Quail Creek Resident Is New Friends of Madera Canyon President

Dan White giving Jackie Smith the 2022 Friends of Madera Canyon Volunteer of the Year Award on March 25 (photo by Richard Olsenius)

Christine Olsenius

Dan White, a resident of Quail Creek since 2020, has been elected by the board of directors of the Friends of Madera Canyon (Friends) as president for 2023-24. White succeeds Rusty Lombardo of Green Valley at the helm of the nonprofit Friends, organized in 1987 to partner with the Forest Service in the preservation, conservation, and restoration of Madera Canyon.

Madera Canyon attracts more than 300,000 visitors annually from near and far. Its reputation as a prime birding area within the Santa Rita Mountains draws visitors from surrounding communities and across the country.

Over the past 36 years, the Friends have contributed more than $1 million in funding for projects ranging from bridges to bathrooms to brochures, trail restoration, and public area cleaning, while providing volunteers who staff the Visitor Information Booth on weekends. The Friends were formed when budget cuts in the Forest Service threatened to close Madera Canyon to the public. Their work is critical to keeping Madera Canyon a high-quality visitor experience.

“There are few spots in the Canyon where the impact of the Friends is not evident,” noted White. “And prior to the pandemic, Friends offered various education programs for the general public, including lectures at Quail Creek. We hope to resume such outreach soon.”

For many years, the Friends have brought 4th grade classes from local schools to the Canyon to hike with Naturalist Doug Moore and volunteer docents who introduce the youngsters to the idea of becoming amateur naturalists. The pandemic created the need to put the program on video so that teachers and students could access the lessons remotely. But the 4th grade field trips have now resumed again.

White, a retired independent school director, wants to build a more multigenerational support group for Madera Canyon and is looking to establish relationships with older students through a new category of membership, Youth Naturalist Groups.

“One motivation for the Friends has been to ensure that the children of today’s children can experience and enjoy the wonders of the Canyon just as we do,” said White. “Engaging current young people and getting their ideas about how best to achieve that goal seems reasonable. So, we are reaching out to scout troops, schools, and other groups of young people.”

The Friends rely on the support of members, community donors, businesses, and foundations to support their many educational programs and restoration work in the Canyon. They are always looking for new volunteers who bring new talents to the organization. “Our interest in educating the wider community is not only about plants or birds or geology. We want to create a supportive community that will ensure the preservation of Madera Canyon for generations to come,” added White. “I joined the Friends to be part of an effort to touch the future. Join us. The cause is noble.”

For volunteer opportunities or more information, email [email protected] or go to friendsofmaderacanyon.org.