News and Events

White Tank Mountain Regional Park  Halloween Event Draws Record Crowd 

Over 880 kids and adults enjoyed the Halloween event at White Tank Mountain Regional Park on Saturday, October 27.


Prior to trick-or-treating, the kids played games, enjoyed refreshments, gathered around a campfire, had their faces painted, and enjoyed sharing spooky or funny costumes.


As they trekked the luminary-lined Black Rock Short Loop, the families enjoyed sweet treats and educational experiences under the stars on the moonlit night.

December 1 Busy Day for Outreach at Holiday Events

First it was the Buckeye Holiday Boutique from 9 to 4 and then pack up the gear and head to Verrado’s Hometown Holidays for the evening, which culminated in the festive Verrado Christmas tree lighting.

New stewards Paul McNair and Lou Trout enjoyed their first foray into program outreach by selling field guides and passing out information and maps to multiple booth visitors at the morning event.  Field guide author Karen Krause chatted with visitors and signed books for purchasers.

The atmosphere was festive with roaming carolers and reindeer headgear.  Rudy (Patrick Campbell) and his handler Torrie Campbell charmed adults and kids alike with Rudy antics while they shared promotional bookmarks.


Pam Katz, Steve Rugh, and Les Meyers engaged Verrado residents and booth visitors with Conservancy information at the Hometown Holidays highlighting their evening dusted in confetti as they lit the Christmas tree.

Outreach Coordinator Valerie Madarasz made it through the day with flying colors with the help of scones and coffee from vendors’ booths and great steward support. 


Steve Rugh, Lucy Chapman, Bob Hopper, Jane Fricke, and Alice Neal also provided support at the Boutique while Pam Katz, Steve, and Les Meyers supported the Verrado activities. 

CASCA-WTMC Connectivity Lab Yields Sustainability Awareness

Learning about the complexities of maintaining open spaces and wildlife corridors while ensuring economic development was somewhat akin to improvisational theater at the Connectivity Lab held on November 6 at the Desert Botanical Gardens.  

Role playing served as the learning conduit in a game masterminded by Arizona State University Ph.D. student Anita Hegy Ferguson.  The lab was jointly sponsored by the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance (CAZCA) and the White Tank Mountains Conservancy (WTMC) and is the first in a series.

The 20 participants were educated about the unique interests of key players in in all facets of sustainability and economic development  including mayors, city engineers and planners, wildlife, property developers and investors, etc.

Attendees acted the part of those individuals in communicating barriers and potential strategies for developing sustainable solutions compatible with population growth and the conservation of our natural and cultural resources.  

The Connectivity Lab holds promise as an educational tool to familiarize the general public with the needs and challenges of working together to solve the problems related to economic growth and development and preservation of natural and cultural resources.

Watch the White Tank Mountains Conservancy web site for announcements of future Connectivity Labs.

Arizona 2018-Cox Conserves Heroes

Trust for Public Land

Todd Hornback, co-founder and chairman of the board of the White Tank Mountains Conservancy has won the Cox Heroes Award, earning $10,000 for the 501(c)(3) established in 2015. 


Hornback and the Conservancy advocate for smart growth in our rapidly developing communities to ensure wildlife and landscape preservation.  Through conversation with policy makers, he aims to maintain the sustainability and beauty of the area for the well-being of all.

It was a close competition at the national level. Unfortunately, Todd did not win. Thanks to all that participated in the voting for Todd.


Phil Pryde from California is the 2018 National Cox Conserves Hero.

Watch the Video as Todd explains about

the White Tank Mountains Conservancy.

Todd Hornback Wins the Cox Conserves Heroes Award for Arizona

Todd Hornback

Stewards Gather for Second Annual Welcome Back Event


White Tank Mountains Conservancy (WTMC) stewards regrouped to celebrate accomplishments and plan for the future at its second annual Welcome Back event on October 13, 2018.


The group met for a catered brunch at the beautiful Grand Canyon Community Room at the REI distributions center in Goodyear.  Team Coordinators Bob Wisener and Jane Fricke planned the event.


The 2018-2019 outdoor season brings the largest ever outreach schedule of over 30 table events scheduled at various venues in the West Valley.  In addition, greater interaction with hikers and outdoors lovers is anticipated through soon-to-be-released program offerings to hiking clubs.  These opportunities will include meeting presentations and guided hikes.  A key achievement is the completion of a White Tank Mountains field guide donated by writer and steward Karen Krause.  Printing efforts are underway!

