Presentation for the Santa Cruz Valley Citizens Council – April 19, 2021
Tubac Dark Sky Initiatives
Tubac Dark Sky Committee: Dr. Emilio Falco, John Ashley, Rosemarie MacDowell
In 2019, the Tubac Heritage Alliance formed a Dark Sky Committee to apply for Dark Sky Community and Dark Sky Park designations from the International Dark Sky Association. The IDA awards these designations to communities and parks that adopt policies protecting the night sky from light pollution.
The IDA application process can take a minimum of two years to complete in order to satisfy all IDA requirements. Applications can range from 35 to hundreds of pages because of the supporting documentation required. Of the 180 to 200 inquires per year received by the IDA, only 10% make it all the way through the process because of the extensive work involved.
The idea for dark sky designations for Tubac and the Presidio began with a concern about proposed Tubac developments that could affect the Tubac night sky. Even a small increase in light pollution would impact the nocturnal bird migration corridor and the work of the Whipple and Kitt Peak observatories as well as the many amateur and semi-professional observatories in the area. Light pollution disrupts the circadian rhythms of most organisms, including human beings, in addition to negatively impacting the environment, energy resources, wildlife, and the enjoyment of the night sky that attracts large numbers of visitors to the Santa Cruz Valley area.
Benefits of Protecting the Night Sky
A dark sky designation provides new and unique ways to draw visitors. Astro-tourism is on the rise worldwide. A recent study estimated that between 2015 to 2024, visitors will spend over five and a half billion dollars visiting dark sky parks in the State of Colorado alone. This includes lodging and the creation of tourism industry jobs. Astronomy and astro-tourism have a significant impact on Arizona’s economy. Astronomy and space science research contribute hundreds of millions to the Arizona economy annually.
Astro-tourism is nature-based and will respect the special and fragile Tubac environment while benefitting merchants. Designation as a dark sky community will entitle Tubac to display the International Dark Sky Community logo in all official publications, promotions, signs at entrances and within the Community. IDA will promote and highlight ongoing community efforts to protect the night sky, and will maintain a page on its website identifying Tubac as a Dark Sky Community and the Presidio as a Dark Sky Park.
Night-sky Friendly Lighting
There are simple and inexpensive changes everyone can make to protect the night sky and to help further the Dark Sky Initiative. Well-designed outdoor lighting sends light only where it is needed without directlng it up into the sky or causing light trespass for neighbors. Overly bright and unshielded light hinders visibility rather than improving it because it produces glare and shadows. Studies have concluded that improper lighting can actually increase the likelihood of crime.
The Tubac Heritage Alliance will be glad to provide assistance with choosing proper outdoor lighting.
IDA Model Lighting Ordinance: https://www.darksky.org/our-work/lighting/public-policy/mlo/
Read how each of the following organizations have coped with our current pandemic.
Over the past 40 years, Tubac leaders have risen to the task of providing direction on a wide range of issues, shaping the character and future of our community through the Santa Cruz Valley Citizens Council. Nearly 500 members have supported SCVCC’s mission to inform and educate members about local and regional issues affecting our community, and to advocate for members' views regarding these issues. Numerous issues have arisen and been addressed with our purpose to serve the Tubac area community with this purpose as our guide.
SCVCC has brought together its members at monthly meetings for business, dialogue, social gathering, and informative Featured Speakers. We have conducted the organization according to a set of Bylaws, rules of order, and conduct to ensure the confidence of the membership. Our monthly newsletter, minutes, and notices have maintained communication and information sharing.
The Pandemic 2020 has brought numerous challenges to our local economy, tourism, and health care sectors. However, residents are also impacted by the groups and organizations that make up the fabric of our Tubac life. SCVCC joins our fellow organizations in telling their stories
In keeping with precautions dealing with the Coronavirus, the Board of Directors cancelled its March, April and May 2020 Council membership meetings and Featured Speakers and focused on regular electronic communication with its membership on important community topics and updates. Our monthly newsletters and Community Updates were used to convey news about COVID-19; community events, challenges to our business and tourism sectors, county, state, and national developments, and the 2020 Census to name just a few. During our normal Summer break, we continued these efforts and began to anticipate what the Fall 2020 membership meeting season could look like. As we saw numerous groups develop virtual on line forms of group involvement, we developed the current strategy and have joined in partnership to present joint presentation.
