We see them every day in all their spectacular glory, rising from the desert floor majestically towards the heavens. Beautiful mountain ranges surround our gorgeous valley. They are breathtaking and iconic and attract visitors from around the globe, inspiring outdoor enthusiasts, conservationists, adventurists, artists and dreamers.
Those of us who live here are fortunate to have these glorious backdrops to not only gaze upon but to hike and explore and discover treasures. But who looks out for and maintains some of their most important and accessible trails?
Since 1987, the Friends of the Desert Mountains have maintained and watched over many of the popular areas found just a few miles up highway 74 in Palm Desert. The nonprofit was formed by a group of concerned citizens who were determined to help protect the conservation land resources of the Coachella Valley.
With offices located next to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains, high above downtown El Paseo, the many “Friends” gather at National Monument Visitor Center with rakes and shovels and take to the trails to maintain and keep safe the conditions of the many hikable areas.
Thanks to their efforts, there are many hiking options with varying degrees of difficulty. From the most challenging trails devoted to experienced hikers to a beautifully created short trail modified and made accessible for wheelchairs, walkers and stroller access, all are overseen and maintained by the Friends of the Desert Mountain’s passionate volunteers like Gordon Fidler, a retired chef who discovered this passion for the outdoors eight years ago.
“I was a chef in Rancho Mirage for 20 years, and when I retired I wanted to stay in the desert and still be active and productive,” Fidler said.
Productive indeed. Tammy Martin, the organization’s executive director, told us that “Gordon is a super volunteer. He has tirelessly worked on these trails for over 1,000 hours each year for the past eight years. He knows so much about the history of these mountains and truly loves being a part of our Friends of the Desert Mountain family. We are so thankful for his amazing contributions.”
Fidler took us for a tour of the impressive wheelchair-accessible paved trail. He shared how important the history and knowledge of our environment is.
“We get many school group and youth visits,” he said. “They are always eager to learn about the local vegetation wildlife and fun facts about this region.”
He says educating our young people is crucial but equally important for him was adapting a trail to make it safe for visitors with physical challenges.
“I am proud that our nonprofit was able to widen and pave the pathway of one of the short trails so guests of all abilities can access it,” he said. “Now wheelchairs walkers and even strollers can easily navigate the trail and take in all the beauty of this area. We had to level the ground so it would be even and easier for those who might have difficulty walking on uneven surfaces. It’s safe and perfect for our seniors — and even for those newly walking toddlers — to explore.”
According to Martin, “Every Tuesday in season, Gordon and his group of trailhead volunteers pack in picks, shovels and cans of spray paint to maintain more than 300 miles of Coachella Valley trails. This crew takes on repairing eroding trails, creating safer paths and even covering up unwanted graffiti. It’s such important work, and we so appreciate Gordon and these volunteers.”
In addition to trails, Fidler also helps Friends keep an eye on the nearly 20,000 acres of conserved land still cared for by the nonprofit. He and other volunteers drive out to the remote landholdings and walk the perimeters, hiking the sandy rocky lands looking for illegal dumping and fire hazards, and they document any signs of encroachment.
All of this tireless work is crucial to our community, so it’s for this enormous outreach that we award the Friends of the Desert Mountains our Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation Power of Community $1,000 grant in Fidler’s name so they may continue their excellent work in the mountains of our beautiful valley.
“If you are ever out hiking in the Coachella Valley and you come across Gordon, give him a smile and a thank you for all the work he does,” Martin said. “We are all so indebted to his passionate commitment to our trails. And because of his and the other volunteer’s great work we can safely say: Happy trails, Coachella Valley!”
To learn more about Friends of the Desert Mountains or to volunteer or donate, visit desertmountains.org.
Sandie Newton is an award-winning broadcast journalist who began her career in Los Angeles as cohost of the nationally syndicated show “PM Magazine.” She went on to host many local and national shows like “Hollywood Insider” before becoming one of the original anchors for E! and a regular on Hallmark Channel’s “Home & Family.” In 2017, she moved to the desert full time, creating and hosting NBCares for more than six years, profiling over 300 valley nonprofits. She is currently the host of “Desert Chat,” a new half-hour lifestyle show spotlighting all the good people, events and news in the Coachella Valley, debuting in September on KESQ and Fox 11.
Source link [gs_pinterest id=1]