PICTURE ROCKS DIGEST – Volume 6, Number 7

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 July 15, 2008. Everyone is welcome to attend. Membership not required, but highly recommended!




Speaking at the June Citizens for Picture Rocks meeting, Jaime De Zubeldia, co-director of the non-profit Sonoran Kitchen Gardens, outlined proposals to develop sustainable living in the desert. These include rainwater harvesting, fertilizing with animal manure instead of petrochemicals, using solar power, and the creation of kitchen gardens to move away from low-nutritional, ever-higher-priced foods.

Using ethically-based principles including care of the earth, care of people, and creating a surplus to do so, Jaime said that people working together can accomplish living a sustainable life. A Marana High School graduate and civil engineer, Jaime said he and his colleagues are working on proposals to create kitchen gardens at area schools and a children’s garden at the Picture Rocks Community Center.

Jaime De Zubeldia of Sonoran Kitchen Gardens, and Dana Helfer and Michelle Kuhns of the Community Food Bank talked about sustainable living and desert gardening at the June meeting


Michelle Kuhns and Dana Helfer from the Community Food Bank described the 10-acre farm in Marana that they are helping develop. The farm’s organic produce is for sale on Mondays, 4-7 p.m., at the farm stand at Marana Heritage River Park. Local gardeners are welcome to bring their produce for sale or trade. They can also do so at the Food Bank’s Mobile Market, which sets up on alternate Mondays in front of PRCCI, 6691 N. Sandario Road; the next date is July 21. The Mobile Market has low-cost staple items and some perishable goods for sale. For more information about any of the Community Food Bank’s programs, call 622-0525.

Among the many plants thriving at the Community Food Bank’s demonstration garden at 3003 S. Country Club Rd. are native beans, sunflowers, tomatoes, and squashes.




TEvery weekday morning, around 9:00 a.m., volunteers bring a truckload of bread and produce to PRCCI’s parking lot at 6691 N. Sandario Road (between the Minit Market and Picture Rocks Fire Station). The food is free to anyone who comes; there are no income-eligibility requirements. Monetary donations are much appreciated to keep the program in operation, especially with the high cost of gasoline. On a recent day there was a large variety of baked goods, watermelons, cherries, potatoes, peppers, and more. PRCCI has no refrigerator or storage space, so everything must go each day. For more information, call 616-7096.




At their July 1 meeting, the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved $383,000 in Neighborhood Reinvestment Program funds to construct a BMX-Skatepark in Picture Rocks Park and to install security cameras throughout the park. The park proposal was developed in response to the need, expressed by Picture Rocks young people, for more recreational activities in the area. It was the result of an extensive collaboration that included Citizens for Picture Rocks members, Picture Rocks Community Center staff, local BMX riders and skateboarders, parents, and Pima County staff, with support from local school, fire department and law enforcement personnel and Dist. 3 Supervisor Sharon Bronson. Speaking of the project, Bronson said, “The Citizens for Picture Rocks have done it again!  They have come together and found a way to continue to improve their community.  This project is a great example of community collaboration and it has been my pleasure to work with all of the dedicated citizens who made this dream a reality. Congratulations to the Citizens for Picture Rocks for another job well done!” A meeting with youth leaders and skatepark designers is scheduled for later this month.




Tuesday, July 15, 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

Guest Speaker: Allen Dart, Director,
Old Pueblo Archaeology Center
Art and Culture of the Prehistoric Huhugam People

The program is supported by the Arizona Humanities
Council and is open to all neighbors. Free.

Candidates for political office will be invited to make their case at the August and September C4PR meetings. Questions will be prepared in advance and submitted to the candidates. Citizens for Picture Rocks believes in an informed electorate, but is non-partisan and makes no endorsements.



Supervisors move to protect wildlife

The Pima County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution on June 17 aimed at protecting the Bureau of Reclamation Wildlife Mitigation Corridor that runs along Sandario Road south of Mile Wide. The WMC was established to protect critters displaced by the CAP canal construction. The WMC is in the way of one of the two I-10 bypass routes still under consideration by the State Transportation Board (the other is in the Aravaipa Valley). There are fears that bypass (and development) enthusiasts will cut a deal with the feds to exchange the WMC for some other piece of land, making the proposed Avra Valley route more likely.

The Supervisors, already on record as opposing an I-10 bypass in Pima County, adopted Dist. 3 Supervisor Sharon Bronson’s motion to show the WMC on county maps as a protected area, and to urge our Congressional delegation to incorporate the WMC into existing national park or national forest land, ensuring its protection into the future.




This is a personal story about how I came to change an opinion I’d held for years. I’m an animal person. Always have been. My cat, Spyboy, was a feral cat in San Francisco that I trapped and brought to the SPCA’s Trap-Neuter-Release program. They checked him, fixed him, and gave me $5 for bringing him in. He became an indoor-outdoor cat prowling the back alleys, coming home injured sometimes, but always coming home. When I moved to Tucson, Spyboy came with me. His outdoor activity ended, however, when he crossed a major street and was hit by a car. Sixteen hundred dollars worth of pelvic reconstruction later, he is, not always happily, an indoor cat.

Kait and I live in Picture Rocks now, on an acre we call Wild Heart Ranch, with the back half fenced. Spyboy and his buddy Sara are indoor cats. Outdoors we have quail and doves and hummingbirds, a pair of cardinals and their offspring, a half-dozen species of lizards roaming about, an occasional king snake or sidewinder, a regularly-visiting roadrunner, rabbits and ground squirrels, big and little toads, an ever- changing wealth of nature to live in and marvel at. The fence keeps out marauding dogs who dig up the front yard and defecate in our driveway. (The owners of those dogs might want to know that “Dogs at Large” is a Class 2 misdemeanor, and failure to clean up behind them is a Class 3 misdemeanor; both punishable with fines, jail time and probation.) The fence also protects Ebony, a neutered feral cat we trapped in town who has become quite tame and sleeps in our shed. We keep her well fed.

