The Explorer: Desert Times

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  • Resource fair at Picture Rocks

    Hundreds of neighbors visited Picture Rocks Community Center on Sept. 20 for a Community Resource Fair.  Over 30 displays brought information on local resources and issues along with flu shots, popcorn and sno-cones and useful take-aways.  Scouts, 4H Clubs, United Way’s Elder Alliance, Sheriff’s Auxiliary, Abbett Library, Marana Health Center and Food Bank, Citizens for Picture Rocks, Neighbors Helping Neighbors and others spoke to community needs.  Arts and crafts were represented, along with recreation opportunities in Saguaro National Park and Arizona State Parks.  The Avra Valley Coalition opposed an I-11 Canamex Highway through the valley, while state legislature candidates Jo Holt and Holly Lyon introduced themselves to potential voters.  Trico Electric and Avra Water Co-ops were available for customer queries, and the Picture Rocks Fire Department provided red helmets to young potential firefighters.  Picture Rocks Community Center Coordinator Adam Bernal put it all together with help from community organizations and Teen Club volunteers.  At the end of the morning participants said they felt a stronger sense of community, and there were a lot of “thank yous” all around.

  • Flood Control one of Pima County’s greatest success stories

    After devastating floods in Arizona in 1976, 1977 and 1978, the Arizona State Legislature established county flood control districts as special taxing districts to provide floodplain management and flood control improvements. In Pima County, the Board of Supervisors created the Pima County Flood Control District in 1978 with the board serving as the district’s decision-making body.The district has been an overwhelming success. Last month, a tropical storm funneled thick gulf moisture into Arizona and up to four inches of rain fell across parts of the metropolitan area. Streets flooded, washes raged and streams ran bank-to-bank.Two unfortunate souls lost their lives trying to cross flooded streams in their cars and another six motorists had to be rescued for trying to do likewise. But the heavy rain, which in decades past would have caused devastating flooding, caused little property damage. That wasn’t luck. It was by design.

  • UAMC Trauma Center chosen for drug study

    The University of Arizona Medical Center is one of 60 trauma centers in the United States, Canada and Europe selected to conduct a clinical trial of a new investigational drug that could help people with acute spinal cord injuries (ASCI) experience less spinal cord damage and have improved function.Researchers are evaluating the safety and efficacy of an investigative new drug called SUN13837 to determine whether it can protect and regenerate the spinal nerves in ASCI patients. To be considered for the study, a participant must have suffered a spinal cord injury within 12 hours prior to receiving the first dose of the medication and be available for daily dosing for 28 consecutive days.UAMC is the only Level I Trauma Center in the Southwest involved in the two-year study. UA Department of Surgery surgeons Randall Friese, MD, associate professor, Division of Trauma, Critical Care, Burn and Emergency Surgery, and Rein Anton, MD, PhD, assistant professor, Division of Neurosurgery, are leading the study.Acute spinal cord injury occurs in 13,000 to 15,000 individuals in the United States each year; well over half of the cases experience quadriplegia. The estimated lifetime cost of acute spinal cord injury for a 25-year-old patient is in the millions of dollars.At present, no drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or Health Canada to treat the paralysis and sensory loss that occurs after ASCI. The study is sponsored by Asubio Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a Daiichi Sankyo Group Company.In this randomized trial, patients will be assigned to receive either a placebo or SUN13837 within 12 hours of injury and then daily for 28 days.  Researchers will determine if subjects receiving SUN13837 are more likely to respond to the treatment (and to what extent) compared to those in the placebo group. The drug level in the blood stream will be compared to the response to determine the relationship between dose, effect (efficacy or clinical symptoms) and safety.

