The terrain around these parts might seem ordinary once you’ve become accustomed to it, but take Tishia Stewart’s word for it: the Sonoran Desert is a wild, fascinating place — and she wants to help you discover it for yourself.
“Come out to the park and say hello,” says Stewart, the new interpretive ranger at San Tan Mountain Regional Park in Queen Creek.
Stewart, who took her post in November 2013, works to connect people with nature at the 10,000-acre park, where elevation ranges from about 1,400 feet to more than 2,500 feet, vegetation changes from creosote flats to dense saguaro forest, and you just might spot wildlife, from desert tortoises to coyotes.
Her background: a BA degree in Environmental Studies with an emphasis on the Natural History of the Southwest deserts.
After involvment with US Fish and Wildlife Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Stewart volunteered at Usery Mountain Regional Park in Mesa.
“(Usery’s) Ranger ‘B’ (Brennan Basler) became my mentor in the field of interpretation and shared with me how and why he chose to become an interpretive ranger. After an hour of questions and answers, I immediately knew I wanted his job,” she says.
Her passion: “... (T)o connect people to nature through positive experiences at San Tan Mountain Regional Park. Through our programs and amenities, my goal is to help dispel some of the myths and fears about the desert and to demonstrate that the Sonoran Desert is truly a remarkable ecosystem found nowhere else on earth,” says Stewart.
What she’s looking forward to: Homeschooling programs in January and February that focus on the natural history of wildlife within the park.
“The kids will be learning about wildlife as well as how to track and ID their prints, skulls, and fur. They’ll make some artifacts to take home and do some wash explorations,” she says.
Her tips for first-timers to the park: Read an introductory book about the Sonoran desert.
“I find that if you have prior knowledge about a place you plan to visit, then your experience once you get to your destination will be enhanced,” she says.
But if you’re not into reading, “... (C)heck out our park schedule at Maricopa.gov/parks/santan. See what programs we have for the week, then plan to visit on any of those days that are of interest to you. If no programs are scheduled, stop by our Visitor Center. We have live desert critters, some books for adult and child readers, and knowledgeable staff to answer any questions you may have.”
If you go
What: San Tan Mountain Regional Park
When: Open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Where: 6533 W. Phillips Road, Queen Creek
Cost: $6 per vehicle park entry fee
Information: (480) 655-5554 or Maricopa.gov/parks/santan
Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or firstname.lastname@example.org