TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Several projects have recently been completed Mt. Lemmon, on the Santa Catalina Ranger District of the Coronado National Forest.
A Forest, Inferno, Renewal, Education (FIRE) grant of $247,200 from the Federal Highway Administration funded a suite of communications products following large fires on Mt. Lemmon. Following the Bullock and Aspen fires of 2002 and 2003, respectively, Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) applied for a Scenic Byway grant to interpret wildfire along the Mt. Lemmon Highway.
The ADOT team worked with the Coronado National Forest to develop materials which interpret wildfire as well as other natural and cultural resources along the highway.
The project was completed in December, 2015. Products include brochures (Sky Island Scenic Byway, wildfire, hiking opportunities, and a brochure in Spanish), a video about the fires, an elementary education program, an audio tour for the highway, and interpretive signs.
The last two products are now available to the public. The audio tour is available in MP3 format and can be downloaded at no charge from the Coronado National Forest's website, http://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/coronado/recreation. Click on "Sky Island Audio Tour CD" to play or right click to download.
The installation of 22 interpretive signs was also completed in December. The new signs are located at Molino Basin Picnic Area, Thimble Peak Vista, Seven Cataracts Vista, Geology Vista, San Pedro Vista, Rose Canyon Lake, Mt. Bigelow Trailhead, Aspen Vista, Inspiration Rock, Marshall Gulch, and the Mt. Lemmon Trailhead. At some locations, signs are displayed in English and Spanish.
Another project replaced two restroom buildings on Mt. Lemmon that were failing. At Cypress Picnic Area, a composting restroom had major system failures resulting in health and safety hazards for Coronado National Forest employees and odor problems for visitors. The restroom at Showers Point was a complicated low-flush vault system which was increasingly difficult and costly to maintain. Both sites now have new vault restroom buildings with venting to minimize odors. At Showers Point, additional work included a campground host site wastewater tank, a concrete walkway to provide wheelchair access to the new restroom, water lines, and a new water hydrant.
Tom Cassell, Coronado National Forest Engineer noted that "The restrooms feature the latest venting technology to maximize user satisfaction. The restrooms are attractive and sustainable. They will require minimal future maintenance and repairs due to the durability and vandal-resistance of the building materials selected."
Funding for the project came from a combination of a 5 percent Region 3 Recreation Fee Grant for Cypress and CNF Fee Program funds for Showers Point. The total cost for the two projects was $379,800.
Cypress Picnic Area, located at milepost 11.5 along the Mt. Lemmon Highway, is open year-round. It is a popular site because it is the first picnic area in ponderosa pine forest that visitors encounter as they travel up Mt. Lemmon.
Showers Point is located higher on the mountain (down Organization Ridge Road at milepost 19.8) and includes three group campsites with ramadas. The restroom at Showers Point will re-open on May 1. Campsites at Showers Point can be reserved at http://www.recreation.gov/.