  • Fall pumpkin celebration

    At Apple Annie's Produce and Pumpkins, enjoy old-fashioned family fun picking your own pumpkins, fall vegetables and apples. Pumpkins of all sizes, shapes and colors will be available for picking in our huge pumpkin patch. We-pick pumpkins will be available at the pumpkin stand. Don't miss Arizona's newest and largest, absolutely amazing CORN MAZE; with 3 levels of difficulty it's perfect for the entire family! Tons of fun for the whole family! Come early and enjoy a delicious "All-You-Can-Eat" pancake breakfast served from 8:30 AM - 10:30 AM, or partake in the Apple Smoked Burger lunch served from 11:30 AM - 4 PM; both meals are served at our orchard location. Don't forget to bring your camera and a jacket, fall days can be quite cool here in Willcox!Recurring Dates:  September 27-28, October 4-5, October 11-12, October 18-19, October 25-26September 27, 2014 - September 28, 2014Event Location: 6405 W. Williams Road, Willcox, AZ 85643 Venue: Apple Annie's Produce and Pumpkins Time: From: 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM 

  • AMVETS Post 770 – Post and clubroom remain open

    The official days to fly the flag during the month of September include - Tuesday, Sept. 2 in honor of the day Japan signed the formal surrender to the U.S.  during World War II; Thursday, Sept. 11, Patriot Day (flag at half-staff); Wednesday, Sept. 17, Constitution Day; and Sunday, Sept. 28, Gold Star Mother’s Day.September dates of interest include Sunday, Sept. 7, which is National Grandparents Day; Thursday, Sept. 18, 1947 – US Air Force established (Happy 67th Birthday); Friday, Sept. 19 – POW/MIA Recognition Day.The AMVETS Post and Clubroom are open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. or earlier/later (bartender’s discretion) Monday thru Saturday.  On Sundays when breakfast is served the Post and Clubroom open at 9 a.m.  Happy Hour is Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m.  Be sure to check the bulletin board on the front of the Post for the Weekly Menu and Activities.  Then come on in and join us for food, fun, and your favorite beverage!The AMVETS Post meets the first Sunday of each month at 10 a.m.  The next meeting will be Sunday, Sept. 7.  The Ladies Auxiliary meets the second Sunday of each month at 9:30 a.m. The next meeting will be Sept. 14.   

  • Recalling an American icon, Eleanor Roosevelt

    For many, the people who have played a part in shaping U.S. history are icons, or chapters in a history book. Eleanor Roosevelt is one of those icons, but to Tucson’s Nina Roosevelt Gibson she is also known as just grandma.Gibson, who currently resides in Vail and has lived in Tucson since 1988, said she learned a lot about humanity, kindness and strength from Eleanor Roosevelt.“I don’t know that I have the strength that she did,” she said. “When you grow up with them you absorb a lot of things. My grandmother really taught me to respect and value everybody. It didn’t matter if they were rich or poor, educated or uneducated — everyone has something to offer. You can learn something from everyone.”Eleanor Roosevelt’s impact on history will be featured in a special series being presented in September by Arizona Public Media. “The Roosevelt’s: An Intimate History” will air on PBS beginning Sunday, Sept. 14 at 8 p.m.The seven-part, 14-hour documentary by Ken Burns will feature Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt – three members of one of the most prominent and influential families in American history.In watching a preview of the upcoming series, a humbled Gibson said early on she never realized the notoriety the family name Roosevelt had achieved. To Gibson, Roosevelt must have been a popular American name because roads, streets, libraries and buildings carried the name. Now, knowing what her grandmother and family did to shape the country is a source of pride.

  • Firefighters to pay tribute to the fallen

    The third annual Tucson 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb will take place starting Sunday morning, Sept. 14. The event is sponsored by the Climb 4 the Fallen (C4TF) Group. The stair climb will be held at the Bank Of The West building, located at 5151 E. Broadway in Tucson. Arizona firefighters will make an exhausting physical tribute to their fellow firefighters who died on 9/11. Participants will include 343 Arizona firefighters, who will each climb in the name of one of the 343 fallen Fire Department of New York City members who perished on Sept.11, 2001. Additionally, there will be 70 local law enforcement officers who will also climb in the name of a fallen police officer. These public safety representatives will climb the 17 floors, about seven times to represent the 110 stories of the World Trade Center.C4TF invites families to come out to the Tucson 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb and see their local first responders in action. The community will witness the physical and mental drive it takes to be a firefighter. There’ll be food, music and activities.The community can help support these first responders in other ways too. Climbers are raising money for one of three different charities: National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, and Firefighters VS. Autism. If you would like to make a donation to support the efforts of these firefighters, please go to the event website at Governor Board Information

