At 6,514 feet, Thumb Butte, a prominent summit of volcanic origin, dominates the western skyline of Prescott, AZ and serves as an iconic landmark for residents and visitors alike. In the early 1990s, the Central Arizona Land Trust (CALT) formed, in part, because of development threats at its base. CALT working with the City of Prescott (COP) bolstered by overwhelming public support, protected the eastern flank or face of Thumb Butte permanently from development.
The story begins in the early 1980s with the construction of what was known as the 'Scar' – a building platform excavated for a future home site by the landowners at the time. The unsightly earthworks generated negative public reaction, which ultimately convinced the landowner to abandon building on the site. The parcel was eventually put up for sale in the early 1990s. CALT and the COP jointly acquired it on January 5, 1993 and the adjacent parcel to the east on September 15, 2005 after an extensive public fundraising campaign to purchase both. The 'Scar' acquisition was also the beginning of a concerted effort by CALT and the COP to raise additional funds to acquire other adjacent parcels. Ultimately, CALT and the COP raised funds to acquire six additional parcels for a total of seven acres. Once purchased, conservation easements were established to ensure permanent protection from development and then conveyed to the City of Prescott as public open space. CALT refers to the contiguous parcels as the “Thumb Butte Conservation Easement”.
Along with protection of the Thumb Butte Conservation Easement (CE), there was a concerted effort by various stakeholders to restore native vegetation at the site of the “Scar” in the mid 1990s. Although barely noticeable today, the “Scar” was an obvious blemish for anyone looking at Thumb Butte from the east. Stakeholders initiated plans to restore the site, and ultimately enough money was raised to contract private consultants to plant native trees and shrubs. Without this determined effort to revegetate the site, it would have been difficult to establish slow growing, native shrubs and trees.
The CE is bounded by the Prescott National Forest to the west, which greatly contributes to the open space values. The CE in turn also provides an additional open space buffer and connectivity for species who use the promontory on Thumb Butte and the surrounding undeveloped lands as a place of refuge on a permanent or seasonal basis. One spectacular seasonal visitor is the Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), which nests on the cliffs of Thumb Butte from February to July. To protect the breeding pair during this important time period, the Prescott National Forest strongly enforces a closure, which restricts access near the nest site. The east side of this closure is along the entire Prescott National Forest boundary of the CE.
Views from the CE are outstanding. There is a 180-degree panorama including the Sierra Prieta Range and the Bradshaw Mountains, the grasslands of Chino Valley, Mingus Mountain, and the Mogollon Rim, along with the higher summits of the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Public access to the Thumb Butte Conservation Easement is off Thumb Butte Rd. Turn left onto Circle P and follow it to Parker Road. A limited parking area is located at the bottom of Parker Road just before the dirt roadway becomes too steep to access. Follow the road until you reach a small sign highlighting the CE and trail access. We ask that if you decide to visit the site, that you please respect the privacy of local landowners by not driving up Parker Rd. and remaining quiet traveling through the area.
The Thumb Butte Conservation Easement is a testament of how CALT works to find solutions for land protection that conserves both natural resources and our Western Heritage. Enjoy your visit and contact CALT with any questions about conservation easements or open space.
An image from the late 1980's showing Thumb Butte
and the 'scar' in the lower left.
The Central Arizona Land Trust is an Arizona nonprofit corporation and is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) and a qualifying organization under Section 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of the Internal Revenue Code for the acceptance of conservation easements.
Central Arizona Land Trust
PO Box 1050
Prescott, AZ, 86302
Office Location: 1577 Plaza W. Dr., Prescott, AZ 86303