In addition, the field services team will be offering guided hikes to stewards this winter to expand knowledge of trails and to build camaraderie.  The group proposed other methods of steward engagement, which will be considered when the new colunteer coordinator comes on board on December 1,  following Jane Fricke’s retirement as of November 30.

The communications and marketing teams are exploring greater reach to the community through newsletter articles in area communities and partner cities.  They are also consulting with a local marketing expert for strategies to engage sponsors.  In addition, the teams are exploring the possibility of sponsoring an expert guest blog to enhance the level of conservation expertise shared with the public.

Patrick and Torrie Campbell were recognized as the new mascot managers, and Tania Pak and her son, Preston, have volunteered to be mascot performer and handler.  Their goal is to acquire a new Rudy mascot suite to improve performer mobility and comfort.  Comfort and ease of performance will encourage more frequent performances and draw more performers. 

The Dog Days of Spring!
by Valerie Madarasz

WTMC Outreach volunteers, John Laabs, Steve Rugh and Valerie Madarasz, experienced several close encounters of the canine kind at the City of Peoria's BarkFest event, which was held at the Sonoran Mountain Ranch Park on March 24.

The festival attracted local families and dog lovers, who proudly displayed their precious pups, while participating in the many activities, including obstacle courses and treadmills for the dogs, and numerous fun attractions for the children.

Much interest was shown at the WTMC display table as park maps were handed out and hiking trails suitable for humans and pooches were discussed. The visiting children were rewarded with Easter candy after doing their best to identify which skull belonged to which animal native to Arizona.  

Unfortunately, we had nothing delicious to hand out to our doggie visitors, but it did not deter several of them from drooling over the skulls, as was demonstrated by a very friendly Great Dane!

We are always seeking volunteers to help spread the word about the Conservancy and our exquisite White Tank Mountain parks.  Please consider signing up for future events - it is always a very rewarding and fun experience, and you never know who you might encounter!

Outreach Team Conveys Conservancy Message at Arizona Traditions

Reported by Valerie Madarasz

Arizona Traditions, an adult community on Bell Road in Surprise, has itself become a “tradition” for the White Tank Mountains Conservancy Outreach Team.  Conservancy stewards along with sixty plus vendors exhibit there October through April. 

On Friday, March 16, Valerie Madarasz and Nancy Martin reached out to the community to promote activities in the White Tank Mountains and to introduce the more than 100 attendees to the Conservancy and its volunteer opportunities.

The relationship with Traditions is a great collaboration benefitting the Conservancy and the community.  Anyone wishing to share this connection may contact John Laabs at 

Set in Stone but not in Meaning  - Southwestern Indian Rock Art
By Valerie Madarasz

The second in the WTMC Speaker Series featured Allen Dart, Registered Professional Archaeologist, who took the audience of 40 plus on an enthralling journey through the rock art of Southwestern cultures dating from the Paleoindian period to modern day.  Petroglyphs, which are cut or "pecked" into the rock, are more common than rock paintings in the Southwest and many examples can be found across Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Mexico.  Many of the rock art examples he showed were representational, including depictions of animals, human-like figures, paw prints, cornstalks, suns, moons and stars, while others were abstract in style such as circles, spirals, targets, grids and other complex geometric designs.  Interpreting the age and meaning of rock art can be challenging, although certain depictions give clues as to when they were created and who created them.  However, meanings have changed over the years as they were passed between generations or groups.


Many of the audience members were eager to learn more about the petroglyphs in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park and Allen showed pictures of Petroglyph Plaza on the Waterfall Trail, which is the most visited petroglyph site in the park.  The designs are mostly abstract and from the Archaic period, including pipettes, which was a design used predominantly by the Hohokam.  The Waterfall Canyon and Black Rock areas have grid-like patterns, crosses and solar markers on the rocks, while the rock art in Mesquite Canyon features complex logo-like depictions.


Allen was asked at the end of his presentation if he thought that rock art was a form of writing, similar to the Egyptian hieroglyphics. He said it was most probably not because of the randomness of the various depictions, although only the creators of these fascinating artworks really know the answer.


There was a plethora of fascinating information given during Allen's presentation and he left the audience eager to learn more.  One attendee was overheard to say "that was very informational and I am so glad I came today.  Allen has motivated me to get out and go visit some of the areas in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park and other areas in the Southwest where I can see rock art for myself".

Rudy Entertains at Buckeye Air Fair

Rudy is at it again! This time he was excited to greet the crowd at the Buckeye Air Fair at the Buckeye Airport on Saturday, February 3.


Not at all daunted by low flying aircraft and hundreds of people, Rudy found his way around the airport grounds like a pro.

