“When people have fun on a Conservancy preserve, they just might become a fan of conservation.”
- Brooke Gebow, Southeastern Arizona Preserves Manager
At a boulder-strewn bend in Ramsey Creek are some big flat rocks. Here, on any warm day when the creek is flowing, you’ll hear laughter and splashing.
You’ll be entering the “splash zone.” It’s attracting the attention of quite a few kids … and adults, too.
A Revolutionary Idea
In the past, disturbance in Ramsey Canyon was frowned upon. Starting with the wife of Nelson Bledsoe, who donated the property to The Nature Conservancy in 1974, people expended a lot of energy preventing fun in the canyon. Mrs. Bledsoe frowned on the dancing, drinking and cavorting that took place during the 1930s and 40s when Ramsey was a rowdy local resort. The Bledsoes bought everyone else out over the years and put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign.
In the early days of Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Conservancy management followed that lead. That’s because “serious birdwatchers were much happier with quiet,” says Brooke Gebow, southeastern Arizona preserves manager. “We even cited people for stepping off the trail.”
It’s a New Day
Today, the Conservancy manages its preserves differently. “We recognize that real conservation happens on a grand scale,” says Brooke. “From our base in Ramsey Canyon we work all over southeastern Arizona. We also know that when people have fun on a Conservancy preserve, they just might become a fan of conservation.”
A 15-year-old high school student made the Splash Zone sign in 2008. Mother Nature had assistance getting the big flat rocks where they now sit in the creek. The preserve backhoe delivered some perfect slabs, and a gleeful bunch of Cub Scouts got soaked wrestling them into place.
Word has gotten out, and with the help of a “summer special,” families are flocking in. Ramsey Canyon Preserve charges admission, but kids under 16 are free. The “summer special” waives fees for adults who are brought in by kids.
In the midst of all this fun, butterflies still congregate at the big seep, elegant trogons still ”wow” bird lovers, and tadpoles still wriggle in the pond.
“One downside is the need to modify the Kids Splash Zone sign. We’re catching an awful lot of grownups with their shoes off these days,” says Brooke.