The SaddleBrooke Hiking Club and Its Labor of Love

Pam Wakefield, Lori Anderson, Teresa Woodhouse, Bruce Olson, Ken Wong, Leslie Hawkins, Mike Hatfield, and Tom Stafford

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

The Hiking Club’s main mission is to offer hikes in Arizona to its 600 members; however, most people do not know that the SaddleBrooke Hiking Club also takes responsibility for maintaining Catalina Hills Drive. This long and winding road, which leads to The Preserve, is the road off of SaddleBrooke Boulevard. And, as all thoroughfares do, the boulevard gathers mounds of trash along its roughly three-mile route. Enter the SaddleBrooke Hiking Club, which does a biennial trash clean-up of this picturesque drive that overlooks our beautiful SaddleBrooke. I had occasion to sit down with club member Walt Shields, D.D.S., coordinator of the Catalina Hills Drive clean-up, to discuss this herculean effort by the club.

Dr. Shields, could you please tell me about this clean-up effort?

This clean-up effort began in 2007 and is held in April or May and again in late October. At each cleaning, several Hiking Club members participate in the activity.

The clean-up effort is coordinated with Pinal County Public Works, which provides the orange bags and the yellow safety vests that are used when cleaning up the corridor. All Hiking Club participants have to sign a mandatory release form provided by Pinal County Public Works.

About six or seven extra-large garbage bags are collected at each cleaning. Then a county truck picks up the filled bags.

What types of items are collected during the clean-up?

Generally, items that are blown from construction trucks, but also tires, cans, beer bottles, and paper products of all sorts. We have even picked up a guitar and a door frame, as well as a full bottle of Malbec wine!

The History of the Hiking Clean-Up, by Ken Wong, President

Bill Leightenheimer, founder of the club, initiated the clean-up project in March of 2007, with Walt Shields taking over as only the second person to lead this initiative. This is one of the key community outreach activities for the club. Additionally, the club provides maintenance of Segment 13A of the Arizona Trail, a 4.3-mile leg from the American Flag trailhead to Kannally Wash, located in the Oracle State Park area.

This Hiking Club effort is important for two reasons: It perpetuates the commitment made by Bill Leightenheimer to help keep our community free of litter and, as well, it engages our members in a meaningful community service that is beneficial to SaddleBrooke.

About Pinal County Public Works

According to Ray Telles, Public Information Officer, Development Services, Pinal County has had some form of volunteer highway clean-up going back decades. However, in 2015 we rebranded the effort as Adopt a County Road. The program has had such a positive impact on both the aesthetic and environmental condition of our roadways and deserts. In 2023 more than 120 clean-up groups picked up 1,305 bags of trash along county-maintained roadways. In just the first four months of 2024, they have picked up more than 500 bags of trash. In addition, Maricopa and Pima Counties have similar programs. Within Pinal County, the cities of Eloy, Casa Grande, Apache Junction, as well as ADOT have Adopt a Road programs. Thank you to all of our volunteers who participate in this effort. Without them, our roadways and deserts would be littered with trash and waste, which is not only ugly, but damaging to the environment.

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