Reading through the articles about the DDC over the years provides perspective on the proposal. Very recent articles are listed first followed by all Articles listed from oldest to latest.

A city council meeting video (January 11, 2017) in which it was stated the city council can build whatever it wants in the Preserve. The full video is on the city web site.  City Council Meeting Jan 11, 2017

Information Analysis  Read this analysis of some of the mis-information being put out during the election cycle by either side of the debate.


Click on the article to read it.

My Turn article from the Arizona Republic written by Howard Myers outlining some of the history of the Desert Discovery Center and his concerns with the plan.

An article from the Arizona Republic written by Andrea Keck outlining the three top concerns residents have voiced about the proposed Desert Discovery Center.

The author media source, and date are shown below the title. These are listed as most recent first.

My Turn – Solange Whitehead

Arizona Republic July 21st, 2017

Proposed Desert Project Sparking Protests

Channel 12 News October 21st, 2016

Scottsdale residents must take back control on big decisions

Howard Myers, AZ I See It 3:49 p.m. MST October 10, 2016

Scottsdale Desert Discovery Center Aims For ‘Small Footprint And A Big Vision’

By  Mark Brodie  KJZZ audio only: Published: Thursday, September 29, 2016 – 2:33pm

Roberts: Scottsdale mayor threatens to sue his own citizens

Laurie Roberts, The Republic | 6:40 a.m. MST September 29, 2016

After unsuccessful petition, Scottsdale to build Discovery Center on Preserve

By David Caltabiano   Cronkite News     Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016

Controversy spikes as Scottsdale plans Desert Discovery Center

By Keerthi Vedantam   Cronkite News     Monday, Sept. 26, 2016

Scottsdale’s proposed Desert Discovery Center: 5 big questions

 (in paper as “Questions on proposed desert center, answered”)

Parker Leavitt,             Az Rep     9/24/2016

Scottsdale Desert Discovery Center critics remain steadfast in fight for public vote

By Terrance Thornton Sep 21st, 2016 Comments: 0

Petition To Require Votes On Scottsdale Preserve Projects On Hold

KJZZ By  Mark Brodie  Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2016 – 4:41pm

Roberts: Scottsdale leaders ‘preserve’ their right to develop protected land

Laurie Roberts          Az Rep     9/20/2016

Scottsdale’s proposed Desert Discovery Center won’t get a public vote

Parker Leavitt          Az Rep         9/20/2016

Scottsdale Desert Discovery Center critics remain steadfast in fight for public vote

By Terrance Thornton Sep 21st, 2016


Older Articles, listed oldest first and latest last.

Scottsdale councilman shares view on General Plan

Littlefield        Az Rep            3/31/2014        To GP Task Force, including Preserve


Scottsdale vice mayor seeks stay on preserve land deals

Beth Duckett,             Az Rep            4/3/2014          The Republic


Scottsdale Community Voices: Call for preserve ‘moratorium’ may have other motives

Az Rep            4/9/2014          Special for The Republic


Scottsdale Community Voices: Don’t undermine voters on Sonoran Preserve

Jim Heitel        Az Rep            4/11/2014        Special for The Republic


Desert Discovery Center may get Scottsdale City Council direction

Terrance Thornton       Indep   3/18/2015        4 Comments

Christine Kovak video on the creation of the Preserve Mar 20, 2015 :

