- A grand opening for the Kovach Family Nature Trail is 9 a.m. Saturday%2C March 28
- The trail opened in January%2C but the educational signs were just recently installed
- The Kovach family donated %24150%2C000 to the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy for the trail
- The trail is made of stabilized decomposed granite%2C which makes it ideal for people using wheelchairs and walkers%2C or pushing strollers.
A dry desert wash. Noisy Gila woodpeckers. Lichen-covered rocks. Saguaro nest holes. Each helps tell the story of the ecosystem along the new Kovach Family Nature Trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
But trail users won’t have to settle for a fleeting look at a desert bird or puzzle over an unusual plant. Newly-installed educational signs along the interpretive trail offer detailed information about the many chapters in this desert story.
The Kovach trail, which opened in January, is the fourth interpretive trail established in the 30,000-acre preserve. It is named for the Kovach family in recognition of a $150,000 gift to the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. The conservancy, which partners with the city to support the preserve, contributed $60,000 for the trail. The remainder of the gift is being used for the signs and other educational materials such as handouts for teachers.
The Kovach family also made a gift to the conservancy for the first interpretive trail in the preserve, the Bajada Nature Trail, which opened in 2009. Christine Kovach is a longtime preserve advocate and has served in leadership roles with the conservancy.
The new Kovach Family Nature Trail has been about two years in the making. Christine Kovach said she was interested in establishing an interpretive trail on the preserve’s south side and also wanted a location that could be easily accessed by school groups and other organizations so visitors could quickly get out into the desert for tours. The Lost Dog Wash area, one of the most popular parts of the preserve, was a perfect fit.
The trail is already drawing visitors and in mid-January hosted its first school group of about 40 kids.
The Kovach trail, like other interpretive trails in the preserve, is made of stabilized decomposed granite, which provides a firm and smooth surface for visitors. The trail is ideal for people using wheelchairs and walkers, or pushing strollers.
“Hopefully people who have never thought of themselves as someone going on a trail will take advantage of this opportunity,” said Mike Nolan, executive director of the conservancy.
But Nolan and Kovach said the interpretive trail holds interest for all users, whether a winter visitor with limited mobility, a school child or an experienced hiker.
The half-mile trail offers two distinctive experiences: a mix of city and desert views along the south loop and seclusion in a dry desert wash along the north loop. The latter will be particularly interesting for desert newcomers.
“It’s really special out there,” Nolan said. “Although you’re very close to the trailhead when you’re there, you don’t see any modern living. It’s a great experience to be able to get off the beaten path.”
Visitors can explore one or both of the trail’s loops; the educational signs along the way are not laid out in a particular order.
About 15 signs all focus on the same themes: family, connections, relationships.
“We tried to draw that out across not just humans, but the landscape, animals, rocks and plants,” Kovach said.
Those relationships can be found anywhere in the area: lichen and the rocks that the greenish organism clings to, the dry wash used as a “highway” for animals traveling back and forth through the desert, the succulents that store water, the baby saguaro and its nurse plant. In many cases, a plant or animal has multiple relationships. For instance, certain birds make nest holes in saguaros while insects make a home on the saguaro’s ribs.
The trail also explores relationships between the land and former inhabitants, such as Native Americans, ranchers and homesteaders. One sign along the trail offers information about a former “quarry” site where Native Americans made tools from rocks. Visitors will learn about modern humans’ relationship with the desert as well.
In addition, the signage offers fun lessons that tie together a healthy ecosystem and healthy living for humans. For instance, visitors looking at the strong inner ribs of a saguaro are encouraged to think about the importance of doing exercises like yoga’s “tree pose” to maintain a strong inner core in their own bodies.
Kovach said the interpretive trail’s mix of education, history and whimsy — set against a stunning desert backdrop — will offer a little something for everyone.
“It’s a beautiful location and the trail is very nicely done,” Kovach said. “You can stop and look in multiple directions and have completely different viewpoints and see lots of different things.”
Kovach Family Nature Trail Grand Opening
— 9 a.m. Saturday, March 28.
— Lost Dog Wash Trailhead, 12601 N. 124th St.
— Admission is free.
— Activities include: desert wildlife demonstrations, self-guided walks, guided spring wildflower hike, scavenger hunts, raffle, giveaways.
— Details: mcdowellsonoran.org.
Interpretive trails at Scottsale preserve
Visitors will find four interpretive trails at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The trails are generally short, designed to be accessible, and educational. They are:
— Kovach Family Nature Trail at Lost Dog Wash/Sunrise Trailhead: Half-mile trail with two loops features natural desert wash and quick desert access for groups and other users.
— Bajada Nature Trail at Gateway Trailhead: Half-mile trail is barrier free and provides an easy nature experience for all ages.
— Jane Rau Trail at Brown’s Ranch Trailhead: Half-mile paved trail and designed for all access.
— Marcus Landslide Trail at Tom Thumb Trailhead: Roughly four-mile trail is not specially designed for accessibility but considered an interpretive trail for its educational signage about the second largest landslide in Arizona.
Read More:New Scottsdale interpretive trail tells desert’s story