We are now reflecting on how Tubac as a community of groups and organizations has dealt with the challenges due to the Pandemic and how we are moving forward. Hence, we present their stories in this special publication. Thank you to all who are participating and for their resilience, leadership, and forward thinking.
What a year 2020 has been for us all! COVID19 has made organizations, institutions, families, businesses and individuals completely rethink every aspect of life. And, for the Presidio, 2019 was an incredibly challenging year, too. We were just getting on our feet, financially, when the museum ‘smoke fire’ occurred which resulted in our main attraction being closed for 8 months until the rewiring was completed.
We were so ecstatic to reopen our museum (newly renamed after the Griffins) when COVID19 hit and we had to close our doors. We learned new ways to remotely continue to be our community’s cultural hub. During the Park’s closure, we were able to work on improvement projects, such as: steam cleaning the carpet, writing grants, installing CDC safety measures, restoring adobe walls, creating an outreach educational program and renovating exhibitions. We also encouraged our community to stay connected virtually through social media by asking them to take pictures with quarantine buddies, nature, art, or hobbies and post them on social media, tagging us at @tubacpresidio and using the hashtag #CommunityStrong. This way, we felt connected while being apart. We have three fabulous art exhibitions planned for this coming season. The largest show, Exuberance, will be held outdoors throughout our 11-acre park. This exhibit will feature approximately 35 artists and will be on display November through April.
In unconventional ways, we have been able to uphold our mission to engage and educate the public by providing culturally enriching experiences that make the past more meaningful while also preserving history and our collection for future generations of visitors. This season, things will most certainly be different. However, we remain hopeful because we know how strong our community is and we are blessed because our Park still allows visitors to explore spectacular history, inspirational artwork, gorgeous gardens while offering a break from the chaos of these uncertain times. We give thanks to all our volunteers, donors, patrons and members! We are so grateful for everyone’s support in helping the Presidio continue to serve as a cultural, social and intellectual hub for Southern Arizona.
Tubac Center of the Arts, like all nonprofit organizations, has been faced with new challenges as we ride this pandemic wave. We have made numerous changes to continue to provide engaging programs for both our members and visitors.
The first challenge was to make sure the center itself was a safe place to visit when we reopened in June. Along with requiring masks to be worn by visitors, staff and volunteers, clear plexi-glass shields were installed at the Gift Shop and the front and back entry desks. A new touchless credit card system, hand sanitizer stations, and one-way directions entering/exiting the building were all put into place.
A grant from the Arizona Humanities made it possible for us to install equipment in the Smith Gallery where Art Speaks lectures and other events can be simultaneously shown on a large screen to a limited number in the audience and others can participate via ZOOM. At the start of this season, our gallery exhibit receptions will be “virtual” where we will be posting Facebook “live” walk-throughs of the entire exhibit plus interactive Q&A with the jurors and staff when awards are announced.
TCA is very fortunate to have the Smithsonian “Museum on Main Street” traveling exhibit, Voices & Votes opening October 2nd along with the Raise Your Voice exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote. Because Voices & Votes is an interactive exhibit taking place during a critical election period, visitors will need to pre-register for a time slot. If you are interested in being a docent during this exhibit, contact Sarah Vickery via email at email@example.com. We have special Family Days scheduled for Wednesdays and Saturdays where students and parents are encouraged to learn together about democracy in America. In partnership with the Law for Kids program, students will be able to cast a “mock” vote in the November ballot as part of their exhibit tour.
We have learned that flexibility is key and we may need to “change horses in mid-stream” in order to make things happen. TCA staff, board and volunteers are committed to making those adjustments needed to keep our vital programs accessible. Visit us at www.tubacarts.org for more detailed information.
The mission of The Tubac Community Center Foundation (TCCF) is to facilitate and promote leadership and coordination in providing outdoor education, social, life-learning and civic activities at the Tubac Community Center for the diverse economic, ethnic, and multi-generational population of Northern Santa Cruz County, Arizona.
