Outdoors

Friday, May 22, 2020

Limited Memorial Day reopening of Grand Canyon ‘premature,’ say critics

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2020 at 3:00 PM

COURTESY
  • Courtesy

PHOENIX – The Grand Canyon will reopen on a limited basis for Memorial Day weekend, a move critics call “premature” during the COVID-19 pandemic and “tone-deaf” in the face of startling infection rates in the neighboring Navajo Nation.

The opening, from Friday to Monday, is just the second at the park, which was completely closed to visitors on April 1 to stem the spread of the virus. The park also opened for four days last weekend on a limited basis.

Entry will be allowed to the South Rim from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m., with visitors who are in the park by then allowed to stay until sunset. Food service, bike rentals and a limited number of trails will be available, while residential areas, sit-down restaurants, visitor centers, museums, shuttle buses and some roads will remain closed.

The park said in a statement that it will follow state and federal guidelines for health safety, encouraging social distancing by limiting groups to 10, with park rangers ready to step in if needed.

“We’re encouraging people to recreate responsibly and to read up on any national park that they are going to, to find out what is open and closed,” said Lily Daniels, a spokeswoman for the park.

But critics said there is no reason to rush the reopening of the park.

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Opinions on water, willingness to protect it varies by region, survey finds

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2020 at 4:00 PM

The Central Arizona Project canal system spans 336 miles and brings 1.5 million acre feet of water from the Colorado River down past Tucson. - LILLIAN DONAHUE / CRONKITE NEWS
  • Lillian Donahue / Cronkite News
  • The Central Arizona Project canal system spans 336 miles and brings 1.5 million acre feet of water from the Colorado River down past Tucson.
A new survey finds differences in how Americans feel about water, and how those feelings translate into action.

The Water Main, a project from American Public Media, wanted to know how Americans think, feel and worry about their water. Among its findings is that knowledge of water issues isn’t the biggest predictor of whether someone takes the effort to act. Personal connections to particular rivers, lakes and oceans led to more concrete conservation measures.

“The big surprise is that knowledge, how much we know, and action aren’t as tightly correlated as we might think they are,” said Amy Skoczlas Cole, managing editor of the Water Main. “It wasn’t actually the people who knew the most about water who were doing the most, it was the people who felt the most connected to water who were taking the most action.”

Half of the 1,005 people surveyed reported feeling a strong personal connection to a river, lake, ocean or other body of water.

More people older than 65 felt this way than those younger than 45, the survey found.

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Endangered Fish Now Swimming in Agua Caliente Park's Restored Pond

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2020 at 2:00 PM

No fishing! The endangered Gila topminnow is swimming in Agua Caliente Park. - COURTESY AGFD
  • Courtesy AGFD
  • No fishing! The endangered Gila topminnow is swimming in Agua Caliente Park.
The endangered Gila topminnow is swimming in the newly restored pond at Agua Caliente on Tucson’s east side.

500 Gila topminnows were released into the pond on Wednesday, May 13, by staff from multiple county and state agencies. The fish release, part of the larger Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, has been years in the making.

The small green and black Gila topminnow once swam throughout Tucson’s water system, but loss of habitat and predation from non-native fish landed them on the endangered species list in 1967. Topminnows survived in sparse populations in the Santa Cruz watershed, such as in Cienega Creek.

“They were in very dire straits in terms of very few natural sites that still had them,” said Karen Simms, Natural Resources division manager for Pima County’s Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Department. “There’s been a lot of effort in expanding the number of sites that have topminnow in recent years.”

Aside from loss of habitat, one of their greatest threats were the non-native mosquitofish, which outcompete them for food.

“The Gila topminnow actually do just as good of a job at mosquito control, so another one of our goals is to change over the water sources we manage to have topminnow instead of mosquitofish in them,” Simms said.

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Monday, May 18, 2020

Tumamoc Hill reopening Memorial Day

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2020 at 4:30 PM

TUCSON LOCAL MEDIA / FILE PHOTO
  • Tucson Local Media / File Photo
Hikers will be required to wear face masks and stay at least six feet apart from other visitors to Tumamoc Hill once the popular outdoor attraction reopens Memorial Day, next Monday, May 25.

The University of Arizona announced the change, which will include new arrows along the path spaced 10 feet apart in order to help maintain distance and flow of foot traffic up and down the hill. In addition to masks and physical distancing, visitors will also be asked to limit group sizes to three people, use hand-sanitizing stations along the path and not touch the gate at the top of the hill.

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Tool shows what many know: State communities at high risk for wildfire

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2020 at 11:30 AM

The Burro Fire burning east of Tucson in Redington Pass. - COURTESY BURRO FIRE INFO FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Courtesy Burro FIre Info Facebook Page
  • The Burro Fire burning east of Tucson in Redington Pass.

PHOENIX – If there’s any doubt that wildfire poses a high risk to property in Arizona, the U.S. Forest Service would like to paint a different picture – in blazing reds and flaming yellows.

Those colors blanket the state in a tool the service released last month that attempts to show wildfire risk to communities across the nation, using wildfire data from recent years to project the risk to homes, exposure types, vulnerable population statistics and wildfire likelihood.