Awhile back some neighbors abandoned their double-wide and left a cat and a large dog. The dog sat on the porch waiting for the family to come home, barking at anyone who approached, protecting his home. We brought food and water to him as he waited with clear desperation. Then he was gone. Whether the family came for him, or someone else took him, or he ran away, I don’t know. I hope he wasn’t maimed and killed by the packs of dogs that roam our piece of the desert, like the dog of a friend was.

The cat spent a lot of time in our yard, safe from prowling dogs. We weren’t crazy about his being there, but the choices did not seem good. I refused to consider the Pima County Animal Shelter where unadopted animals were likely to be put down.

Inside and cared for

Then there were four cats. We put out cheap dry cat food, but piles of quail and dove feathers began appearing in the yard, along with rabbit and ground squirrel parts. Cat scat accumulated in small piles, many small piles. Fighting cats screamed at night. Then one of them had kittens and there were eight cats, and we were forced to make decisions. My first impulse was to contact the no-kill cat shelters around town. They were all full and none were accepting new animals. There are Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs, but they, I realized, did not solve the basic problem.

With sadness, I took the just-weaned, and so very cute, kittens to the Pima County Animal Shelter, where Shelter Manager Patti Mahaney challenged my assumptions with hard facts. “Cats should be inside and cared for,” Mahaney said. “Outside they kill wildlife, carry disease, and are miserable. They suffer in the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Did you ever look at the skin of a feral cat?” she asked. “Did you see the flea bites and scratches and infections and pus and maggots?” I came home and began to do some research.

The Feral Cat Coalition estimates that there are 60 million domestic cats and 60 million feral cats in the United States, and that 5 million cats and dogs are “dumped” annually. National Geographic News, in a May 24, 2008, story, finds that feral cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, about 20 percent of their diet. Seventy percent of their diet is made up of small mammals – rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks – more than a billion a year. Lizards, mice and insects make up the rest of a feral cat’s diet. The cats themselves become part of the diet of coyotes, hawks, and bobcats, as well as targets for roaming dogs.

In Pima County abandoning animals is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and conviction can carry fines up to $2,500, plus up to six months jail time and up to three years probation.

Subsidized predators

While Trap-Neuter-Release advocates argue that cats are a minor player in transmitting rabies, many feral cats do die of the disease. They may carry salmonella as well. There are about 2,000 TNR groups in the U.S., and some veterinarians, along with the U.S. Humane Society, accuse them of “subsidizing abandonment,” of creating “subsidized predators.” While the TNR people argue that feral cats are minor predators, which may or may not be true in the city, here at Wild Heart Ranch the extent of their hunt for food and the impact on the critters that make our place home is all-too-visible.

Nature exists in a delicate balance. Introducing a new predator unbalances nature, especially when that predator may give birth as many as three or four times a year, adding two to four new predators each time. One female cat, able to get pregnant as early as four months old, can easily add literally dozens of predators to the equation in less than a year. Do the math. And females attract males, who fight with tooth and claw, with no one to care for their wounds. The average feral cat lives just two years before disease or predators or starvation kills it.

What, then, to do if one has feelings for animals and doesn’t want to see them ending up as biology class cadavers? There is only one answer, and that is to educate our neighbors and friends that abandoning animals is unacceptable, as well as illegal. It is, simply, wrong.

Cats are domestic animals, domesticated first in Egypt about 2000 B.C. We cannot expect creatures that we have cared for for over 4000 years to suddenly find a niche in the balance of nature. Pets give us comfort and joy. We owe them the same thing back. Pets should be spayed and neutered, and if we are forced to leave them, we owe them taking the time to find them a good home, and not abandoning them to a short life of kill and be killed. Dumping pets is cruelty to the animal, not a favor.

I bought a live animal trap at Picture Rocks Hardware and set it out. Eight cats have now been delivered to the Shelter. Ebony has her yard back, and there were seven baby quail following Mom and Dad in our driveway this morning. It’s their world, too, and it”s up to us to protect it.

(The Pima County Animal Shelter, including adoptions, care and law enforcement, is located at 4000 N. Silverbell Road; telephone: 243-5900.)



Left: Picture Rocks neighbor and Rancho Del Conejo Water Board member Bill Shaw was recently voted #2 1881 Cowboy at Tombstone’s Wyatt Earp Days

Right: The night-blooming cereuses displayed their fleeting finery on July 2 this year




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

  • Colo. Man gets top post at Marana School District, (Arizona Daily Star, 6/13/08). Following the resignation of former superintendent Dennis Dearden, the Marana Unified School Board selected Doug Wilson, assistant superintendent of human resources in Pueblo, Colorado, as the new school superintendent, effective July 1.


  • Walkup envisions huge Avra solar field, (Arizona Daily Star, 7/2/08). Speaking to the Southern Arizona Solar Energy Development Conference, Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup said he’d like to cover 1,000 acres of the city’s land in Avra Valley with solar panels, a project contingent on extension of federal incentives and state mandates.



  • State cuts in budget slap cities, counties, (Arizona Daily Star, 7/5/08) Arizona’s new $9.9 billion budget cuts millions of dollars in funding to Southern Arizona, including an estimated $2.4 million in highway-fund dollars to Pima County. Increased law enforcement and health care costs, and a requirement to contribute to the state general will also impact the county.


  • Uncovering an ancient city, (The Explorer, 7/7/08). The remains of a major Hohokam population center – including dwelling and artifacts believed to be over 700 years old – have been uncovered at the future site of the Cortaro-Silverbell District Park in Marana.




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