In March, the TCCF Board wrapped up their work with L.L. Consulting finalizing the Five-year Master Plan for the Facility and Grounds of the Community Center. With the advent of Covid-19 the Board’s plan to share the Master Plan with the wider Santa Cruz County community and organizations using the TCC had to be temporarily shelved. Taking advantage of the lull in activity the Board continues to make improvements to the interior of the building. The community room (Big Room) has had a makeover with newly painted cabinets and new countertops.
Mid-March following Santa Cruz County Covid-19 guidelines, the TCC suspended all indoor classes, activities and meetings. Tia Chi Zumba, TRX and Dance classes were cancelled as well as the Community Lunch program. Yoga classes and AA meetings moved outdoors implementing social distancing and limiting participants. The Tubac Nature Center and the Tubac Historical Society also closed their doors to the public. The Library, closed to the public in March, continued to provide curb side pick-up and drop off through August. As of September, 1st the Library opened for business! New guidelines which limit patrons to two at a time with masks required are in place.
The Pickle Ball/Basketball Courts closed from April through August recently opened. The Tubac Pickle Ball Club which manages the Pickle Ball activity has implemented new Covid guidelines recommended by the National Pickle Ball Association.
The Tubac Garden has continued to operate honoring distancing and a limiting the number of gardeners present at the same time.
The TCCF Board has continued meeting via conference call. When the Covid crises subsides, we will review the 2020/2021 priorities and update as necessary to ensure that the Center is providing a safe and clean environment to continue to serve the Community. We look forward to seeing you there!
The Tubac Historical Society, a
501 (C) 3 organization, established in 1967, is known for saving the 1885 Tubac Schoolhouse, keeping the Presidio State Park open when the state slated it for closure it in 2010, and for establishing the Brownell Research Center, which houses our vast collection of historic material. Our mission is “To Support research on the history of Tubac and The Santa Cruz River Valley, preserve that history, and share it with the public”. Volunteers staff the BRC, giving tours to visitors, conducting oral histories, accessioning items into our collection and assisting researchers with their research requests. We also host a lecture series called “Breakfast with History” where we present topics of local historical interest.
The alarm bell began to ring shortly after our February Breakfast with History. A presentation was scheduled for March, but upon advice from our presenter, who has a Master’s in epidemiology, we cancelled the program, and our April annual picnic. Our events schedule follows the Tubac “Season”, and the first fall event of 2020-2021 is scheduled for October. We are hoping to hold our first Breakfast with History in October, using a venue observing social distancing rules. We plan to record our events so people who do not feel comfortable attending, can eventually watch the event on our website, from the comfort of their home.
When Governor Ducey issued his stay-at-home order on March 30th, the streets of Tubac emptied. We knew the pandemic was going to have a profound effect on our Village. We decided to document this effect by interviewing business owners and community leaders via video recording. The resulting “Tubac 2020 Pandemic” video will be introduced to the community at one of our Breakfast with History events this fall and posted to our website.
The BRC has been closed to visitors since March but our work continues. Volunteers adhere to a schedule that limits the number of people at the BRC at any given time, adhering to social distance and mask rules. We have noticed an increase in research requests, likely a result of people having more time to pursue interests they did not have time for before the pandemic.
The THS has accelerated our effort to increase our online presence. We are reorganizing our online collections catalogue, developing more virtual exhibits for our website, and a volunteer posts history tidbits on our Facebook page. However, the retiree environment in Tubac adds challenges, since new technology such as ZOOM, and YouTube can be daunting. Plus, many residents rely on in-person events as a key element of their social lives.
History cannot predict the future, but lessons can be learned. If anything has been learned during these challenging times, it is that people can adapt, changes can be made, life will go on.
Tumacácori National Historical Park is a winter park – the majority of our visitors arrive between January and June. While our biggest event, La Fiesta de Tumacácori, is in December, the majority of our public and school programming and events occur during this season. The staff who provide these programs and work in the visitor center consist of a few paid rangers and many volunteers, the majority of whom are retirees – a population considered to be most at-risk.