Scottsdale moves forward with Desert Discovery Center RFQ

Terrance Thornton       Indep   3/25/2015        1 Comments


Scottsdale moving ahead on Desert Discovery Center 

Beth Duckett,             Az Rep            4/14/2015        The Republic


Scottsdale forges ahead with McDowell Sonoran Preserve Desert Discovery Center

Terrance Thornton       Indep   9/10/2015        1 Comments


Desert Discovery Center may move forward in Scottsdale

Beth Duckett,             Az Rep            9/16/2015        The Republic


Scottsdale councilmen square off at first of three bond debates

Melissa Fittro Indep   10/1/2015        1 Comments


Setting the Scottsdale bond-program record straight

Linda Milhaven           Indep   10/8/2015        5 Comments


Desert Discovery Center poised to boost Scottsdale businesses

Mark Hiegel    Indep   12/10/2015      4 Comments


Elected leaders of Scottsdale discuss municipal goals of 2016

Terrance Thornton       Indep   1/6/2016          0 Comments


People are the lifeblood of the Desert Discovery Center

Michelle Olson            Indep   1/13/2016        4 Comments


Scottsdale City Council lays foundation for Desert Discovery Center

Terrance Thornton       Indep   1/13/2016        2 Comments


Scottsdale commits $1.7M for Desert Discovery Center 

Parker Leavitt Az Rep            1/15/2016        The Republic


Scottsdale approves continued evaluation of DDC concept

Scottsdale Independent          Indep   1/18/2016        0 Comments


Welcome to the Scottsdale political Twilight Zone

John Washington        Indep   1/22/2016        3 Comments


Scottsdale Celebrates 25-Year Effort To Save McDowell Sonoran Preserve

KJZZ interview with Korte,   KJZZ   1/22/2016


Scottsdale Desert Discovery Center is ‘the poster child for the worst aspects of government’

Bob Littlefield            Indep   1/25/2016        17 Comments


The three pillars of Scottsdale tourism

Jack Miller       Indep   2/3/2016          5 Comments


Could downtown Scottsdale be the right fit for the Desert Discovery Center?

Bill Crawford Indep   2/5/2016          4 Comments


‘People’s Preserve’ celebrates 20 years in Scottsdale

Opinion: Joan Fudala,             Az Rep            2/26/2016        My Turn


3 ways to make Scottsdale an even bigger draw

Jack Miller,      Az Rep            3/3/2016          My Turn: AZ I See It


Scottsdale launches community conversations on Desert Discovery Center

Scottsdale Independent          Indep   3/17/2016        0 Comments


Desert Discovery Center should go to public vote in Scottsdale,

Andrea Keck   Az Rep            3/21/2016        My Turn:


Meetings coming up on Desert Discovery Center in Scottsdale

Az Rep            3/21/2016        Special for The Republic


Scottsdale has a lot in common with Washington D.C.

Guy Phillips-   Az Rep            4/7/2016          My Turn:


Scottsdale DDC conversations to begin April 20-21

Scottsdale Independent          Indep   4/14/2016        0 Comments


9 facts on Desert Discovery Center in Scottsdale

Dan Gruber,    Az Rep            4/19/2016        My Turn: AZ I See It


New stage in Scottsdale Desert Discovery Center saga takes shape

Terrance Thornton       Indep   4/27/2016        21 Comments


Reporting on Scottsdale Desert Discovery Center misses the mark

Andrea Keck   Indep   4/28/2016        2 Comments


‘for supporters of the preserve, the right choice is Bob Littlefield’

Christine Schild          Indep   5/4/2016          7 Comments


The facts about Scottsdale are public record

John Washington        Indep   5/5/2016          1 Comments


Mayor Jim Lane and Scottsdale City Council

Bill Crawford Indep   5/9/2016          1 Comments


McDowell Sonoran Preserve endowment gains support at Scottsdale City Council

Terrance Thornton       Indep   5/11/2016        1 Comments


Scottsdale public kept in the dark on the Desert Discovery Center

Howard Myers            Indep   5/31/2016        31 Comments


DDCS hosts fundraising film screening in Scottsdale

Scottsdale Independent          Indep   5/31/2016        0 Comments


Bringing the Scottsdale Preserve vision to life: the facts

Carolyn Allen Indep   6/3/2016          31 Comments


Scottsdale City Council candidates talk election qualifications

Terrance Thornton       Indep   6/7/2016          2 Comments


Tourism chieftains: Scottsdale Desert Discovery Center vote shows foresight

Scottsdale Tourism Leaders    Indep   6/8/2016          32 Comments


Swaback Partners get Scottsdale Desert Discovery Center contract, again

Terrance Thornton       Indep   6/9/2016          5 Comments


Scottsdale Desert Discovery Center polls seem out of place

Richard Alt     Indep   6/13/2016        3 Comments


Scottsdale mayoral candidates talk unique qualities for elected role

Terrance Thornton       Indep   6/15/2016        21 Comments


Current Scottsdale Desert Discovery Center plan serves special interests -not preservation efforts

Jason Alexander          Indep   6/30/2016        6 Comments


Littlefield: I support the DDC idea — not the ‘Desert Disneyland’

