Conservation foundation ready to celebrate 20 years

American Hiking Society crew spent a week in March 2019 improving and rerouting about five miles of trails at Sophie’s Flat.

By Shawn Byrne


The mission is “to protect Wickenburg’s unique western lifestyle and stunning landscapes while crafting trails for non-motorized enjoyment of our fantastic desert,” but members of the Wickenburg Conservation Foundation are concerned the word about the organization’s work isn’t getting out.

“We may be Wickenburg’s best kept secret as far as nonprofits go,” Penny Pietre, WCF member, told The Sun. “It’s so important that we reach the kids. A lot of adults in Wickenburg really care about this area, but if we don’t reach the kids they won’t care.”

Providing education to children and adults is one of the central activities of WCF. The foundation is offering a Desert Awareness Instructor Training class from 10 a.m. – noon Oct. 25 at the Wickenburg Library, 164 E. Apache St. These volunteers would be involved in the foundation’s Desert Awareness program offered to children in third-fifth grades. Volunteers would help steer students through six stations (stalwart skeletons, scrubby skins, desert predators, desert soils, ancient civilizations, and trash your trash) in a 75-minute classroom environment.

“This started about 16 years ago in Cave Creek,” said Bernadine McCollum, a WCF member. “Diane Vaszily wanted someone to do it on this side of the town. We’ve reached over 500 kids already.”

The conservation foundation offers many programs throughout the year, including stargazing, birding basics, desert survival, a four-mile hike to Box Canyon, a hike at Sophie’s Flat, and forms desert cleanup parties twice a year. WCF partners with other groups in order to complete its objectives.

“It’s why we call it the Outdoor Education Partnership,” McCollum said. “We work with Arizona Game and Fish Department, Wickenburg Parks and Recreation, three school districts, Yavapai Count Sheriff’s Office, the Cave Creek group, and Maricopa County Parks.”

It was more than 20 years ago when Ally Hayes Spitner heard a vision of Vulture Peak from Dana Burden that was shared to those who are deeply in love with the area.

“Picture a restaurant on top of Vulture Peak with a lighted cable car going up the side,” Pietre said. “We all panicked and said we can’t let that happen, so we went out and founded the Wickenburg Conservation Foundation. Vulture Peak was at the heart of it.”

The foundation is celebrating its 20th anniversary of success from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Nov. 2 at Sophie’s Flat Trailhead.

Festivities include a Dutch oven cooking demo, free lunch, live music, interpretive displays and information, mesquite food sampling, prize drawings and a ribbon cutting for a new Ramada.

Space is limited and reservations are required by Oct. 28. Go to to make reservations and for directions to Sophie’s Flat Trailhead.

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