The Forest Service said the interactive website “provides a starting point for community leaders and fire experts when assessing and taking steps to reduce risk to homes, businesses and community resources.”

In Arizona, the map shows not just a high likelihood of wildfire across the state, but a high risk of wildfire damage to many Arizona homes and communities.

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Friday, May 15, 2020

Running Through the Outbreak: Joggers Lose the Social Connections of Major Races, Weekly Gatherings

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2020 at 2:51 PM

A group of runners start the TMC MeetMeDowntown 5K in 2018. The race, part of the Gabe Zimmerman Triple Crown organized by Run Tucson, will be run virtually this year. - COURTESY GOATOGRAPHER/KERRY WHELAN
  • Courtesy goatOGRAPHER/Kerry Whelan
  • A group of runners start the TMC MeetMeDowntown 5K in 2018. The race, part of the Gabe Zimmerman Triple Crown organized by Run Tucson, will be run virtually this year.

Although Gov. Doug Ducey has allowed gyms to reopen this week, runners who enjoy the social aspect of group activities will likely have to wait longer before they see an opportunity to join an organized pack.

While it hasn’t been hard to see runners jogging solo or in pairs through Arizona’s stay-at-home order, there are many eager to see social distancing protocols ease so they can get back to participating in activities that can help motivate and make running “social” again.

“It’s important to have those ‘accountability buddies’ so we can maintain our motivation,” says Dr. Amy Athey, executive director of Student Wellness and Retention at University of Arizona and former UA Dept. of Athletics Associate Athletics Director for Psychological Services and Wellness. “These are challenging times when our routines are disrupted, so this an opportunity to look for other connections.”

In lieu of face-to-face gatherings, Athey suggests utilizing virtual platforms—such as Strava or MapMyRun—to mimic “being there.”

“One of the challenges of social distancing is how can we keep [our] connections going?” she posits. “We need to be creative and flexible.”

Athey has been virtually exercising with a friend via phone apps. Afterwards, they connect by phone or video to talk about their experiences and otherwise catch up.

Another strategy she advocates is keeping things in perspective and managing expectations. If running isn’t a viable option, go for a walk or ride a bicycle. The important thing, Athey says, is to get out and exercise and maintain connections with the outside world.

“I’m encouraging people to say, ‘OK, that’s what I did today; I didn’t run today, but I did walk.’ The important thing to remember is that we will get through this,” she says. “It won’t be forever.”


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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Oro Valley Finalizing Contract with New Golf Course Operator

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2020 at 3:30 PM

The management of Oro Valley's town-owned golf courses will turn over to Billy Casper Golf within 90 days after the town gave notice to current operator Troon Golf of its intent to change firms. The decision comes after five years with Troon. - LOGAN BURTCH-BUUS, TUCSON LOCAL MEDIA
  • Logan Burtch-Buus, Tucson Local Media
  • The management of Oro Valley's town-owned golf courses will turn over to Billy Casper Golf within 90 days after the town gave notice to current operator Troon Golf of its intent to change firms. The decision comes after five years with Troon.
Oro Valley is bringing in a new company to manage the town-owned golf courses.

Billy Casper Golf will take over management from Troon Golf within the next 90 days.

It’s the latest twist in the town’s management of the golf course, which has been a major controversy since the Oro Valley Town Council agreed to purchase the golf course and an associated community center in 2014 from the HSL Properties. While the community center has been a popular spot for everything from youth summer camps to senior leisure classes, the golf courses have lost money and required millions in subsidies from the town.

The resulting controversy triggered a 2015 recall attempt and was a major issue in the 2018 election that brought Mayor Joe Winfield and three new Oro Valley council members into office.

Oro Valley posted a request for proposals Jan. 24 searching for a new course operator. Troon was brought on to handle the golf course, food and beverage, tennis operations, and swimming pool operations in 2015. Since then, the town took over the pool and El Conquistador Tennis, LLC took over tennis.

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Parks and trails in Arizona to continue safety measures amid stay-at-home order extension

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2020 at 1:30 PM

COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
  • Courtesy National Park Service
PHOENIX – Arizona’s outdoors continue to be a source of solace and relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Grand Canyon National Park, Saguaro National Park and other national sites remain closed, state parks, the Phoenix Mountains Preserve and other popular hiking spots remain open with some restrictions.

Gov. Doug Ducey deemed outdoor recreation essential in his executive stay-at-home order on March 30, and parks and trails saw large numbers of visitors initially. Many state and city parks remain open but with safety measures, such as keeping 6 feet apart and avoiding congregating. Ducey this month extended his stay-home order until May 15, and allowed a limited number of businesses, including hair salons, to reopen with safety measures in place.

Health and exercise experts say it’s safe to break a sweat outdoors if you take precautions and leave yourself “wiggle room” when encountering others. And you can always exercise from home, they add.

“Some of our parks have seen an increase in day use, which is people just going in there for the day to hike or just get outdoors,” said Michelle Thompson, chief of communications for Arizona State Parks & Trails. “There are a lot of people who are looking for ways to get out of the house that maybe they haven’t done before.”

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