By mid-March it was clear that our packed visitor center, tight video viewing room, and large tour groups were no longer a safe way to do business. We closed the interior spaces – visitor center and museum – opened an outside access to the mission grounds, and set up a visitor self-help station. We began cancelling programs, events, and demonstrations. At first, a few weeks seemed sensible. Then a month. Then the entire program season. We sent our volunteer staff home. Paid staff who could work from home began to telework part-time. Along with the rest of the world, our programming turned virtual.
We have planned a light, flexible program schedule for the coming winter. After talking with many partners, we recently made the difficult decision to cancel the Tumacácori Fiesta for the first time in its fifty years. With the majority of our usual public workforce being senior volunteers, we are planning on visitor center operations and programming that can be managed by just the few paid staff.
Tumacácori is fortunate in that our salaries do not depend on visitors coming through the door, as is the case for so many businesses. National Parks are funded by tax dollars; our work can continue. We are fortunate that we have been able to keep the historic church and grounds, the gardens and orchards, and the trails open. We are able to continue to provide information via our self-serve station, on-call rangers, and the internet. Visitors are still able to visit Tumacácori – for free! – and find a peaceful, beautiful, historic outdoor space even during the strictest quarantine.
Our website is nps.gov/tuma.
Tubac businesses were having one their most successful seasons up to the point of the initial “Stay at Home” Order in Mid-March. In early February, our 61st Annual Tubac Art Festival was highly successful. Approximately 23,000 visitors, $55k raised for local non-profits from parking fees, and recently voted as a top 10 art festival in the nation. Many stores reported that 2020 season was better than in past years. Good weather and good press brought more visitors! As news of the pandemic continued to grow, stores shops, and restaurants started to shut down and many season events were canceled. By late March, Tubac would be all but closed.
The Chamber’s role turned from encouraging commerce to being an information hub to our members and other businesses in the village. We communicated often with links and information on what businesses could do to acquire loans or grants to help them stay afloat, Chamber Members were able to help other businesses via this hub with information and best practices to help each other to weather the storm. The Chamber also highlighted the essential businesses that could remain open via our website and Facebook page.
When the “Stay at Home” executive order was lifted in the middle of May, some stores/shops/restaurants decided to open. At one point, we had 40 businesses open to the public and another 10 or 15 open virtually. Things looked promising until a second surge of cases resulted in some shops closing again. The Chamber updated it’s website to help visitors and locals to know what the status was for each business. In addition, the Chamber with the help of the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation started a fund where individuals and businesses can donate for eventual advertising and promotion of Tubac when Covid is more under control. We raised approximately $10k. To date, Covid cases are on a directionally favorable trend.
The corona virus has impacted the Chamber negatively (like many businesses), however we see significant opportunities for our future. On the negative side, as of August, our membership is down and due to the continued uncertainty future revenue from the fall festival and the ad sales for the annual map are in jeopardy. On the positive, we are actively participating with the Arizona Office of Tourism and related entities to secure grants and services aimed at rural tourism. More will be shared about this in the coming months.
Tubac, Rio Rico, Nogales and Sonoita: The four libraries that comprise the Nogales/Santa Cruz County Public Library system have always been a vital part of our community’s social infrastructure. But in Covid-Land, each of these libraries is also a testament to resilience and re-invention.
Doors may have closed, but access to reading materials, research data, online services and other essential information remains alive and well.
Order your books by phone or online and use the library’s curbside service for easy retrieval and return. A free wi-fi hotspot at The Rio Rico Library gives patrons a chance to surf the web from the comfort of their cars. Phone service provides help with research, interlibrary book requests, book renewals, sending or receiving faxes and email printouts. Online signup to obtain a library card is also new.
Meetings moved to Zoom. A library Facebook page came alive. The Children’s Library Coordinator organized a successful virtual children’s summer reading program and is currently helping the popular Lego Club go virtual as well. During the summer the Nogales Library also provided grab-and-go meals when the Nogales Unified School District extended this free meal service past the normal end of school.
Cataloging was improved, shelving reorganized, computers upgraded, library chairs refurbished, career development and community outreach webinars attended.
Throughout these quarantined months, the staff has scrupulously followed health and safety protocols including the careful cleaning of returned materials.
