Catalina State Park Volunteers Receive State Recognition
by Sarah Corning
She isn’t sure, but Rosemary thinks she may have logged more than 3,500 hours as an Arizona State Parks volunteer at Catalina State Park since 1995. Although she has spent a lot of time helping to maintain the park’s equestrian trails where she rides her horse regularly, she has put in even more hours clearing hiking trails, planting trees, and helping with park maintenance.
Arizona State Parks Director Bryan Martyn surprised Rosemary with the Arizona State Parks Volunteer of the Year Award at the Volunteer Venture Training and Recognition event at Lost Dutchman State Park on April 5th. In his remarks, he praised her for her many years of service as an Arizona State Parks volunteer and wished her luck with her next project: Catalina State Park’s 30th Anniversary celebration on May 4th.
Rosemary grew up in Missouri and has always enjoyed the outdoors. She is especially fond of Catalina State Park, which she knows well. “I’ve been coming here to ride my horse since before Catalina State Park existed,” she says. “It is such a very special place.”
In addition to being a volunteer, Rosemary is also a founding board member of the Friends of Catalina State Park that was established in 2012 to mobilize support and raise money for the park. It’s as a member of the Friends group that she has been helping to organize Catalina State Park’s 30th anniversary. Rosemary, who attended the inauguration and dedication on May 25, 1983, says that it was a day that she had looked forward to for a long time. Reflecting on the last 30 years, she says that she has seen the park get better and better with each passing year. We have made many improvements and worked hard to maintain those improvements.”
Tens of thousands visit the park each year to hike, ride bikes and horses, and walk their dogs. They also come to participate in some of the many activities that park rangers and volunteers organize at the park. One of the most popular activities at the park is the Nature Program that the Catalina Nature Program organizes. It too was recognized on April 5th winning the Volunteer Team of the Year award.
Under the leadership of Jim Cloer, this enthusiastic and dedicated group of volunteers has been presenting nature programs at the park for almost six years. It started small, at first, with just a few reptiles but it has now grown to include, mammals, amphibians, and invertebrates; these displays vary depending on season. Jim’s wildlife crew also started small with only two volunteers but now there are 25 who help to accomplish this amazing exhibit as well as take care of over 40 animals. The Wildlife Exhibit invites visitors to interact with some of the wildlife and learn about life cycles and habitats; as well as how to protect them, how to identify them, and most importantly how to be safe around them. The Nature Program will be at the park on May 4th. There will also be many other presentations, live music, guided hikes, food trucks, a star night party, and much much more.
You can download an event flier for the 30th anniversary celebration on May 4th at
Download Event Flier ( 499 KB PDF)
Catalina is Saguaro Central
by Neil Donkersley
All our parks can lay claim to unique features that make them special. That’s why they're state parks. But each of our parks have some unique characteristics, as well, that set us apart from our sister parks.
One of the special features at Catalina State Park (among many!) is an amazing population of saguaros. There are about a half-dozen large stands within the park, each numbering close to 500 plants. Along with hundreds of scattered individuals, these stands account for an estimated saguaro population of close to 5,000 plants.
Almost 5,000 saguaros thrive at Catalina State Park.
I believe we can claim, unequivocally, that Catalina has by far the most saguaros of any state park in America! Ah! A flimsy boast, you might say! Consider, however, that probably no other icon is so closely identified with the imagery of the American Southwest. And pretty much all the saguaros in the US are found right here in Arizona. It’s amusing, therefore, that popular media portayals of the American West place saguaros everywhere from the West Coast to Texas. I’ve seen many magazine ads touting Texas tourism with images of saguaros. How dare they usurp OUR cactus! You show me a saguaro in Texas, and I’ll show you a big green chunk of plastic or neon.
All of this leads us to the undeniable conclusion that, 1) if the saguaro is the most recognizable symbol of the American Southwest and, 2) if Catalina has more of these big bad boys than any other state park in the nation, then 3) it follows that humble Catalina State Park must represent the unique flavor of the American Southwest better than ANY state park in the whole USofA!
Quick, somebody call Guinness Book! An especially encouraging aspect of Catalina’s saguaro population is that our plants seem to be particularly virile. If we look closely under mesquite and palo verde trees (“nurse plants”, for those who know their saguaro ecology), we find that there is a good ratio between mature plants and “babies” less than three feet high. So the future of our saguaro community is very promising.
