NEW MEXICO – On the morning of November 9, the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in Coronado National Forest was abuzz with excitement and anticipation. Something big was about to happen. A tent had been erected, balloons hung. What could it be?
As invited guests, agency representatives and members of Arizona’s Congressional Delegation began arriving, the event started taking shape. It was a celebration and launch of the Sabino Canyon Crawler, Sabino’s new electric shuttle service.
Shuttles have operated in Sabino Canyon since 1978. When the permit for the previous operator expired, the forest opened the service to a competitive process based on community interest and alignment with the desired recreational and social experiences associated with a shuttle system in the recreation area.
The ceremony began with a blessing by Pascua Yaqui Elder Modesto Bule, who spoke on the significance of the land and its resources, and the need to honor and respect them. The blessing was followed by a Pledge of Allegiance by Canyon View Elementary School students. Regional Partnering Center Chair Satish Hiremath spoke on the cultural history of the area, the new shuttles and the environmentally-friendly services they would provide. Tucson Electric Power CEO David Hutchins talked about why his company supported the electric shuttles with funding, including softening environmental impacts and boosting tourism. Forest Service Southwestern Regional Forester Cal Joyner spoke on cultural history and significance, the value of the partnership, and how the new service supported the Region’s priorities of Relationships, Recreation and Restoration. Congressional members Senator Martha McSally, Representative Ann Kirkpatrick and Representative Raul Grijalva talked about the importance and value of the electric shuttles to the environment and their constituents.
Invited guests and members of the public then boarded the Crawlers for the first tours into the canyon.
In partnership between Coronado National Forest, Regional Partnering Center and Tucson Electric Power, five emission-free, open-air electric shuttles were manufactured, outfitted and delivered to provide a valued service. The shuttles are an integral part of an evolving process to reflect the Forest’s commitment to provide recreational services for the area aligned with increasing and changing public demands.