Advisory to you, our friends of Sabino Canyon
Thanks to all of you who wrote to your congressional delegation on behalf of Sabino. We can now suspend our appeal that you take direct action to help us on the Sabino Shuttle.
In an earlier post in this spot, we had requested that you write to your US Senators or House members to push the USFS to change their default plan to issue a right of first refusal to the current Shuttle operator, SCT Inc. SCT has held serial permits for almost 30 years. But as of June 2017 we learned that we had accomplished our objective. The new 20-year permit for the Shuttle operation will be open to anyone wishing to put in a bid. At this time, early July 2017, the prospectus has not yet been released, but according to the Regional Forester Calvin Joyner, it will be open and available to all interested parties. We expect that by late summer we’ll see a call.
We chose a key time to intervene. We at FOSC, our Sabino Canyon partner organizations, and many donors are gratified that a new contract for Shuttle operations will now be awarded following an open and transparent solicitation of proposals. We believe a broadly distributed announcement will attract competent operators/companies with experience in public lands transport and a forward looking use of low emissions hybrid and/or electric transport vehicles. We wanted to see fresh competition for this award and more visitor-centric policies for Shuttle transport. Now, it seems we have gotten closer to that objective.
Opinions about the Shuttle system were solicited in Fall 2015. In September 2016, the USFS released their initial environmental assessment document describing their requirements for a new Shuttle/Tram system to transport guests into Sabino and Bear Canyons for the next 20 years. The final version released in June 2017, is nearly identical. The assessment is intended to evaluate the environmental impact and distractions caused by shuttle noise and fumes with an eye toward a cleaner, quieter, safer future of Shuttle operation. This is all good, however, the powertrain requirements for the Shuttle are not forward looking with respect to engine noise or low emissions. With any luck a future oriented group will win the competition with a proposal for quiet, low emissions, conveyance through Sabino.
We also think Sabino visitors deserve more flexible payment policies. Since inception SCT has run a cash-only, no credit card, operation. There have been no one-way ticket purchases possible, no family discounts available, no military discounts available, no special needs considerations. No safety pickups for injured visitors. There is almost zero doubt that those visitor unfriendly policies will be a thing of the past when a new permit is issued by June 2018.
This year FOSC, having completed 7 new shade ramadas for nature education, is hoping to improve signage on trails within the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. Aided by a substantial contribution from one of our donors, the USFS and FOSC have developed an excellent new full color entry sign for the east end of the Sabino Canyon parking lot to help orient visitors to trailheads on the way toward Bear Canyon. The new sign, replaced one that was faded beyond legibility. In addition, the District Ranger’s office has produced a vastly improved full color handout of trails, amenities, and tram stops and it will soon be widely available.
We would like very much to attract donations from users of the Sabino trail system and roadways to help cover some of our upcoming costs.
We hope to add several “You are Here” signs along the trail system. The SCVP (the Santa Catalina Volunteer Patrol) members who hike these trails all have stories about hikers unsure of where they are or how they can get back to the parking lot. It is a regular problem during our winter and early spring seasons when many visitors find themselves miles off from their intended destinations.
We also want to put up a shade ramada at Tram stop #9 (at the end of the Sabino Road). We have an architect’s drawing, will soon have a site survey completed, and then need only sign off by the USFS in order to proceed.
Finally, we want to rehabilitate the area north of Sabino Dam that had been flooded out several years ago. It has been shrouded in orange plastic fencing since the damage. It is time to recover it.
If you are able to contribute to these projects, please donate to the FOSC. In addition, let us know what projects would be important to you that we should consider for a future planning year.