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Is Scottsdale’s Long-Discussed Desert Discovery Center Necessary?

Whenever someone talks about a renewed commitment to impressive vision in Scottsdale the proposed Desert Discovery Center for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve usually comes up.Scottsdale-Sign-547x198

As envisioned it would further enlighten preserve visitors and hikers, and aid Scottsdale tourism efforts.

There is such a thing as an idea whose time has come. There are also those ideas whose time has passed. This may be one of them.

Putting aside the potential cost to taxpayers – the project once ballooned to $100 million but has since been put on a diet – there are two other reasons why the project may escape further enthusiasm.

First, anyone who has visited Scottsdale’s relatively new trailheads will experience their exceptional design and utility. How would bigger buildings improve on them, or what God has created adjacent?

Second, essentially what proponents advocate is a big desert botanical garden that can also host some cool events and gatherings. But we already have one of those in Papago Park. No matter how it is spun the Scottsdale project is duplicative. The Scottsdale setting is no doubt more dramatic but the current Desert Botanical Garden is entrenched and exceptionally regarded, especially among the donor class that would now be asked to support two similar enterprises?

Sometimes one is enough. Some times the deals you don’t do are the best ones of all.

The combination of Desert Botanical Garden’s exceptionalism along with Scottsdale’s superb trail-head designers should relegate the Desert Discovery Center discussion to an ancient one.

Indeed, the Valley effectively has a Desert Discovery Center with great trails at South Mountain Park, Piestewa Peak, Camelback Mountain and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, in combination with the Desert Botanical Garden.

Backers would now be better served by declaring victory, finding a niche that actually could work rather than a duplicative endeavor that most business-minded people understand will fail. That’s not necessarily the case for a sometimes discussed outdoor amphitheater, similar to Red Rocks outside of Denver. Now that could be music to discover the desert in a new way.

 

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