While the Nogales and Rio Rico libraries presently remain virtual and curbside, Tubac and Sonoita are open on a limited basis. But the staff at all four libraries remains upbeat, resilient and determined to provide the best possible experience for every patron.
For further information about each branch, call: 520-285-5717, go to www.nogales.az.gov/library-department or visit Nogales Santa Cruz County Public Library on Facebook.
While Border Community Alliance has been genuinely affected financially by the worldwide public health crisis, our motivation to move forward and survive has never been stronger. Over the years, the board of directors and staff of BCA have poured their hearts and souls into the organization by implementing the important diplomatic mission of the nonprofit (bridging the border and fostering community through education, collaboration and cultural exchange) and we have resolved not to let this contingency wither away the nonprofit. Faced with the loss of income with the suspension of our cross border tour program. BCA has pivoted by connecting the Arizona community virtually across borders in increasing the diverse programming of our other educational initiative, the Borderlands Forum to a weekly basis. Programs have ranged from topics including COVID-19 & Border Health with the chief of Arizona’s Office of Border Health to thematic online cooking workshops like Mexico’s national dish, chiles en nogada. We have accomplished this while simultaneously raising awareness and funds (social investments) for the Nogales, Sonora NGOs is our network with our Mexican community foundation partner FESAC, including nearly $7,000 dollars for the Nogales Food Bank. Despite having to cancel our annual BCA internship fundraiser in March and the summer internship program, we developed a virtual Fall internship supported by the good will of our BCA membership and constituency who recognize the impact this program has on young people’s lives. In the spirit of shedding light on the heritage and cultural significance that surrounds us, we are also developing educational tours north of the border for the Fall/Winter season. These tours will be carried out with CDC recommendations in place, including the mandatory wearing of masks, social distancing and the participants use of their own vehicle for transportation. We look forward to the opportunity to reinitiate our cross border tour program when safe and feasible to do so in order to facilitate citizen level diplomacy, person-to-person connections and understanding between our countries. The pandemic has revealed to us the importance of resourcefulness and the ability to adapt to this ever changing world we live in.
Tubac Rotary Club is Adapting to a New Reality.
Like everyone else, the Tubac Rotary Club never saw the COVID-19 pandemic coming or had contingency plans in place to continue being an asset to Santa Cruz county. But the Club, with the help of our District representing 1500 Rotarians in southern Arizona and the international headquarters representing 1.2 million worldwide members, adapted to maintain relevance during these unprecedented times.
In response to this crisis, the club worked with the SCV35 Unified School District to provide internet service for students who did not have it at their homes to continue their studies. We also supported a mask production facility at the Amado Youth Center. Our club provided funding, a sewing machine, materials and sewing know-how to the youth working at the facility.
The 2020 Taste of Tubac, our main fundraiser, was cancelled this year, but we are maintaining donations to charitable organizations at a reduced level of by tapping into reserve funds and member donations. Due to the generous donation of one member, we are implementing a scholarship for students seeking careers in the medical profession.
Looking forward, we are planning to hold a Taste of Tubac in 2021 and our annual New Year’s Day Golf Tournament, as well as new fundraising events. We are looking forward to participating at the July 4th celebration with the Tubac Presidio. We hope you can join us for hotdogs, chips and a soft drink.
In addition to the good work the Club does in supporting Santa Cruz country charitable organizations, friendship and fellowship are a major part of being a Rotarian. The club adapted to using ZOOM videoconferencing for its meetings. It allows winter visitors and members who are away to stay connected to the club, something in-person meetings do not allow. The members look forward to meeting in person as soon as possible. In the meantime, check out what our club is doing and hear some interesting speakers. Join us on-line for a meeting. Contact Bud Eckhart at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
THE SANTA CRUZ VALLEY NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA - SCVNHA
After over 15 years of collaborative effort on the part of a myriad of stakeholders, including local government, tribes, non-profits, residents and businesses, the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area was, at last, created as part of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act in March of 2019. This landmark bill for our region puts into motion a non-regulatory federally-recognized cultural, historic, recreational and economic designation that is unique: Its uniqueness is that its governance, policies, initiatives, focus and energies are solely driven by us, the local community. We are one of 55 Heritage Areas in the Nation and the second established in Arizona. Visit NPS Heritage Areas to read more about Heritage Areas.
