Barry, Me and the Mountains
Sounds like a bad 80s sitcom. But in the early 90’s I had the honor of being invited over to the late Senator Barry Goldwater’s house for a 1-on-1 meeting. Even though I was a “kid” in my 20s at the time and had no real status in our community, he afforded me the honor because the Senator and I are both members of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. The Senator pledged Sigma Chi at the UofA. And about 55 years later I pledged at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana; the hometown of his first wife.
I decided to turn our conversation into a pseudo interview on things he remembered about his time at Ball State when visiting his wife’s family and the chapter house at Ball State. We spoke about a wide range of topics. And frankly I was a nervous wreck. But then I asked him a question that changed my life. I asked, besides his family and his political career, what accomplishment was he most proud of. I expected him to say his photography because I was a fan of his early photos in northern Arizona. But he immediately pointed at South Mountain from his office window and over his shoulder at North Mountain. He said, and I’m paraphrasing from notes I scribbled, “I saved those mountains from becoming nothing but a bunch of homes. It’s nice to look out the window and see those open views.”
The Senator’s house sat on a small hill in Paradise Valley surrounded by development. His office had great views looking to the south. I figured since he was older and less mobile at that time, he must sit in his office and look out the window a lot. And seeing those mountains everyday reminded him of the beauty in Arizona that he loved so much and how easy it is to lose it to development.
He then tried to show me a frame on one of his book shelves that had fallen over. It was out of his reach, so I picked it up. It contained the famous quote from President Theodore Roosevelt, “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, and for all who come after you.”
He went on to tell me that he’d been asked to help save the McDowell Mountains for preservation. I immediately told myself I need to get involved too. I lived near the McDowell’s. I loved hiking in the mountains well before trails were put in and I didn’t want to see it covered with homes.
I left with a renewed sense of purpose.
I got in contact with Herb Drinkwater, the then mayor of Scottsdale, to see how I could help his office. I joined the McDowell Sonoran Land Trust to put my advertising and design skill to use. I had a very small part in the 90’s compared to others. But the Senator was right, it is something to be very proud of. And looking at the McDowell Mountains every day brings a certain joy that all citizens of Scottsdale should be proud of. WE ALL saved those mountains and the surrounding Sonoran Desert from development.
I got to meet the Senator on a handful of other occasions before his passing. One was when I got to sit next to him at the Mountain Ball in ’95; An event put on to raise money for the preservation of the McDowell’s. When he got up to speak at the function his one comment that I recall, “It would be criminal if someone built on those Mountains”.
Brought to You by the Letter “Y”
Fast forward to 2-3 years ago when I first heard they were trying to build a 35+ acre commercial and tourist attraction on Preserve land called the Desert Discovery Center. I knew I had to get involved again. I called up some of my old contacts from the McDowell Sonoran Land Trust and was surprised to find out that some of them were behind the Desert Discovery Center. They told me it was always planned. Granted I wasn’t on the inner-circle in the 90s, but building something in the Preserve was never brought up in any board meeting I attended. And if it was talked about, it must have been behind closed doors with just a handful of people.
They did talk about building a facility similar to the Sonoran Desert Museum that’s near Tucson. But they proposed that be built near where Pinnacle Peak Patio was on North Alma School Road. Those neighbors all got together and quickly shot that down years ago. But just like a bad burrito, the Desert Discovery Center came up again in a different iteration. This time they wanted to build it at the Gateway Trailhead. They tried to keep it under the radar. But thanks to the citizen-led Protect Our Preserve and NoDDC, people have started to be told about this ruse.
Protect Our Preserve people have been working diligently, honestly and with a singular purpose: Stop commercial development in the Preserve. The signature collection victory to get prop 420 on the ballot was herculean. But we knew the developers and shills for the Desert Discovery Center, renamed Desert Edge, weren’t going to give up easily. However, we never predicted their next move. They created a new group called Protect YOUR Preserve to promote a “no” vote for prop 420. The only letter different from their name and the group trying to save the Preserve is a “Y”. That’s also a good question: Y? They did it to confuse voters. Which that in itself is telling. They couldn’t debate the issue, so they decided to try and confuse voters.
Knowing the late Senator’s candor and use of colorful language, I can imagine what he would say today.
Protect OUR F*@&ing Preserve. Protect OUR F*@&ing Taxes. Vote #YESprop420