Bob Littlefield            Indep   6/30/2016        10 Comments


Examine facts and location of Desert Discovery Center

Jim Davis        Az Rep            7/16/2016


Public kept in the dark on the Desert Discovery Center

Howard Myers,           Az Rep            7/16/2016        My Turn: AZ I See It


Scottsdale environmental board discusses DDC ‘green building’

Scottsdale Independent          Indep   7/21/2016


Scottsdale’s proposed Desert Discovery Center too big, too commercial

Jason Alexander          Az Rep            7/30/2016


The Independent Interview: Mark Hiegel

Terrance Thornton       Indep   8/1/2016          8 Comments


Scottsdale City Council candidates define stance on Desert Discovery Center

Terrance Thornton       Indep   8/3/2016          8 Comments


Scottsdale’s Desert Discovery Center could get a public vote

Parker Leavitt Az Rep            8/6/2016

Desert Discovery Center facts misrepresented by opponents

Jim Derouin 8/19/2016

Desert Discovery Center opponent disputes Derouin statement of facts

Jason Alexander  Independent  08/19/ 2016

Sad we need a vote to protect Sonoran Preserve

Bob Littlefield     Az Rep      8/20/2016

Put the Desert Discovery Center in public’s hands

Jim Lane             Az Rep      08/20/2016

Scottsdale’s proposed Desert Discovery Center too big, too commercial

Jason Alexander          AzRep             08-22-2016

Disagreement Over The Future Of Scottsdale’s Desert Discovery Center

Steve Goldstein KJZZ Show 8/29/2016

Additional Comments


Angry: at myself, those converting taxpayer dollars

I didn’t know anything about the DDC and I admit that it was because it never crossed my mind that the purpose of the Preserve Tax was the opposite of Preserving the McDowell Mountains.

How silly of me.

Now that I am starting to comprehend the extent of deception and the magnitude of the Campana Jeep Tour Theme Park aka the DDC, I am really angry.

Partly mad at myself for trusting the Council but mostly angry at those who convert taxpayer dollars and Preserve property to cronies’ business ventures.

Mike Norton


DDC would be ‘political suicide to oppose’

Councilman Phillips is stoking fears and not pursuing Scottsdale’s best interests. If constructed, the DDC will become a feature destination in Scottsdale. It will provide greater access and research to the Sonoran Desert and expand Scottsdale’s tourism and economy. It’s the type of project that, after constructed, would be political suicide to oppose.

Barry Graham


Scottsdale Independent – unknown when

From the Scottsdale Independent – Desert Disneyland Center!

By Jason Alexander

Posted by Patricia Shaler Scottsdale Tea Party 876.60sc on July 01, 2016

Several members of Scottsdale City Council along with their contractor Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale are planning to build a massive tourist attraction at the Gateway Trailhead — the Desert Discovery Center. The jumping off point for public meetings on the DDC is a 30-acre, $74 million facility that will be bigger than the Cardinals home at Glendale Stadium.

Special Interests and DDCS staff have been vigorously spreading a false narrative about this project — that it has been planned for 25 years at the Gateway location. It is true that the DDC as an idea has been around since the early 90s. The initial, small scope was twice implemented already as 1) the Florence Ely Nelson Desert Park and 2) the current amenities at the Gateway Trailhead.

These amenities include the wonderful, handicapped-accessible Bajada Nature Trail complete with signage and educational content. There are fantastic, free events almost every week at Gateway, presented by the Stewards of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy and incredible organizations such as the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center.

The DDC project morphed from its humble scope to its massive bloat in 2008, as a result of

a small, invite-only committee that was dominated by current City Council members Virginia Korte and Linda Milhaven, along with special interest representatives such as Melinda Gullick of DMB development and Frank Jacobson of the Scottsdale Cultural Council.

This backroom committee led directly to the 2010 Swaback plan of 30 acres, $74 million that has been the basis of every current discussion of the DDC. While we don’t know exactly what the latest metastasis of this project will be, the City Council led by Korte, Milhaven and Jim Lane just voted to give another $500,000 to the very same Swaback Partners to perform yet another study. It bears repeating that Korte and Milhaven were part of a select group that drove the current scope — we believe they are being completely disingenuous when they claim the scope is undetermined. We believe, based on the history of this project, it will be even bigger this time around.

The notion that this has always been planned for Gateway is also false. Until the late 90s, the DDC was planned for Pinnacle Peak Park. It was moved, quietly, by the Tourism Development Commission in 1997. It was approved to be at Gateway in 2007 by the City Council in a consent agenda item — not a public vote or public vetting of the concept.