The SCVNHA stretches north from the international border with Mexico to Marana and Oro Valley and is bounded to the east by the Rincon, Whetstone and Huachuca Mountains and on the west generally by the Tumacácoris. The Feasibility Study that was critical to achieving this designation can be downloaded at SCVNHA Feasibility Study. Be patient as it is a big document, but worth it!
The Act creating the SCVNHA named the Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance as the “local coordinating entity”. The Alliance is a non-profit initially established in 2004 to oversee and promote the creation of the SCVNHA. As local coordinating entity, the Alliance has responsibility for managing the Heritage Area on behalf of all interested parties. Our first task, in accordance with the Act, is to develop a Management Plan. This is underway. We also (pre-pandemic) hosted a partnership workshop in Tubac, which was well attended. There is so much passion and so much talent in our community that the excitement and potential of this project was palatable at that meeting!
We were poised to make a presentation to the Citizens Council in May, but, of course, that was cancelled. The Alliance Board, consisting of members from throughout the Heritage Area, remain committed to engaging the membership of the Citizens Council as soon as it is safe to do so in person, and hopefully sooner through a virtual platform.
In the meantime, watch for the roll-out of our (your!!) brand new website soon at www.santacruzheritage.org and also watch for your opportunity to participate in the development of the Management Plan. Contact Mary Dahl at email@example.com for additional information.
On March 11, 2020, Drew Jackson from the Tumacacori National Historic Park gave one of our Wednesday afternoon talks at the Tubac Community Center. On March 12, the Nature Center closed its doors due to the health threat from the pandemic. As for everyone else, it came at a bad time. It was a little more than a year since we opened our doors, and March and April are high season. Our walks and talks were shut down, including the nationally known Hawk Watch at Ron Morriss Park. Our first membership drive began just a few weeks before. Now what?
THE BLOG: Somehow we had to retain our contact with our new members, and with the list of 500 plus visitors who had expressed an interest in the Nature Center. At the suggestion of Michael Dunn, Vice-President, and Amy Tremper, Librarian, Jim Karp, President, undertook to do a daily bird walk, alone and socially distanced from other Anza Trail users, and report the results to our list of 500. Since not all the people on the list are birders, it was decided to include some comments on elements relevant to the Nature Center. That was the birth of the blog. The blog is distributed 5 days a week, and in addition to the bird list, talks about nature in the Santa Cruz Valley, National environmental issues, and other musings of the writer. It seems to have gained some popularity in the community. Most of the blog issues appear on the Tubac Nature Center website.
NATURE CAMP: The Education Committee has remained active through virtual meetings under the leadership of Connie Williams. They are planning a one day children’s science camp during the first November or April that it is safe to do so. This will be a building block for a more robust move into children’s nature education by our organization.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Through the effort of Chris Hall we have had a presence on Facebook for some time. Through the work of Chris, Michael, and Amy we have expanded our social media coverage to Twitter and Instagram. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.
THE FUTURE: Through the blog and other communications we are discussing the possibility of a loop trail near the Nature center, restoring the wetland at the “borrow pit” south of Baca Float Wastewater facility, and expanding our programs for adults and children.
Now we wait for the pandemic to release its grip on us so we can resume our “regularly scheduled programming”.
FRIENDS OF THE SANTA CRUZ RIVER
Friends of the Santa Cruz River (FOSCR) was formed in 1991 to “ensure a continued flow of the river’s surface waters, promote the highest river water quality achievable, and to protect and restore the riparian ecosystem and diversity of life supported by the river’s waters.”
Our non-profit, all-volunteer group focuses on the portion of the river from its headwaters in the San Rafael Valley in Arizona, south into Mexico, and then north through Santa Cruz County, to the Pima County line. We work with riverside landowners, government agencies, other citizens, local schools, and community groups to keep the river flowing, its banks clean and green, and its environment bountiful to both wildlife and people.
Before COVID-19, FOSCR held monthly potlucks and Board of Directors meetings at the Tubac Community Center. In-person meetings stopped after February but restarted virtual (ZOOM) meetings in July.