Our student volunteers Cyra Holmes and Lily Gracia from Verrado Middle School shared the roles of performer and handler and provided entertainment and educational materials to the crowd.


The girls distributed cards with the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace© and safety tips for our Arizona outdoor enthusiasts.

A big thanks to Cyra and Lily  for their work and to moms Maria Whitesell and Rochelle Gracia for supporting their daughters’ volunteer efforts with the Conservancy!

New Steward Orientation, Class Six

An excited group of conservation supporters became Class 6 of the White Tank Mountains Conservancy New Steward Orientation on Saturday, February 27.


The view from the nature center classroom at the White Tank Mountain Regional Park provided an appropriate backdrop for twelve new stewards who learned about the purpose and organization of the Conservancy from 8 a.m. to noon.


Interests ranged from serving as trail stewards to supporting outreach activities.  This group brought some unique skills to the Conservancy including a pair of volunteer interpretive naturalists who will be sharing their knowledge and appreciation of snakes with local school children.

Bob Wisener, Carol Sterling, and Jane Fricke orchestrated the event while Bob Hopper provided technical support.  Thanks to each of these individuals, team coordinators, experienced stewards, and our enthusiastic new stewards for making this orientation another success!

Outdoor Adventure Day at
White Tank Mountain Regional Park


Vehicles lined up at the pay station of White Tank Mountain Regional Park on Saturday January 13 as park visitors arrived to take part in the 5th annual Outdoor Adventure Family Day. 

The events featured a number of educational activities including the following:

  • a guided hike to a crested saguaro

  • a mountain bike clinic

  • Dutch oven cooking demonstrations

  • search and rescue demonstrations

  • live animal displays

  • Leave No Trace

  • hiking safety tips and information

  • animal tracks

Visitors gathered for history of the White Tanks, Master Gardeners presentations, and kid’s activities and balloons at the White Tank Library.

The Conservancy Outreach Team displayed outdoor safety tips and shared information about Leave No Trace with visitors.  

Accessible Trails Added and Updated
Both trails are surrounded by spectacular views and provide an opportunity for all to enjoy the cultural and natural beauty of the White Tank Mountains.

Skyline Regional Park

On Thursday, November 11, Mayor Jackie Meck dedicated the new RedTailed Hawk Trail at Skyline Regional Park.  The .6 mile trail accommodates wheel chairs, walkers, and strollers and provides striking views of the mountains.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park

White Tank Mountain Regional Park recently resurfaced the 1 mile Waterfall Trail to improve its accessibility.  The new concrete surface allows mobility for all appropriate assistive devices.  Hikers can enjoy the petroglyphs left by the Hohokam people as well as spectacular views of nature.  

West Valley Energy Open Donates $20,000

A highly successful West Valley Energy Open charity golf benefit resulted in a $20,000 charitable donation to WTMC being announced by Chairman Todd Hornback at the September 25 meeting of the Board of Directors. 

Hornback thanked Bob Bement, Executive Vice-President and Chief Nuclear Officer of Arizona Public Service, and recognized him for his work on the West Valley Energy Open committee.  Hornback further expressed his appreciation to the event sponsors, participants, and volunteers for their support of the benefit and the Conservancy.

The second annual golf charity event was held on September 22 at Verrado Golf Club and brought together members of the Buckeye and Palo Verde energy Industry to support three West Valley charities that are critical to the local community.  The two other organizations receiving support are the Homeless Youth Connection and All Faith Communities. 

Buckeye Mayor Jackie Meck is Honorary Chairman of the event committee as well as its founder.  Meck is also one of the founders of the White Tank Mountains Conservancy.

WTMC Promotes Healthy Living and Safety at Peoria Avenue Home Depot 

A backpack giveaway and plenty of learning opportunities attracted Peoria residents to the Conservancy outreach activities at a health and safety fair held at the West Peoria Avenue Home Depot in Peoria on Saturday, October 7. 

The Outreach team spent a busy three hours sharing safety tips, providing White Tank Mountains trail maps, and encouraging safe, health-restoring outdoor activities for kids and adults. 

Rudy Rascal the Roadrunner (Patrick Campbell) zoomed around the fair greeting visitors while his handler Torrie Campbell Kept his rascally behavior in line!  

Rudy represents the health and safety of all the White Tank Mountains animals that are protected by generous donors and active volunteers and stewards of the mountains. 

Serving to preserve were John Laabs, Scott Kranzsuch, Steve Rugh, and WTMC Executive Director Les Meyers.