DDCS and other supporters claim the Gateway is a perfect site, based on a 2013 site analysis conducted by, Swaback Partners, again. However, a cursory reading of this study shows that all the site evaluation criteria were based on the Gateway’s attributes. At times the document defies common sense, such as when it claims the Gateway would be a better location for meetings versus the city’s site along Bell Road at Westworld that has over 1 million visitors a year.

The real reason DDC supporters are so insistent on building at the Gateway is there is an anticipated $30 million surplus in the Preserve Fund, and a $30 million annuity to be set aside for maintenance of the Preserve’s trails and trailheads. Korte, Milhaven, Lane, and their special interest friends want to sweep this money into the DDC and away from the intent of the voters. The DDC will be a massive commercial endeavor. It will violate the Preserve ordinance, the Preserve mission, the nature of the Gateway facility, and the character of the surrounding neighborhoods. Proof of this plan is found in DDCS’ own statement of qualifications, presented by DDCS to the city staff in obtaining their no-bid contract to manage the DDC project in the Spring of 2015.

“The DDC will require funding sources beyond admission fees, activity/event charges and memberships in order to reach financial self-sufficiency. Proceeds from food service retail, facility rentals and other sources, plus donations and grants all are vital for success. These must be allowed at the DDC,” page 13 of the document states.

“Like virtually every other similar facility, in order to be self-sufficient the DDC must offer a mixture of revenue-generating options to supplement entrance fees, memberships and donations. These include retail (a DDC shop and retail website), food service (a cafe or restaurant serving alcohol), rental space for meetings and special events including catering and other revenue-generating facilities and activities, such as fee-based educational offerings for children and adults,” page 14 of the document states.

DDCS acknowledges that they cannot avoid operating at a loss without being commercial. However, even with this commercial aspect baked into the plan, DDCS believes they will lose money for the first five years. Their strategy is to rely on city funds.

“Stabilization would occur in year four, with a range of three to five years. During this stabilization period … the assurance of a City ‘safety net’ for the DDC during this five-year transition period will make it easier,” page 14 states.

The proposed commercial facilities add almost 20 percent to the physical footprint and construction costs of the DDC. They require many employees and specialized services, which will dramatically inflate operational costs. The untenable finances and massive commercial nature of this project force it to be even more commercial.

The DDCS is under pressure to turn a profit via commercialism, yet relies on city funds and handouts to cover operating expenses. They will require a change to the Preserve ordinance allowing commercialism. Such an ordinance change will open a Pandora’s Box for commercialism across the Preserve. DDCS Executive Director Sam Campana’s prior job before promoting this tourist attraction was operating a local franchise of Pink Jeep Tours.

We think Pink Jeeps throttling across the desert will have a serious negative impact on local home values.

There has not yet been a proven economic impact analysis yet showing positive effects of this DDC on city revenue — we have only heard cheerleading from those in the tourism and development industries. However, a study performed by Places Consulting for the Scottsdale Hospitality and Tourism Industry in 2013 raised significant concerns about the DDC.

Criticisms included: unrealistic income expectations, lack of identified funding sources, using bed tax dollars at the expense of other needs, no attempt to estimate how many new tourists this facility would bring in, and competition from facilities like the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

There are clear precedents for this type of public-private operation being a massive money-loser for the taxpayers: the Scottsdale Cultural Council and the Museum of the West. Members of DDCS’ leadership have long ties to these organizations, and city staff constantly refers to these organizations as models for the current project.

The current plan of $74 million will cost each and every citizen in Scottsdale $300 to build, and countless more to operate. Scottsdale’s per capita debt it the highest of all cities in the Valley thanks to Lane’s administration. Again, we fear the negative impact to home values across the city.

Council members Korte, Milhaven, Lane, Klapp and Smith have proven themselves time and again to listen to developers and special interests above the voters. Simply review their voting history regarding so many recent zoning exemptions, the light rail, Artisan Market, developers, the Cultural Council: we believe you can fully predict their vote on the DDC.

We urge everyone opposed to the DDC to examine their voting history, watch upcoming City Council meetings, and make your voices heard during the November election.

Editor’s note: Mr. Alexander is part of No DDC, a grassroots organization opposing the project, and can be reached at