Action by you, our friends of Sabino Canyon
Depending on your level of concern about the Sabino Shuttle operation, you may want to consider writing a letter to members of your US Senate and House delegation requesting that an open request for proposals (RFP) be issued by the US Forest Service (USFS) for a new Shuttle concession to operate in Sabino Canyon. The USFS is a division of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
A 20-year contract for operation of the Sabino Shuttle is up for issuance – this after many years of serial extensions of the existing contract. We at FOSC, our Sabino Canyon partner organizations, and many donors all believed that a new contract for Shuttle operations would be awarded following an open and transparent solicitation of proposals. We had hoped that a broadly distributed announcement would 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 have since learned that there will be no open solicitation and the current Shuttle operator, SCT, will be given the first chance to meet the new and not very ambitious criteria for a new Shuttle for yet another 20-year contract beginning in 2017. We would like to see fresh competition for this award and more visitor-centric policies for Shuttle transport.
In September of 2016, the USFS released their 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 document is intended to reduce 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 of the Shuttle are not forward looking with respect to engine noise or low emissions. We think Sabino Canyon deserves better and that Sabino Visitors deserve more flexible payment policies. Since inception SCT has run a cash-only, no credit card, operation. There are no one-way ticket purchases possible, no family discounts available, no military discounts available, no special needs considerations.
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, which will replace one that is faded beyond legibility, will likely be mounted before year’s end. 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.
If you are able to contribute to this project, please donate to the FOSC. We have often heard about the need for signage improvements from donors like you. In addition, let us know what projects would be important to you that we should consider for a future planning year.