DeCabooter: history shows opponents of Desert EDGE were previously supportive of the effort

During my 40-plus years of living in Scottsdale I have been proud of the way people with different opinions came together for the common good of the community. That is, until now.

I cannot believe the animosity, distrust and anger that is expressed in our community over the future of what is our jewel, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

I had a front row seat, if you will, when the discussion about uses of the Preserve was discussed and debated in a civil way. I served as chairman of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission for six years, 2003-2009.

Early in my first term, May 2004, voters approved an increase to the Preserve tax and voted for improvements to enhance the recreational opportunities of Preserve. Our Commission began to discuss and approve plans to spend this tax revenue for trails, trailheads and even a Desert Discovery Center, slated to be built on 30 acres adjacent to the Gateway on Thompson Peak Parkway.

Recently, I went back to review the minutes of the Commission and watch the video of Council covering the topic of a Desert Discovery Center.

I found our discussion back then enlightening, positive and civil.

Solange Whitehead, a fellow Commissioner for the same two terms (2003-2009) was “…very supportive of the Desert Discovery Center project and very comfortable supporting the motion that City Council support the Desert Discovery Center concept and look into the possibility of potential funding from the Preserve funds.” (Minutes May 4, 2006, pg. 8)

When we brought the proposal to City Council on Jan. 23, 2007, Councilman Bob Littlefield said: “…the people who live in Scottsdale, who are paying the sales tax … will have more of a chance to experience it. That’s hugely important to me.”

Mayor Mary Manross summed up the sentiment of the entire council that night, saying “Just as we found a way to create … this phenomenal, beautiful, unique McDowell Sonoran Preserve, we also will be able to find a way … to create and sustain a Desert Discovery Center at the entrance, as an introduction to our McDowell Sonoran Preserve.”

Today, these same folks are leading the charges of distrust with animosity and anger that is dividing our community. It is sad to watch a celebration of our greatest city asset become compromised by community discord.

Editor’s note: Mr. DeCabooter served as McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission president from 2003-2009 and president of Scottsdale Community College from 1978 to 2008

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