Speakers’ Corner: Carla

This is a place where free speech and public debate are welcomed and encouraged. The Speakers’ Corner originated in the mid-19th century at London’s Hyde Park. The concept spread worldwide both physically and now virtually. Here at the Arizona Progress & Gazette, we are presenting this platform in the form of question-and-answer style interviews with people who have had a meaningful impact on the community.

Carla, (who goes by one name) was one of the first Scottsdale residents to envision the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. She has worked tirelessly since 1991 to make it a reality and continues to be a fervent advocate. Carla is now helping a campaign to replace, at a reduced rate, the sales tax that funded the Preserve to maintain the Preserve, assist police and fire, improve existing parks, and much more citywide.

How did a woman from South Scottsdale come to be so passionate about saving mountains in the north?

Mom was a scientist who didn’t allow us a TV when we were young. Instead we had walls of books and the great outdoors to explore. We’d catch rides up north to the McDowells or out to the river. In summer Mom would pile us into the VW bus and drive across the country visiting National Parks and beautiful, interesting places  – camping along the way. Appreciation of Nature was always part of our lives. Watching the Sonoran Desert get bulldozed and the Boulders fenced off for private development was heart wrenching. So when the McDowells were threatened some of us decided that we’d be damned if we gave them up without a fight.

Scottsdale has always been a beautiful city. Why does it need the Preserve? How does it benefit from the Preserve?

Imagine if all the Preserve land had been developed into a huge new city center up north. If we think South Scottsdale has issues now think of how hard it would be to compete with the need for services there. Think of what would happen to our tourism industry if we killed all the beauty that makes Scottsdale special. So there’s that. Most importantly is what protecting this natural treasure gives to our quality of life. An urban escape. An outdoor adventure playground. A living classroom. A reminder of where we came from and our obligation to future generations.

What still needs to be done to maintain and protect the Preserve? Why are more funds needed?

The Preserve is a living thing that must not be overused or neglected. Wildlife habitat protection is foremost, including wildland fire fuel management and invasive plants control – since a destructive fire is the greatest fear. A regularly updated Ecological Resources Plan for the Preserve which includes natural resources studies and projects and restoration of disturbed lands will help guide proper management. Cultural resources must also be protected and managed appropriately. All the Preserve trailheads have been built and most of the trails plan completed. Some of the older trailheads need to be updated using lessons learned – think more shade. Trails need regular upkeep to maintain safety. A dedicated funding source that does not have to be fought for yearly in the General Fund will provide the ongoing care the Preserve needs in  order to stay sustainable. This is not just for our enjoyment but for the benefit of all future generations. Our Proposition will provide that secure funding without raising taxes.

What other parks in the city need additional resources and why?

All the parks in South Scottsdale need reinvestment – especially ones in the Indian Bend Wash – they need it badly. I grew up using El Dorado Park and I see things there that haven’t been fixed for decades. Every park in Scottsdale needs regular maintenance and an increased staff presence  – which they are not getting now. In the South especially we are sharing our parks with the homeless. The dedicated Police Rangers Unit in our Proposition will help with outreach and increase residents’ sense of security.

How important is open space for the city and its residents?

Open space, be it the parks or the Preserve, bring areas of light which remind us Nature is still here. It helps lessen air pollution and provides opportunities for exercise and socialization. It contributes positively to our economy and property values. And open space provides much needed respite from the pressures of urban life. In short it is  a critical part of each resident’s quality of life.

How much support is there for a tax replacement at a reduced rate to fund parks and the Preserve?

Strong. Citywide. The vast majority of residents understand how much our parks and our Preserve give to their lives. And how important it is to maintain the quality and safety of these open spaces. This Proposition, in conjunction with the proposed Scottsdale Permanent Base Adjustment, should be viewed as a package deal. Passing both will allow citizens to raise their quality of life without raising their taxes.

How have you enjoyed your time on the task force looking to extend and repurpose the tax that you fought so hard for 30 years ago?

It’s been a mixture of hard work, entertainment and frustration. But a group of thoughtful citizens were working towards something good for our community and that makes it all worthwhile.

How did you come by being identified as only Carla? Did you ever have a last name?

I was born a Woodall. But when getting divorced eons ago, as my own personal “Declaration of Independence” I legally changed it. For decades I had just one name  – until it became a problem with hospital computers. So I went back to court and became Carla Carla. But please, just call me Carla.

Aside from the Preserve, where is your favorite place to hang out in Scottsdale?

My front porch in Peaceful Valley. Listening to music and hanging with my porch cat Fnuts. Talking with my neighbors as they walk by. People and dog watching on the Indian Bend Wash path my house faces. And in the spring enjoying my wild African Daisies that have spread to neighbors’ yards and all along the street berm. It’s a riot of color and they make people smile.