  • Picture Rocks Hiking Club maps season explorations

    The Picture Rocks Community Center Hiking Club has adopted its itinerary for the coming season, with emphasis on exploration.  The PRCC van will leave the community center, located at 5615 N. Sanders Road, at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 25, to visit the “ghost town” ruins of the SASCO smelter, which closed in 1919. Those participating should wear sturdy shoes, bring a lot of water, wear a hat and bring a light lunch.  A walking stick is always useful. Hikers will wander around about a mile’s worth, being careful of metal and glass on the ground. The hike is free, but reservations are recommended to ensure a seat in the van. Reserve a seat by calling 682-7166.The lineup of other hikes, which are all estimated at abut three miles round-trip and on Thursdays, incudes: Oct. 23, 8 a.m. – Civilian Conservation Corps Camp Pima;

  • Plenty of lizard species are out

    Even during the hottest parts of the day little four-legged creatures dash about in the Sonoran Desert.  They are lizards out hunting for bugs or plants to eat.  Right now, there is a whole new crop of hatchlings dashing about.   Lizards are “cold-blooded” reptiles, closely related to snakes, and move very fast, especially when it’s hot.  “Cold-blooded” means their body temperature changes with the outside temperature.  They hibernate in winter, lay eggs to reproduce, and are everywhere.  Most lizards’ tails break off very easily and twitch to distract predators, so don’t try to catch them.  They grow new tails that are never as nice.  Here are some of the ones most likely to be found in Southern Arizona.

  • Park begins herbicide spraying

    With a media event on Aug.19, Saguaro National Park began spraying glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, on buffelgrass in the Panther Peak area. During the event, several local residents came to express their continued concerns over aerial spraying.  Carol Owens of Picture Rocks Neighbors Helping Neighbors wanted to know why people with respiratory problems in the area were not notified so they could “get out of the way?”  Chris Banks from Citizens for Picture Rocks noted the rising wind velocity and asked if aerial spraying was safe with the wind?  The Avra Valley Coalition brought information about medical studies showing links between Roundup and birth defects, neurological disorders, DNA damage and human cell death.Park Biologist Natasha Kline was joined by Lindy Brigham, Executive Director of the Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center and Ranger Kristine Simpson, defended the Park’s action.  When asked about the effect of spraying herbicides on unseen wildlife in the remote areas that includes desert tortoises, Gila monsters, tiger rattlers and ground-nesting owls, she said there might be “collateral damage.”   

  • Mattamy Homes waits for approval to develop at historic ranch

    Owners of Lazy K Bar Guest Ranch, located north of Saguaro National Park West, were approached by Mattamy Homes who now awaits approval to develop on the historic ranch.Lazy K Bar was homesteaded in 1928 on the original 160 acres of land. Eight years later, the property was turned into a guest ranch. An additional three guesthouses were built along with a dining room and an area to keep horses. The coming years, especially during the 50s and 60s, brought many guests and filmmakers to the ranch. Popular movies such as the “Maverick”, “How the West was Won” and TV series “Gunsmoke” and “High Chaparral” were but a few that were filmed on the ranch. Current property owners, Jim Shiner and Peter Evans, bought the ranch in 1998. For the coming years, the two tried to keep the guest ranch running, but had to close it down in 2006. Since then, the ranch hasn’t reopened its doors.Shiner and Evans have received frequent offers to develop on the 138-acres of land. The property is zoned RR (Resort and Recreation) and if developed as a resort-type could potentially accommodate up to 600 lodging units. The zoning could have a single-family residential development with minimum lot size of 3.3 acres, but would require a conditional use permit from the Marana Planning Commission. The proposal by Mattamy Homes is for the rezoning of RR to (F) Specific Plan. This would permit 178 single-family lots at 1.29 residences per acre. The developer could not be reached for comment.The representative for the property owners, Mike Racy, says that the landowners see the developers plan as a beneficial and reasonable fit.

