During the pandemic, Madera Canyon saw a record number of visitors using the trails, especially the popular Old Baldy Trail.
It was already in need of restoration and the additional heavy traffic led to further erosion.
For the last two years, the Friends of Madera Canyon and the U.S. Forest Service, along with volunteers and partners, have been working on one of the most extensive projects in the canyon’s history — restoring the trail, reviving culverts unused for more than 30 years, and terracing eroded slopes.
On Tuesday, many of the people who made the project possible gathered at the Old Baldy Trailhead to celebrate the culmination of heavy lifting and fundraising with the unveiling of a new tribal interpretive sign honoring the Native American people who once called the Santa Ritas home.
John Titre, recreation staff officer for the Forest Service Nogales Ranger District, said the challenging project was made possible through the collaborative efforts of crew members from the Student Conservation Association, Wild Arizona and Arizona Conservation Experience and support from the Friends and donors.
“This is a signature SCA accomplishment that will be interpreted for many years,” Titre said.
Along with the trail, a second project involving terracing 900 feet of an eroded hillside and planting 200 native plants was just completed.
“We were up here last week or the week before, and the SCA kids were here,” Friends President Rusty Lombardo said. “They had a huge web and lifted this massive boulder and carried it up the hill. It was just awesome, very inspirational. I thought, these kids are busting it and they are doing their part to beautify the canyon.”