Outdoor Recreation Bolsters Arizona’s Economy With $21.2 Billion Annually in Consumers Spending and 201,000 Jobs

Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) today released the state-by-state Outdoor Recreation Economy Report, which demonstrates the powerful impact that outdoor recreation has on Arizona’s economy.

Today’s report shows that the outdoor recreation economy in Arizona directly contributes 201,000 jobs and annually generates $21.2 billion in consumer spending and $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue.

OIA’s report also highlights that 59 percent of Arizona’s 6.9 million residents participate in outdoor recreation each year.

To review complete report.

Desert Safety and Gary the Gopher Snake
at Goddard School in Verrado

A coyote puppet spouted desert safety to his mountain lion friend with a funky hat and sunglasses while Gary the Gopher snake calmly awaited behind the puppet theater.

Maria Whitesell, her daughter Cyra Holmes, and Lily Gracia brought the safety message to life through story and puppetry.  Pairs of three to five-year- old eyes lit up as the puppets cavorted in their theater drawing giggles and smiles. 

Pairs of three to five-year- old eyes lit up as the puppets cavorted in their theater drawing giggles and smiles. 

Justin Williams, White Tank Mountain Regional Park Ranger, introduced the calm and apparently patient gopher snake to the children inviting them to touch gently. Gary and all the kids seemed to enjoy the experience.

The White Tank Mountain Community Outreach team sponsored event took place on June 30 at the Verrado Goddard School.

NAU Senior Interns with Conservancy

Taylor Donahue, a senior Parks and Recreation Management student at Northern Arizona University, is shadowing leaders and exploring trails while gaining field experience at the White Tank Mountains Conservancy Parks. 

A resident of Surprise, Taylor works part-time while fulfilling the demands of a 240-hour summer internship.  Having spent many of his 97 volunteer hours earned to date on trails, he recounted his excitement for seeing wildlife.  A pair of chuckwallas and mule deer caught his attention on the Mesquite.  His next trail goal is Ford Canyon, which he wisely plans to do with a friend the first time since the trail markings can be challenging.

He is eager to connect with White Tank Mountains Regional Park nature center staff to learn the ins and outs of that operation.  His course work at NAU required designing a business and its budget, and he plans to test his theories against practice as he learns about the business side of the nature center operation. 

Taylor has explored the White Tank Mountains Conservancy website and manuals learning about the mission and activities of the Conservancy.  His next venture will be grasping the functions of the outreach and marketing teams as he attends meetings in the next few weeks. 

Taylor will graduate in December and is seeking a position with the USDA Forest Service or a national park.


Follow Taylor’s Weekly Blog  – return next week for another entry

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Week 2 Report

Week 3 Report

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Week 9 Report

Want to meet the White Tank Mountain Regional Park “dynamic duo”?
For an introduction to Park Supervisor Dove Luidhardt and

Ranger Justin Williams.

Ranger Justin Williams Aims to Create New Footprints


With abundant energy, a winsome smile, and plenty of qualifying education and experience to implement his passions, Justin Williams has assumed the role of White Tank Mountains Regional Park Interpretive Ranger.

Williams replaces Jessica Bland who was promoted within the Maricopa County Park system to supervisor at Hassayampa Vulture Peak Preserve.

A native New Yorker, he earned his B.S. degree in Bio/Chemistry from SUNY Postdam College and later moved on the University of Southern Mississippi to earn a degree in Marine Biology.  While at SUNY Potsdam, Williams gained experience in adult education by teaching Sustainable Agriculture.

After moving to Arizona, he worked at Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium learning to care for and “play with” the animals.  He did outreach programs and news with many different animals including mountain lions, lizards, snakes, skunks, and more. 

Williams stated that he simply loves to answer people’s questions about the plants and animals around them. His patience is truly a virtue as he helps individuals gain knowledge and confidence related to their environment. 

When asked about his biggest challenge ahead, he stated that it was filling the shoes of his predecessor Jessica Bland.  “Jessica has done amazing things for the WTMRP and, hopefully, I can fill those footprints that she left behind,” Williams shared.  He also cites the volume of history to be learned about the park and mountains as a challenge. 

Williams stated that he is very excited about this career opportunity which gives him a chance to share his passions with the park visitors and get paid for what he loves to do!  Given the energy, passion, and knowledge William has, there is no doubt that his ranger footprints soon will be evident throughout the programs at WTMRP. 

A White Tank Mountains Conservancy steward since he moved to Arizona, the Conservancy and our partner Maricopa County Parks welcome Ranger Justin Williams!