  • Gardening With Soule: Plan for fall - The keys to planting a scented garden

    The nose knows.  Scent is one of our most basic senses, yet it is often ignored when planning a landscape.  Last month I spoke of layers for the landscape.  Along with layers of plants that appeal to our eyes, it is good to include plants that appeal to our sense of smell. I cherish my garden for all the wonderfully scented xeriscape plants in it.  I often run my fingers up branches, releasing heady fragrance.  I love the smell of the desert after the rain; my garden too has many fragrances released by humidity and pounding monsoon rains.  Most scents defy written description.  We can try, using perfumers terms such as; sweet, tangy, sharp, fruity, clear, warm, spicy, earthy, fresh, musky, plus refer to other scents.  For example, rosemary is described as a “woodsy, fresh, camphoraceous” aroma.There are a wide range of arid-adapted plants that do well here and are highly fragrant.  The list includes trees, shrubs, perennials, groundcovers, and even accent plants.  I have my favorite plant palate, just as other landscapers have theirs.  It is important for you to consider what you like and want in your space.  Note that one added benefit of strongly scented plants is that they are usually unpalatable to rabbits, ground squirrels, javalina and deer. One of my personal favorites is the Mount Lemmon marigold (Tagetes lemmonii).  This medium size shrub is ideal on the east or north side of a building where it gets no more than a half day of full sun.  The bright green leaves emit a sweet musky scent, especially notable in the bloom season, November to April.  Mexican anise (Tagetes lucida) is strongly anise scented, and anise tasting too, as it makes a delightful tea.  Also called Mexican mint marigold, this plant looks somewhat like a mint, and prefers moisture as mint does.  Mine thrives in my water feature, with one inch of the pot in the water. Golden flowers appear in cluster in the fall.

  • Area youth gather to discuss community needs

    Following a pot-luck dinner, six Picture Rocks teenagers created a Youth Forum during the Aug.19 Citizens for Picture Rocks (C4PR) meeting.  Savannah Van Dyke and Brennan Stevens attend Marana Middle School, while Raymond Sanchez, Justin Fogarty, Bradley Stevens and D.J. Pauley attend Marana High School.  Brought together by Picture Rocks Community Center Coordinator Adam Bernal, the teenagers like living in Picture Rocks, and several commented on the “friendly” and “respectful” people, and on “good communication between elders and young people.”Several commented on the natural beauty of the area, especially sunsets, and hoped for more Saguaro National Park programs in the schools to teach them about the desert and its dwellers.  Park Ranger Jeff Martinelli was in the audience and took note.  All six teens shared other common themes such as  the need for more sidewalks and for public transportation, more indoor and outdoor recreation sites and improving existing ones, pool parties and outdoor movies, dances, dinners and arcade games.  All favored the community center’s request for a place on the planned 2015 bond measure to expand facilities there.  When asked what their goals and aspirations were, the responses varied.  Brennan hopes to play pro baseball, Justin wants to combine being a personal trainer with computer programming, a mix of physical and technological work, Bradley hopes to play pro basketball after college, Raymond wants to be a professional cook and open his own restaurant.  Savannah wants to go to college and pursue her love of photography and D.J. is already interning to get Emergency Medical Technician training, and hopes to move forward in the medical field, perhaps even becoming a nurse or doctor.

  • What's Up UA? - UA Fall Enrollment Sets Record for Diversity, Number of Freshmen

    The University of Arizona will have another record-setting year with the greatest number of incoming freshmen, the highest overall enrollment and greater student diversity, preliminary figures indicate.New enrollment data shows that the UA will welcome more than 10,000 freshman, transfer and returning undergraduate students – with more than 7,800 of those being incoming freshmen – when classes begin Monday. For fall 2013, there were about 9,600 new students, of which nearly 7,200 were new freshmen.Also, a projected 41.4 percent of new freshmen are ethnically or racially diverse. Last year, that number was 41.3 percent, marking the first time it had surpassed 40 percent. "We are going against the national trend; our enrollment is increasing during a time that the number of high school graduates has just begun to rebound from one of the lowest points in many years," said Kasey Urquidez, the UA's associate vice president and dean of admissions.The preliminary enrollment figures also indicate strong academic quality among students. The estimated freshman SAT is 1114 with an average 3.4 high school grade-point average. The Honors College is expecting about 1,300 incoming freshman and transfer students. Their average freshman SAT is 1353 with an average high school GPA of 3.85, both increases over last year.

