Executive Update For You from Christine Conte

May 27, 2020

Dear Tohono Chul Family,

Every challenge presents an opportunity to learn and grow. And nothing in Tohono Chul’s 35-year history has put that maxim to the test like this current pandemic.

Fear and anxiety brought on by uncertainty can be paralyzing. But with immense gratitude for your outpouring of support and that of the community, we’re harnessing that energy. Taking small steps within a tighter time frame. Staying connected while physically distanced. Working creatively. Building more powerful partnerships and social networks.

Why? Because we know for certain, and more than ever before, that Tohono Chul’s purpose is invaluable and irreplaceable!

“…to connect people to the nature, art and
culture of the Sonoran Desert region and inspire
wise stewardship of the natural world”

So today, I’d like to share some of the things we’re learning, planning and doing with and for you.

It is heartening to hear your feedback about the programming that staff has undertaken during the closure. They’re inspired to hear from so many of you about the new web pages – Tohono Chul @ home with more hands-on activities designed to keep kids and adults alike happily engaged while physically isolated.

A long-time friend, donor and volunteer said, “I thought last week’s edition was terrific, and this week is even more awesome!” This community connection is an especially precious and valuable gift right now.

Because so many of you told us how you were grieving the loss of the festive Spring Plant Sale event, the entire team rallied to create a safe curbside pick-up version. The process is new and has challenged our resources to the hilt, but it’s now in its third iteration. Making people happy. Mitigating loss of inventory and bringing in revenue to sustain the gardens. The crisis offered an opportunity to be well prepared—just in case we find ourselves unable to gather for the next Plant Sale.

All of this in the midst of another transition.

Lee Mason has retired after more than 20 years leading gardens, plant propagation and facilities maintenance. His talents and achievements are far too numerous to list in this letter, but rest assured, his legacy lives on in the people he has trained over the years.

I have every confidence in this team and their ability to handle the preparations necessary to ensure your safety on grounds. For his first big challenge, Bryce Beamish is ready to take on Bloom Watch so stay tuned.

When and how will we reopen? Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t ask me when we will reopen. I am grateful for your patience and understanding. One of the most heartening comments from a beloved long-term docent leader is, “We are all here standing at the ready when you can open.”

This is not easy even for a mainly open-air place. We will rely on scientific data, real world scenarios and a pragmatic, caring approach valuing all precious lives. Safety first and that means relying on solid scientific information about progress towards flattening the curve. Please see this Pima County daily update for criteria for phased resumption of business: https://webcms.pima.gov

We are fortunate to be part of a strong network of organizations such as the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) and the Southern Arizona Cultural Leadership Council (SACLC), and public entities like Pima County and the Town of Oro Valley. Sharing information and resources. Learning from one another’s mistakes as well as our successes. It is impossible to overstate how important these partnerships have been and will continue to be as we navigate the months and years to come.

Details about reopening will be forthcoming but here is a preview of how it will begin:

– Phased re-opening of the grounds in sync with Pima County safety criteria.
– Sanitizing and social distancing procedures and resources at the ready.
– Grounds open 7am-2pm daily.
– Admission by online purchase and timed entry only.
– If safety and health criteria are met, mid-June is the most optimistic opening possible.

In many ways these difficult times send all of us back to the basics. Much like the Wilson family, who steadfastly refused to sell their precious home to commercial development, staying true to our core values is key. In these most difficult times, we must focus on the mission, care for one another, the planet we inhabit and the things that still bring us joy. The Wilson’s legacy also reminds us to do the right thing! Even when pressured to act in haste!

We may be far from finding our way out of the thorny forest, but there is beauty and much to learn and accomplish in the here and now.

I am unspeakably grateful to you for your support—moral and financial. Your gifts continue to give us hope that Tohono Chul will not only survive this year ahead, but thrive well into the future.

Thank you. It is clear that all of you are doing all you can to ensure that Tohono Chul Survives and Thrives. Your gifts buoy us, inspire us and remind us that YOU are Tohono Chul!

Warm regards,

Christine Conte, PhD

Executive Director