Return to Tumacácori – A Touchstone Along the Anza Trail
by Rich Rojas, Chairman, Anza Trail Foundation
For over four years now, members of our Anza Trail Foundation have spent many hours discussing the importance of the Anza Expedition, the expedition’s influence on settlements along the route, and how modern development (solar/wind power, cell phone towers, etc.) threatens what Anza and his party knew of Arizona and California. Too often, we search for reasonable mitigation measures to soften the blow of these changes or hope someone else (NPS, BLM, USFS, AZ or CA Highway or State Parks) is looking out for Anza Trail’s best interest. In reality, the protection, preservation, and interpretation of national trails belong to all of us, and not just Federal, State and local agency staff.
A recent trip to Tucson to attend the 14th Conference on National Scenic and Historic Trails, Nov. 3-6, 2013, was exactly the booster shot I needed to remember how critical our work continues to be. While my time at the conference was brief, the energy, excitement, and enthusiasm shared by the 180 other conference attendees -- especially the young trail interns -- was infectious. During our mobile workshop, “One Trail, Many Stories: the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail in Southern AZ”, the words shared by Luther Propst, former Sonoran Institute Executive Director and keynote luncheon speaker really got me thinking as our group rode the bus from our hotel to Las Lagunas de Anza. In his talk, Propst reminded us that if existing and new trails are to remain relevant and sustainable, we must make the trail experience more inclusive to a changing population.
While Propst offered few specifics, he suggested that new partnerships with individuals and organizations with overlapping interests would be key. Our stop at Las Lagunas de Anza, a privately owned, restored marsh along the Anza Trail, served as a great example of a public-private partnership where area youth are learning about history, native plant restoration and interpretation first-hand, funded in part by a NPS Challenge Grant. Connecting local Latino youth with their cultural past, while also providing a window into their future is the kind of partnership Propst was asking us to grow! By creating relevance, you can create value. Meeting the young interns at Las Lagunas de Anza was very inspiring.
From there, our bus took our group to one of my all-time favorite places along the Anza Trail: Tumacácori National Historic Park. It was here in 2000 that I accompanied other members of our Juan Bautista de Anza National Trail Council and “met” Anza himself. Actually, we met the late Don Garate, a National Park Ranger who was a master interpreter and Anza re-enactor. Returning to Tumacácori and participating in an interpretive walk lead by NPS Ranger Hale Sargent to Tubac Presidio State Historic Park was like coming home. It reminded me of the lives that I once touched as an interpretive ranger and of the importance of the work we do every day in protecting, preserving and interpreting special places and trails. In talking to other participants, gatherings like this conference and visits to special places like Tumacácori and Tubac also serve as a touchstone for what’s important in our lives.
A segment of Don’s portrayal of Anza can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTJF-8ners4