Our annual membership meeting was cancelled, including all guest speakers, presentations and awards ceremonies normally scheduled then for all our members and always open to the public.
Our annual river clean-up was also cancelled this Spring.
Fortunately, our river monitoring program “River Watch”, has continued uninterrupted. We replaced a couple of crew members, and always observe social distancing practices out in the field.
FOSCR's outreach and education efforts have been the most affected by COVID-19. We can no longer bring students from local schools to the river nor make any presentations at the schools. We also had to cancel our annual school "River Art" contest for local student artists.
Our advocacy efforts for public health, safety and environmental concerns have also been challenged and required changing most activities to virtual media. I still participate, (virtually now), on the International Boundary and Water Commission – Southeast Arizona Citizens Forum.
We have learned that even with COVID-19 and the recent departure of Sherry Sass, our long-term President, and the recent retirement of another board member, FOSCR is able to continue on-the-ground monitoring and advocacy efforts by shifting to virtual media.
FOSCR looks forward to resuming our education and outreach activities as we move forward into the 2020-21 school year.
On a balmy night late in October 1968, high above the Santa Cruz Valley, Whipple Observatory’s first telescope saw first light. More than 50 years later, in early 2020, the Observatory had grown to ~30 telescopes, launched a nationwide school education program, and embarked on its first major exhibits project since 1988.
But on March 13, 2020, telescopes and programs alike ground to a halt as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the nation.
Undeterred in their mission to encourage wonder in learning about astronomy, astrophysics, and the human connection to “what’s out there,” staff and volunteers immediately set to work on virtual programming that had long been a dream for Observatory administration. Just six days into the shutdown, the program launched, and since then has served schools and libraries all around the world, from the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State all the way to Yarra, Victoria, Australia.
The pandemic also hastened the development of Observatory programming long on the wish list, including the Star Stories podcast and the weekly What's in the Sky? digital stargazing forecast. The Observatory also has been lauded for the production of Nationwide Livestream Star Party, a collaborative star party with astronomers around the nation, which resumes post-monsoon in September 2020.
For Observatory staff, the pandemic has further highlighted the importance of collaboration between organizations, and with the community. Virtualization of Observatory programming has only been possible with the support and efforts of nearby friends and neighbors, dedicated volunteers, and colleagues from around the world.
While the reopening of the Observatory remains an unknown, development of interactive exhibits continues. You can help shape the future of the Observatory by lending your opinions to the exhibits and programming survey, open now.
The Observatory additionally continues to offer and create new virtual programming; a new Spanish-language presentation series launched in September 2020, and the annual lecture series will launch as a hybrid model in early 2021. You can learn more about upcoming virtual programming by visiting the Observatory on Facebook.
Until we meet again, keep looking up.
TUBAC HERITAGE ALLIANCE
In 2019, the Tubac Heritage Alliance formed a committee focused on attaining International Dark Sky designations for both the village of Tubac and the Tubac Presidio. These designations will ensure that our renowned stargazing remains unspoiled by excess artificial light pollution.
IDA applications require a significant amount of public outreach. From October through January, we hosted a number of educational events and were in the final stages of planning an April 2020 dark sky art exhibition at the Tubac Presidio. We were excited to be showcasing the work of many talented artists and hosting attendees from throughout the Tubac area. Then COVID-19 intervened, and for the sake of safety, we were obliged to postpone the exhibition.
Fortunately, much of our committee’s work has continued despite the pandemic: coordinating with the county on an updated lighting ordinance that complies with IDA standards, performing current lighting inventories, establishing a sky brightness measuring program, and gathering detailed material required for the IDA application. Our Tubac Heritage Alliance Facebook page also provides timely information and updates for hundreds of followers. Through this page, we will be presenting some of the artists who will display their work during the upcoming Presidio art exhibition. While we have not been holding in-person committee meetings, much of our work continues by email and phone.
Our goal is to preserve the attributes that make Tubac a special place, while supporting nature and history-based tourism and thoughtful growth. During these challenging times, Tubac's night sky remains a constant, and our work to protect it is more important than ever.
For more information about our dark sky initiative, or if you would like to assist with our projects, please visit us on Facebook