I had a visiting saguaro researcher from University of Arizona tell me a few years back that the population in Catalina State Park was among the healthiest and most prolific in the Tucson area. This poor scientist backed away cautiously as I pumped my fist in the air and screamed, “Yes-sssss, Catalina Rules!!!”. You would’ve thought the Cats had just pounded the Devils in roundball, AGAIN! Oops, back on topic.
There are many fascinating factoids surrounding the ecology of Carnegiea gigantea, not to mention its pre-eminent stature in the cultural consciousness of the desert Southwest. But if you care to come face-to-face with some of the finest specimens and communities on the planet, you need only indulge yourself with a leisurely hike in Catalina State Park. After all, it has been empirically proven to be the most “Southwestern.”
Saturdays (Oct. 1 - April)
The Reptile/Wildlife Exhibit program has started again! From Oct. 1 to April (9 am - Noon), weather permitting (temperatures in the 50s and not raining or very windy). Volunteer Jim “the Snake Man” Cloer and his crew of volunteer assistants enchant visitors at the park trail head with a menagerie of reptiles, arachnids, and animals who inhabit the Sonoran Desert. Meet at Main Trailhead parking area at Catalina State Park. Contact Park for more information. (520) 628-5798.
Come see and learn about a menagerie of reptiles, arachnids, and animals who inhabit the Sonoran Desert. Some animals that may be on exhibit include rattlesnakes, Gopher snakes, Gila Monsters, desert tortoise, tarantula, and scorpions!
Nope, there’s no spitting cobra weaving out of a basket, but Catalina State Park has something just as intriguing for Saturday morning hikers. Volunteer Jim “the Snake Man” Cloer and his crew of volunteer assistants enchant visitors at the park trail head with a menagerie of reptiles, arachnids, and animals who inhabit the Sonoran Desert.
Jim is a retired science and biology teacher who instructed pupils all the way from 5th grade to university graduate school. Jim has state and federal permits to hold various wildlife for rehabilitation and public education purposes, and his collection normally includes several varieties of rattlesnakes as well as a mix of non-venomous snakes. He also keeps a Gila monster, desert tortoise, tarantula and scorpions. He houses his “friends” in glass enclosures for easy viewing and safety, but occasionally he handles the nonvenomous species so visitors can enjoy close encounters of the scaly kind. Some of our regular hikers who show-up every Saturday just to see Jim and his critters began calling him “the Snake Man” a few years ago.
"The Snake Man" Jim Cloer, a volunteer at Catalina State Park, about to release a rehabilitated hawk.
Reptiles, especially snakes, inspire a wide range of responses from people. Curiosity, wonder, fear and disgust are a few. One of Jim’s primary goals is to relieve the reactions of fear and disgust that some people experience by acquainting them with these animals oneon- one. Negative perceptions of reptiles are often rooted in simple lack of understanding. It can make a big difference in a child’s attitude about a snake just to know that it’s shiny skin is smooth, but not slimy. It’s a lot easier to engender respect for wildlife when the response is fascination instead of fear, and Jim Cloer’s motivation is to foster respect for all wildlife.
Jim and his pal Archimedes, a great horned owl.
In addition to wildlife education, Jim is also involved in rehabilitation of injured animals. Last year, he became caretaker for a great horned owl that had lost part of one wing. When included in the park program, the owl he named Archimedes was most comfortable around people when perched on Jim’s gloved hand. Archimedes has since moved on to a wildlife education program in California, but for a while he was a big hit with visitors at the park.
Jim Cloer has volunteered at Catalina State Park for eight years. He has also done programs at Oracle State Park and various Tucson area schools. He is currently involved in training local fire department personnel in the art of safely handling rattlers found in people’s yards. He also teaches classes at Central Arizona College in the natural history of the Sky Islands (the mountain ranges that dot the desert floor of southern Arizona).
Jim has five talented helpers who assist him with all of these endeavors. These are all folks he recruited to be interpretive volunteers for the park. Although Jim is the mastermind and leader of this dedicated group, we greatly appreciate the contributions of everyone involved with the program. “The Snake Man” and his critters have charmed thousands of park visitors while promoting respect and appreciation for desert wildlife.
- Alamo Lake
- Buckskin Mountain
- Cattail Cove
- Lake Havasu
- River Island
- Yuma Quartermaster Depot
- Yuma Territorial Prison
- Dead Horse Ranch
- Fort Verde
- Red Rock
- Riordan Mansion
- Slide Rock
- Verde River Greenway
- Boyce Thompson Arboretum
- Fool Hollow Lake
- Lost Dutchman
- Lyman Lake
- Tonto Natural Bridge