Winter time in the Sonoran Desert is a spectacular place to be. Cool mornings give way to perfect daytime highs and endless skies, the smell of creosote after a rain permeates the air and the flora and fauna come to life after enduring the seemingly endless summer. Ok, enough gushing about the desert. This is about OHVs after all.
In March of 2018, NOHVCC conducted a Great Trails workshop with the Cave Creek District of the Tonto National Forest (TNF). The field portions of the workshop were held at the Wildcat Staging area north of Phoenix, which is an extremely popular destination for motorcycles, ATVs, ROVs and full-size vehicles. After the March workshop, NOHVCC in partnership with RecConnect, LLC, created an action items list for the TNF and in November were invited back to the area to conduct an assessment and report of recommendations for the staging area.
During our assessment we observed that the staging area, also referred to as Desert Vista, is an old borrow pit with no existing facilities. Issues such as lack of sanitation, proliferation of trails, lack of signing and haphazard parking create an uninviting environment for all but the most dedicated rider. How are we supposed to entice families to OHV recreation when the areas they can go don’t offer any of the basic requirements for a positive experience?
This was my first opportunity to work directly with the legend of OHV design and author of Great Trails, Dick Dufourd, and of course, his wife Joani Dufourd, who is also an accomplished legend in her own right and was there to keep Dick on task. After a brief meeting with the Forest Ranger, we went back to the site to get a feel for the area. We conducted a site inventory by foot and on our OHVs to get a better idea of what the current use patterns and overall needs of the staging area are.
Over the next few days, we worked as a team to design parking patterns, identify unnecessary trails to be closed and naturalized, locate natural drainage patterns, find a location for a campground and tot-lot design, locate and design suitable skills and training areas and determine toilet and kiosk locations. We compiled all this information into a report and several detailed map site plans to submit to the TNF.
Having grown up in Phoenix, I have been to Wildcat numerous times as kid. It has stunning views and that region of the Sonoran Desert is lush with vegetation. I loved riding there as a kid, and it brings back memories every time I visit. The Dufourds also fell in love with the area and it’s not hard to see why. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and tried to absorb as much as possible from the wealth of knowledge that Dick and Joani attempted to impart on me. It was great learning experience to see how they would do things and an opportunity to collaborate and share ideas. With implementation of our recommendations, Desert Vista could easily become a model OHV area that attracts families and provides a great OHV experience for all levels of riders.