Crawford: Could downtown Scottsdale be the right fit for the Desert Discovery Center?

I unequivocally support a Desert Discovery Center. However, the Gateway site may, or may not be the best location. Concerns have been raised; therefore I believe the community should consider and discuss the option of a downtown location before plans are finalized. It’s not too late.

Bill Crawford

Bill Crawford

The Gateway location is well represented, as is the opinion of those who wish to stop the DDC altogether. A possible alternative of a downtown location has had little discussion. I propose asking questions to start a conversation.

The DDC promises to attract and educate visitors about the wonders of our McDowell Mountain Preserve. Considering the massive investment by the citizens of Scottsdale and the significance of the preservation, I believe it is appropriate to create a place to tell the story of the history, geology, flora, reptile, birds, animal and insect inhabitance of the preserve.

It took millions of years to create the McDowell Mountains and decades to garner the support and finances to assemble the real estate. Is it not appropriate to take a little time to address the questions and concerns raised? Are we rushing too hastily to approve a plan that promotes what some feel is an intrusive, invasive tourist attraction onto sacred, treasured preserved land bordering a quiet, peaceful residential neighborhood?

Are we certain there is not a better location?

Let’s listen to all sides, including preservationists, neighbors and downtown stakeholders. Downtown is an obvious option for the DDC because it fits, no one objects to building another building downtown and more of the general public would have access to it. The city owns the underutilized LaLoma Transit Station on Marshall Way and 2nd Street. If we want to reach the most people possible to introduce them to the preserve through an educational environment, why not build the DDC in the heart of our great city in the Arts District, next to our world class Museum of the West? This synergistic location would provide access, parking (including school and tour busses) and an ample offering of hospitality and shopping venues, vitalizing our downtown.

I have discussed this option with leadership from preservationists, business and residents. Points raised for a downtown location have resonated. This option has citywide support. Downtown has the highest concentration of hotels, restaurants and visitors. Higher visitation to the DDC would invite more visits to the preserve.

Building the DDC at the Gateway trailhead disproportionately overloads its trails and infrastructure with an excessive accumulation of hikers, busses and cars. By visiting the DDC downtown, a more intelligent, informed choice could be made regarding optional hiking experiences with a better overview of trails throughout the preserve. A low profile ASU preserve compatible research staging facility could be built anywhere in the preserve without crowding the Gateway site.

For many years, I have spent almost every weekend in the preserve either on horseback or on foot. I know it well. Based on my observations, the Gateway trailhead enjoys high usage. I don’t believe it has the capacity to absorb additional visitors proposed by the DDC without bearing a negative impact on the Sonoran Desert and surrounding residential neighborhoods. The DDC is a great idea. We need to be certain we build it in the best possible location. Some leaders would stop it altogether, while others want to override the rights and wishes of preservationists and neighbors over special interests.

Is a downtown location the win-win resolution that will keep the Sonoran Desert pristine and benefit Scottsdale, the DDC and downtown? Why not review the facts and make sure we are doing what’s right. It’s not too late. What do we have to lose?

Editor’s note: Mr. Crawford is a candidate for mayor of Scottsdale

Editor's Note: Mr. Crawford is a local business owner and resident of Scottsdale

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