to present their current plans and receive feedback on what climbers want and what they don't want in a small group setting of the focus group. City staff lead the meeting and stated certain parameters, e.g., Preserve Mission, Ordinance, budget constraints, design constraints, etc.

The City had done a pretty good job of inviting a broad cross-section of climbers. First names and initials of invitees in attendance included Catherine C., Marty K., Greg O., Deke J., Kathi R., Paul D., John K., Erik F., Manny R., and Mike K. There also was a guide there named Seth whom I just met. Hopefully those folks can chip in to this discussion and clarify points they feel are important. I know Tom K. (of Tom's Thumb fame) was traveling but submitted written comments which paralleled pretty much what this group shared about maintaining the remote feel and primitive nature.

As anticipated in prior posts, some of the plans presented for the actual parking, etc., are not what most climbers were hoping for. High concerns voiced related to the distance parking was removed from historic parking (now near 128th and El Paraiso), the adequacy of parking so that people aren't forced out, putting several parking nodes versus big parking lots, keeping the remote feeling to the place, adequate climber access, night time closures, policy flexibility, etc. Hopefully other folks who attended can share their perspectives on what took place. There were comments about understanding the Preserve and not overusing it.

Paul asked after the formal meeting ended what was the process forward. I believe staff said: a full public meeting for all interested parties in March, finalizing the plans and submitting bid packages for construction to the City in July, construction over next winter and an opening in the Spring of 2011.

IMO, a pretty good meeting with City staff indicating an interest in what they heard and a promise to consider our concerns. Whether they are able to accommodate our requests I'm a little less optimistic about.

Personally, I'd like to reiterate the goal of being able to continue to climb on all the historic crags. We need to be thankful for that while dealing with the issues raised.

If you have input, talk to one of the folks who attended and/or attend the next public meeting.

Erik


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