  • Tucson's Birthday Ceremony

    Join us for a celebration of Tucson's 239th birthday at the Tucson Presidio museum. There will be birthday cake and refreshments, the annual flag-raising ceremony, cannon fire, and live music.  Costumed Presidio soldiers and others will present living history demonstrations. The Tucson Presidio was founded on August 20, 1775.August 20, 2014Event Location: 133 W. Washington St., Tucson, AZ 85701 Venue: Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Time: From: 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM Admission: Free. 

  • Arizona Department of Revenue stops fraudulent refunds

    The Arizona Department of Revenue continues to combat the growing epidemic of tax fraud whereby individuals file false income tax returns using stolen or fictitious taxpayer information. Over the past fiscal year, the Department of Revenue stopped over $74 million dollars in fraudulent refunds from being sent out.Anthony Forschino, assistant director for the Department of revenue in charge of criminal investigations, states this is an increase of over $42 million dollars from the previous fiscal year when $32 million in fraudulent refunds were prevented. “To give an idea of how dire this problem has become, consider that just five years ago we stopped less than $2 million in fraudulent refunds,” stated Forschino. “To stop over 37 times more in fraud just a half a decade later shows how rapidly this type of crime has proliferated.” He attributed the increase from the prior year to enhancements to the Department’s computer programs along with assigning additional highly trained and motivated financial auditors and investigators to this effort.“It is important to continue this effort, and it is our commitment to the citizens of Arizona to continue using all available resources to protect taxpayers and their tax dollars from this type of fraud,” said Director Raber.

  • Vacation season is over, time for school

    Vacation season might be wrapping up as children everywhere prepare to head back to school soon.  The lucky ones among us, though, might be able to squeeze in one more quick trip.  For some, that means air travel.  Having completed my fair share of that already this summer, I wanted to share a list of five things you should never do on an airplane.  Many of these things seem like common sense, but so does not ironing in your sleep and yet they still have that warning on the box.  I am not kidding when I tell you that I’ve witnessed each and every one of these actions taking place on a flight.  And so I’m doing what any writer would do and voicing my frustrations in writing for all the world (or my captive Southern Arizona audience, at least) to read.  It might be a passive aggressive act, but some things just need to be addressed, don’t you agree?Dogs, for example.  I understand that several airlines now allow dogs to fly in the cabin on the flight.  Fine.  I’m not thrilled to be sharing recirculated air with the Chihuahua two rows up but fine.  I have to draw the line though at people who remove aforementioned Chihuahua from its carrier and proceed to walk it up and down the aisle.  Seriously?  It’s all just too reminiscent of the buses in developing countries—you know the ones, with the luggage strapped precariously on top and every kind of foul blocking the aisles and spilling out the windows.   Tuna sandwiches.  Don’t even get me started on the stinky food people see fit to bring aboard the airplane!  What really floors me, though, is when you see the offender casually passing time prior to boarding the flight, saving the stinky food for the plane instead of scarfing it down before boarding.  Because surely every single passenger wants to smell your tuna all the way from Orlando to Vegas.  Gross.Lap layers.  These are the passengers (usually men, in my experience) who recline their seat as far as possible until they are practically lying in your lap.  Lap layers have to be my number one most dreaded fellow passengers.Seat hogs.  Seat hogs are my number two.  These are the folks who—clearly—ought to purchase two seats on the flight because their girth cannot be fully accommodated in a single seat.  I may be small, but I paid for my whole seat and I’d like to be able to use it, thank you very much.Porn watchers.  I kid you not.  Within the confines of a small aluminum tube in which 200+ people are forced to sit knee-to-knee, you really can’t help but notice what might be showing on your neighbor’s iPad screen.  Leave the porn at home people.  It—and your stinky tuna sandwich—will be waiting for you when you get back.

  • AMVETS Post 770 – Important August dates

    There are no official days to fly the flag in August.August dates of interest:  Monday, August 4 – 224th anniversary of the establishment of the Coast Guard.Thursday, August 7 – Purple Heart Day.Tuesday, August 12 – Fourth anniversary of the establishment of the AMVETS Post 770 Riders.Wednesday, August 13 – 31st anniversary of the National Sons’ Of AMVETS Charter. 

