Written by: Sara Tilford

Contributing Photographers: Nizhoni Baldwin, Luke Koppas, Volunteers: Robin Longacre, Robert Dayton, Linnea Cordts

Douglas and Amir planting Barrel cactus.

Embarking on a journey of ecological stewardship, Wild Arizona’s intrepid Volunteer Coordinators Nizhoni and Luke came together to coordinate three wonderful volunteer events this fall. Our Coordinators and volunteers came together in fostering a shared love for Nature and a commitment to preserve Arizona’s native and wild flora. Let us delve into the warming experiences of these events where Wild Arizona volunteers connected with the land, and each other in the spirit of conservation.

Sonoran Insider Collaboration (October 20-21)

Under the scorching Arizona sun, volunteers from Sonoran Insiders converged at Boyce Thompson Arboretum to help the team retrieve trees and grasses for planting. Unfortunately, trees weren’t yet ready and the soaring temperatures made for truly unpleasant planting conditions. Thermometers were already reading 98 degrees by noon—making outside planting a little unbearable for the team and the plants. Despite a few minor setbacks the camaraderie was there to make the best out of the situation as Nizhoni and Luke led the volunteer group through a cooler option at the Arboretum, immersing themselves in the beauty of learning about native Cacti and other plants.

2. Empowering Women in Nature (Nov 3-5)

For this three-day event, Wild Arizona teamed up with BOW and B2B founder, Trica Hawkins and the Arizona Wildlife Federation. Nizhoni arrived at Oak Flat Campground for native planting in Arnett Creek on the evening of November 3rd. Upon her arrival and to her surprise, Apache Stronghold tribes were holding a sacred prayer ceremony. Traditionally, non-tribal members would be asked to leave, but graciously Trica gave Nizhoni and other volunteers the welcoming option to stay the night and join them for the prayer circle in the morning.

Nizhoni made everyone breakfast with B2B volunteers to ensure full bellies for a day of work! After breakfast, she and 3 other volunteers headed back to Boyce Thompson Arboretum to collect grasses. When they arrived back to camp, they were thrilled to see 2 more volunteers had shown up for the event. Everyone regathered and enjoyed lunch together followed by an archery lesson, instructed by a B2B instructor. After their lesson, the group headed to Picketpost Trailhead to do some planting along Arnett Creek. A total of five volunteers, Nizhoni and Trica collectively were able to plant 25 plots of grass in the burn scar area. After a very fun filled day everyone went back to camp to enjoy a nacho dinner provided by B2B volunteers followed by s’mores and shared stories around the campfire.

On the morning of the last day, everyone woke up early and enjoyed one more meal together, once again provided by B2B volunteers. The weekend culminated in sharing a love for restoring nature, yummy meals together, and campfire stories. Volunteers all said their goodbyes and exchanged numbers. What an amazing turn out they had and in total the 5 volunteers contributed over 150 hours in 3 days of hard work and restoration.

3. Grand Finale (Nov17-18)

The grand finale for planting at Arnett Creek brought forth an impressive turnout of 17 volunteers (including John Wotten and Sheila Shattuck from EVBCH) and Volunteer Coordinators Nizhoni Baldwin and Dexter Kopas were ready to transform the landscape. After a night of camping under the vast Arizona sky, the group planted 100 plots of grass, 9 native cacti, and 2 velvet mesquite trees. An unexpected rain shower helped nourish the new plantings. Luckily the showers didn’t dampen the spirits of our dedicated volunteers as water in the desert is always a blessing. The day ended with a warm spaghetti dinner and tales of the day well-spent, marking the culmination of a series of successful plantings.

Arnett Creek’s native planting events weren’t just about putting plants in the ground; they were about creating community, shared experiences, and a deep appreciation for the Arizona desert. Through the collaboration of passionate volunteers, these events not only contributed to the restoration of the Arnett Creek area but also cultivated a sense of harmony, friendship, and shared commitment to preserving the natural beauty of this area.