Loved to Death? Popular Recreation Area Needs A Helping Hand

Butcher Jones Recreation Site

By Jill Bernstein

Arizona’s natural recreation areas attract millions of visitors throughout the year. All those visitors, if they aren’t careful, can create a lot of trash, degrading the landscape and increasing the risk of contamination or injury for visitors.

Butcher Jones is an outdoor recreation area 31 miles northeast of Mesa near Saguaro Lake. The beach and picnic area at Butcher Jones is one of the most visited sites in the Tonto National Forest, and for good reason. It is a popular area for off-highway vehicles, fishing, hiking, walking (dogs on leashes are welcome), nature trips, horseback riding, and bird watching. The views are spectacular, and the fun is almost endless. This area is also a major watershed into the Salt River system during rains, as well as an incredible habitat for desert animals.

The widespread appeal of Butcher Jones has created an ongoing struggle to keep the area free from trash, illegal dumping and graffiti. People are becoming increasingly aware that to enjoy the natural beauty of Arizona, we all must play our part in keeping nature free of rubbish. As this awareness continues to grow, more groups are organizing clean ups and educating their neighbors. Everyone has an impact!

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A Rewarding Opportunity to Do Your Part

Natural Restorations, a nonprofit organization dedicated to removing rubbish from natural areas in Arizona, is sponsoring a trash cleanup event at Butcher Jones on Saturday, March 11, at 8:00 a.m. Volunteers under the age of 18 must be accompanied and supervised by an adult. Families, groups and clubs are welcome!

Created in early 2015 by Justin and Nicole Corey, Natural Restorations is dedicated to preventing natural areas from being closed to the public through restoration and conservation projects, along with public education. In 2016 alone they removed more than 92,000 pounds of trash from natural areas across Arizona!

“We believe that when children and adults take part in stewardship efforts, they develop a better connection to our natural areas and a deeper understanding of what it takes to preserve them,” said Nicole Corey. “By creating a more personal relationship with these areas through physical action, people are more likely to leave a minimal footprint in the future and to help guide others to do the same, thus keeping natural areas open and available for future generations.”

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In 2017, through a grant from Arizona State Parks Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Fund, Natural Restorations will host three volunteer events and launch a dedicated restoration team that will complete 12 projects in local OHV areas (including Butcher Jones, Lower Sycamore and Mesquite Wash) as well as the Cinder Pits in Flagstaff.

This team expands the impact of Natural Restoration’s vision and provides low-stress and highly rewarding employment opportunities for military veterans. The dedicated team works in areas that see repeated dumping and graffiti problems; are too remote or unsafe for volunteers or do not require many volunteers; or that are spread out over more than a few miles.

For more on Natural Restorations and the cleanup event at the Butcher Jones recreation site, visit

Jill Bernstein is the Executive Director of Keep Arizona Beautiful, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering communities to take care of their environment through litter abatement, recycling and beautification.

Photos Courtesy of Natural Restorations.

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