  • Monsoons bring new life, danger

    Monsoons – what the O’odham people call the “male rain” of intense summer storms – green the desert, ripen prickly pear cacti fruit, and bring out mosquitoes and the critters that eat them.  Mosquitoes can carry diseases like the west nile virus or the new chikungunya, which causes fever and joint pain.  They breed quickly in standing water. To avoid mosquito infestations, empty buckets, barrels, old tires, and anything that holds water outside.  When spiders weave their almost-invisible threads between trees, try to leave them alone.  Those webs catch mosquitoes, which the spiders then eat.Another mosquito-eater is the little couch’s spadefoot toad (scaphiopus couchi).  The first downpour brings them out of their underground burrows to send out their melodious mating call.  Well, melodious to another toad, anyway.  You’ve probably heard it –  a sound that implies more size than their two or three  inches length.  They will find each other and mate right after the rain, and the eggs hatch the next day, several days later the tadpoles hatch.As the puddles dry up the tadpoles do a hasty metamorphosis, often in less than a week, sprouting legs and absorbing their tails.  Now a toad, if it stays dry they use the “spade” on their rear feet to dig into the still-moist earth to wait for the next storm…or next year’s monsoons.The rains also bring out the more brightly colored sonoran green toad (Anaxyrus retiformus), which follows a similar reproduction pattern.  Their call has been described as similar to the buzzer on an electric alarm clock.  The much larger Sonoran Desert toad (bufo alvarius) spends a lot more time above ground, taking refuge in any damp and shady places it can find.  It eats anything it can stuff in its mouth, along with bugs.  All toads will secrete a somewhat toxic and distasteful venom through its skin, so keep dogs and toads far apart.  If you handle a toad, be sure to wash hands well.

  • Citizens unhappy with Saguaro National Park plan to weed out buffelgrass

    With crews of interns actively rooting out buffelgrass in Saguaro National Park, park staff told citizens aerial spraying of herbicides is likely to begin mid-August, taking advantage of the monsoon season.  At a meeting requested by park restoration ecologist Dana Backer, with wildlife biologist Natasha Kline and ranger Jeff Martinelli, community activists Albert Lannon, Chris Banks and Tom Allen urged caution.  “Things like this have unintended consequences all too often,” Lannon said.  Allen urged that follow-up studies be conducted for five years to monitor the effects of herbicide spraying on wildlife, and Banks said digging out the invasive plant, deemed a “noxious weed” by the state of Arizona, is, in his experience, the only sure way to get rid of it.The park is concerned that buffelgrass is crowding out native plants which wildlife depend on for food, and has become a fire hazard that threatens saguaros.  Kline said that, while we  may disagree, she is “glad there are advocates who love the desert.”  Backer said the aerial spraying of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is “an operational experiment” that will be limited to a “relatively small area…about five percent” where there is heavy infestation in difficult terrain, such as around Panther Peak.  They would try, she said, to be cautious and “minimize collateral damage.”  The park is also considering use of Imazapyr, an herbicide banned in the European Union since 2003.  Backer said Imazapyr raises “a lot of red flags” and they are continuing research with no immediate plan to use the poison.

  • Car seats available at Picture Rocks Fire

    With a $7,500 grant, Picture Rocks Firefighter and outreach coordinator Billie Moon has secured a batch of advanced safety car seats for children.  During the July 15 Picture Rocks Fire District Board meeting that “Every child needs a car seat,” Moon said she is available to help install and check on car seats Monday through Friday during office hours at the administration building, located at 12121 W. Picture Rocks Road.  The car seats, which retail for $150, are available to Picture Rocks residents free of charge, as are smoke detectors.  For more information, call 682-7878.In other department news, a vacancy on the board of directors was filled during the the July 15 meeting.  Sherryn ‘Vikki’ Marshall, who served eight years on the Pima Community College Board, was elected unanimously.  Regular elections for two seats on the governing board will take place in November.  Marshall joins Chair Dave Seese, Clerk Peggy McCool, George “Jesse” James, and Ernie Robles as a board member.

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