Picture Rocks Pride

Volume 6, Number 6 June, 2008

Welcome to the Picture Rocks Digest, a free newsletter about issues and events in the community. The print version of this all-volunteer publication is distributed at area businesses and community sites. If you have calendar events or news items, or if you would like to be added to our email list, please contact us at PictureRocksDigest@comcast.net.

The Picture Rocks Digest is a publication of Citizens for Picture Rocks, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(4) civic organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in the community. Citizens for Picture Rocks meets the third Tuesday of each month at 7:00 pm in the Picture Rocks Community Center, 5615 N. Sanders Road. Meetings are free and open to the public. The next meeting is June 17, 2008. Everyone is welcome to attend. Membership not required, but highly recommended!


A $65,000 Community Development Block Grant proposal submitted by Citizens for Picture Rocks with the support of the Picture Rocks Community Center has been approved. The proposal, written by C4PR Secretary Kaitlin Meadows, is to fund and install a shade cover for the children's play area at the park and to purchase more playground floor material.

playground Soon this colorful playground will be shaded so tots can enjoy it without fear of overexposure to the sun.


Twenty-eight people from Picture Rocks, boys and girls and adult supporters, met with the Neighborhood Reinvestment Oversight Committee http://www.pima.gov/CED/CDNC/NR.html on May 30 to present our proposal for a BMX-Skate Park. C4PR Treasurer Karen Zopf coordinated the presentation, President Greg Mattison gave a history of Picture Rocks to the Committee, and Board Member Tom Allen discussed the process of reaching community consensus. Adam Noel and Arthur Young talked about the recreational needs of young people in Picture Rocks. PRCC Coordinator Wanda Crawford arranged for transportation to the southside meeting, though the 15-person van she drove couldn't contain all the enthusiastic supporters.

skatepark group

Pictured here are some of the Picture Rocks BMX-skate park
supporters who attended the Neighborhood Reinvestment
Oversight Committee meeting where the park proposal was presented.

Committee members made a site visit to Picture Rocks on June 10, and are expected to vote on the project at their June 20 meeting. If the committee members approve, the project could go before the Pima County Board of Supervisors in early July.

Special thanks go to Bennett Bernal of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Program and Jason Bahe of Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation for their help in preparing this proposal.


Junior Ranger Camps will be held at the Picture Rocks Community Center on the last two Mondays in June and the first two Mondays in July, a joint program of PRCC and Saguaro National Park. Community Center Summer Program kids will be enrolled automatically, and others wishing to register should contact Park Ranger Chip Littlefield at 733-5157. Fourteen-year-old Junior Ranger from Picture Rocks, Evy Martin, says that her four years as a Junior Ranger, "have been fun, teaching kids what to do in the desert (and) helping them learn about different plants and animals." The program is free.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Iced Tea Social Time at 6:30 p.m.
Meeting begins at 7:00 p.m.

Picture Rocks Community Center
5615 N. Sanders Road

Topic: Sustainable Living in the Desert
Representatives from the Community Food Bank and
Jaime DeZubeldia of Sonoran Kitchen Gardens
will discuss their programs.

All neighbors are welcome!



With the heat of summer comes the monsoon, or chubasco, rains, the hard rain the O'odham people call "male rain," in contrast to the gentler winter "female rain." While the definition of "normal precipitation" may change as the climate changes, the summer storms are necessary to the survival of desert plants and animals, and in the long run, of humans as well.

Storms and runoff feed the deep underground aquifers that provide water to our wells and plump up shriveled cacti. Summer storms can be fierce, with thunder and lightning and wind, and with massive amounts of rain dropping in a short time - too short a time for the baked ground to absorb it. Washes turn into rushing rivers, roads flood, and driving can be dangerous. Attempting to drive through a raging wash strands many vehicles, and "stupid motorist" laws make the cost of rescue the driver's responsibility.

The nature of summer storms is that they often move in small weather cells, so it can pour in one place and stay dry a short way down the road. Lightning, however, can be dangerous even miles away. The summer rains also bring mosquitoes, which can carry the life-threatening West Nile Fever disease. Standing water - often in plant dishes, old tires, or just puddles - provides places for mosquitoes to breed, and care should be taken to eliminate as much standing water as possible.

With the first downpour comes another desert phenomenon, the appearance of toads. Toads are amphibians, cousins to frogs and salamanders; they all start as larvae, known as tadpoles. The large Sonoran Desert Toad, formerly known as the Colorado River Toad, and the much smaller Red-spotted Toad manage to find moist and shady places during the heat of summer, while Couch's Spadefoot and Sonoran Green Toads dig themselves in underground to escape the dry heat, sometimes for as long as a year. When storms soak the ground the toads emerge, filling the night air with their grating calls for mates.

This Couch's Spadefoot Toad is one of several species that emerge from their cool, underground dens once our summer rains begin (photo courtesy of University of Colorado Museum of Natural History). Couch's Spadefoot toad

Because rain puddles dry up quickly in the summer heat, the reproductive process goes into high gear. Toads may mate the night of the storm, lay fertile eggs the next day, with the eggs hatching into tadpoles the day after that. As the puddles shrink in the hot sun, the tadpoles' metamorphosis speeds up. They sprout legs and absorb their tails to become young toads, ready to dig into the mud until the next rain liberates them.

