Meet Your Neighbor: serendipitous decision lands Robbins family in Scottsdale

Carmel Robbins (submitted photo)

Name: Carmel Robbins

Where I live: In Scottsdale from November through April and in Calgary, Alberta and Fairmont Hot Springs, BC in the spring and summer.

When & why I moved here: My husband Ian (also a McDowell Sonoran Conservancy Steward) works from home, so when I retired in 2010, we decided to become snowbirds. We considered Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, Mesa and Palm Desert … but when our Realtor showed us property in Scottsdale, all other considerations dropped off the grid.

Our initial attempt to purchase didn’t work out and we returned to Canada. When Ian mentioned he was a mountain biker, our Realtor sent pictures of a townhouse near the Gateway Trailhead. With nothing but the real estate pictures and Google earth, we bought the home, sight unseen. A decision uncharacteristic of an accountant and an engineer, but one we’ve never regretted.

What I like most about living here: We live in a desert community. It’s dark and quiet at night while being minutes from every imaginable amenity. We back onto a wash and watch a continuous stream of wildlife parade past our patio. We wake to bird song and a glorious view of the McDowell’s. We’ll never shovel snow again, and Ian can wear shorts 365 days a year.

Activities I enjoy: From my doorstep, there are innumerable walking opportunities – within the Preserve and through the McDowell Mountain Ranch community. I walk every day (without the distraction of headphones) to enjoy the symphony of bird song. There’s always the promise of spotting a roadrunner or mule deer, with the occasional, but no less welcome, bobcat or coyote sighting. I’m active in a local book club and play duplicate bridge – a post-retirement indulgence that satisfies my competitive nature. At home in Canada, I am an obsessive gardener with three months of labor to enjoy six months of spectacular beauty.

Clubs/organizations I’m involved in: I am a steward with McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. Learn more at: and sign up for the New Steward Orientation in the fall.

My favorite charity or volunteer activity and why it deserves support from others? Ronald McDonald House for its support of families undergoing medical emergencies. And any charity devoted to saving animals or improving their quality of life.

My No. 1 suggestion to new residents looking for ways to get involved in their community: Visit your local community center, Scottsdale Parks & Recreation or your local library to check out activities. The possibilities are endless. My calendar is fuller in retirement than it was during my working career. I’d be lost without Outlook to remind me of what I’m doing on any particular day.

What one thing would you like to see changed in Scottsdale? As a non-resident, I don’t have the right to recommend improvements, but if I could … zero tolerance for distracted driving and education on using the correct turn lane would be top priorities.

My family: Ian, my husband of 36 wonderful years (if asked, he would say a lifetime!). Adult daughter Jennifer.

What I do: Retired educator and CPA.

People who are an inspiration to me: The unsung heroes who quietly work to improve the situation of the less fortunate. We don’t always know their names because they shun the spotlight. But we know they’re there.

My advice to today’s youth: Be the change you want in the world. Be fearless. Never underestimate the power of kindness. Practice cursive. It may become fashionable again when you tire of technology.

To volunteer in the city of Scottsdale visit

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