Local | Mind, Body & Spirit

UA seeks volunteer Tumamoc stewards

A view of the Arizona Desert Laboratory from atop Tumamoc Hill, with the sprawl of Tucson beyond it. (Photo Paul Mirocha)

With anywhere from 1,000-2,000 people walking Tumamoc Hill daily — whether for the cardio workout or to commune with nature — a new program is being developed to focus on protecting the site. Tumamoc Stewards, or Guardianes de Tumamoc, will be a physical presence on the hill, helping maintain the integrity of the iconic site.

Tumamoc Hill’s 1.5-mile, near-vertical walk goes through the 115-year-old University of Arizona Desert Laboratory, an 860-acre ecological reserve and cultural landscape with over 2,400 years of human use.

“Tumamoc Hill is a community gathering spot,” said Ben Wilder, director of the Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill. “The amount of use the hill receives today is the highest in its history.”

While the majority of hill walkers adhere to the rules — staying on the recently repaved path, leaving pets at home and not smoking — Wilder points out it doesn’t take much to leave lasting damage. “Unfortunately, we are beginning to see an increase in the defacing of millennia-year-old pictographs and the movement of archaeological features. In an instant, thousands of years of history are lost.”

That is where the stewards come in. Twice monthly for two hours a day, stewards will be present on the hill, interacting with fellow walkers and answering questions. After a one-day orientation, stewards will receive monthly behind-the-scenes workshops and trainings on the science and culture of Tumamoc Hill.

“In reality, the only way we are going to be able to maintain the treasure that Tumamoc Hill is today is with the help and care of those that come here,” said Wilder. “And that is totally doable. This program is all about channeling the incredible amount of good energy, and strong connections we have to this space.”

Desert Lab staff estimate they need 60 stewards to have people present during peak walking hours. Given the thousands of people that walk Tumamoc Hill, they are optimistic they will receive enough applications to make the program successful.

“Tumamoc Hill is a pillar of our community. It represents our past, present, and future,” said Joaquin Ruiz, UArizona vice president of Global Environmental Futures. “Coming together to be the best caretakers of this site we can be is a needed and natural step.”

To learn more about the program, visit www.tumamoc.arizona.edu/tumamoc-stewards or call 629-9455. Applications are open until Dec. 16.