Toads release secretions through their skin to discourage predators, including dogs, and these can be toxic to animals. They do not cause warts. Humans handling toads, which do not bite, should wash their hands well afterwards. Toads eat insects, including mosquitoes, and are part of nature's balance.

Summer: it's here and it's hot. But after the solstice the days will slowly grow shorter and in just three months, the autumnal equinox will signal the slow gentling of the desert, this very special place we live in.


The headlines below appeared recently in local newspapers. Complete stories are available online. Summaries highlight information that may be of interest to Picture Rocks residents and were compiled by Picture Rocks Digest staff.

No Wonder Pima Roads are so Bad (Arizona Daily Star, 05/18/08). The average road in Pima County goes 25 years without any major maintenance because funds are allocated to other priorities, such as completion of 1997 bond package projects.

Staving off Buffelgrass's Burn ( Explorer, 06/04/08). On May 28, 160 acres of buffelgrass-covered land in Avra Valley owned by Tucson Water were set ablaze to study how firefighters might best control the fast-moving fire.

(Part 2 of 2)

Picture Rocks Digest writer Albert Lannon recently spent a Friday shift from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on a Sheriff's Deputy "ridealong." This is the second part of his story.

A call sends us to a domestic dispute in Avra Valley. Domestic violence is an all-too-common problem for the deputies, usually associated with alcohol and/or drugs. Contrary to my expectation, in this case the wife, drunk, attacked her husband. He took their children to a neighbor’s house, and the wife was creating a disturbance there. The deputies talk to both spouses, finally convincing the wife that she could face trespassing charges if she enters the neighbor’s property. Sergeant Roat tells me that because there is a lot of history and emotion between people, deputies are trained to practice patience. I ask about his own family and find out he has a wife and two daughters, almost 10 and almost 5 years old. They live just "over the hill."

We're covering a lot of ground, and I'm surprised at how many people, in cars or along the road, wave at the deputy. Clearly most people that I'm seeing today support a law enforcement presence in the area. We pull off the road and Jim catches up on computer work and calls to his crew. He tells me, "Sometimes people think we're sitting on the side of the road doing nothing," but there is obviously work being done. Meals are usually eaten on the fly. Ours is a quick sandwich while doing paperwork. I ask about turnover in the department, and Sergeant Roat says that the County Supervisors improving pay scales has reduced turnover. Not many law enforcement officers quit outright, but might go to work in other jurisdictions. Most new deputies have college training, or come from the military. He tells me that he's glad to have good equipment, like the in-car computers, and lots of training. Deputies have a lot of autonomy and there has to be trust in their making decisions in the field to get the job done.

Someone has reported the theft of an ATV. We go to the victim's house and see where a cable lock was cut. We also see the ATV's tracks leading away from the house. Two more deputies arrive, and we follow the tracks a short way down the sandy road, into a driveway and behind a house. Inside the fence is the stolen ATV. Residents of the house deny any knowledge of the theft, and the deputies contact detectives at the Benson Highway headquarters to come out and look for fingerprints on the stolen quad. A deputy has to wait for their arrival to prevent possible tampering with the evidence.

The two men living there look tough, one with a lot of tattoos and the other in a Harley shirt, and it comes out that they have both been in past trouble with the law. Still the deputies treat them professionally and with courtesy, seeking, and getting, cooperation. A young man in the neighborhood is a possible suspect, someone who is already known to the deputies as a problem. Sergeant Roat tells me as we drive away that the system is based on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and that you do better with honey than with vinegar. "It may not be perfect," Jim says, "but it's the best system we've got."

I ask Sergeant Roat how law enforcement personnel deal with cynicism and burnout. "It must be hard," I say, "to see bad guys all the time and not end up thinking most people are bad guys." Jim thinks for a bit, then responds that they "really have to work to keep from getting cynical." For Jim that includes a good life outside the department with family, friends and church. If deputies get caught up in the negativity, he adds, they often have other problems as well due to the stress. Counseling is readily available for officers.

It has gotten dark while waiting for the detectives, and we're cruising along Avra Valley Road. Jim is not sure if the car in front of us has tail lights, so he turns his headlights off for a second, and the red reflection in front of us disappears. We speed up, but suddenly we are next to a horrific three-car accident between Sandario and Sanders Roads, and for the first time today flashing red and blue lights explode into the dark night air. I'm still trying to take the scene in while Jim has already made the call that will bring over a dozen law enforcement and rescue vehicles, including a helicopter, to the crash scene.

Although the location is in Marana's jurisdiction, Pima County deputies are quickly checking the status of injuries, diverting traffic, setting out orange cones, and doing what needs to be done as rescue teams arrive and deploy. Several victims are trapped inside their car and a generator is started to power a metal-cutting saw and the "Jaws of Life" to get people out and into ambulances. The top of one SUV is cut off and carried to the side of the road, a seriously injured person put into a Lifeline helicopter. Firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians from Avra Valley and Northwest Fire Departments join Marana police and Pima County Sheriff's deputies.

When things are under control, Sergeant Roat and I weave through the dozen or more rescue vehicles to head back to the station. The shift is almost over. "Just another Friday night," the deputy says with a touch of sadness. I ask Jim what he'll do tonight. "Unwind, talk to my wife, watch some TV, read a book, go to sleep, and come back tomorrow and do it all over again."

The Picture Rocks Digest is written by Albert Lannon (email: bluemoon@dakotacom.net; phone: 622-3561). Additional materials and design by Karen J. Zopf.