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Rescue rangers ramp up for summer in national parks

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National park rangers in Arizona are preparing for the annual summer surge of slips, trips, falls and rescues. Each year, more than 10 million people visit the 22 national parks, monuments and historic sites in Arizona. And each year, hundreds of those people are rescued. “Prevention is huge,” said Christian Malcolm, who leads the Preventive Search and Rescue program at Grand Canyon National Park. “You want to do everything you can to educate your population.” The most common rescues in Arizona’s national parks involve heat-related illnesses and visitors who are unprepared or unfit, said Kenneth Phillips, the National Park Service-wide coordinator for emergency services, based in Flagstaff. In 2014, national parks around the country responded to 2,658 search-and-rescue incidents, including injuries, illnesses, fatalities, lost visitors, and most of all, people who were unprepared or unfit for the activities they...

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Arizona geocachers banned from land

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The Arizona State Trust Land Department officially banned geocaching on their grounds last year, saying the outdoor recreation violates state policy against litter, according to Eric Schudiske, spokesman for Groundspeak, operators of the Geocaching website that provides a centralized repository of caches nationally. Hundreds of thousands of geocaches in the state are in jeopardy of never being found again due to the ban, Schudiske said. “There’s been a big rift between (the state) and the geocaching community,” Schudiske said. Geocaching (geo-cashing) is a recreational sport where participants use GPS devices to locate hidden treasures placed in the wild. Small containers are hidden containing a logbook and trinket for visitors. Participants then usually trade an item of equal value to leave for the next geocacher to discover. Arizona is in the top tier of geocaching states in the country, sitting...

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Bike-share programs spreading in Arizona

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Bright green bikes are spreading through the state. Last fall, Phoenix collaborated with CycleHop and Social Bicycles to launch Arizona’s first bike share program, Grid Bike Share. Members reserve one of 500 bikes from among 50 stations planted in downtown Phoenix. Tucson, Tempe and Mesa are not far behind. “The more people we get riding a bicycle with the understanding that the bicycle is part of a multimodal system of getting around the city and a potential part of eliminating congestion and a lot of problems that cars produce, the better,” said Giovanni Arico, manager for Grid Bike Share. More than 600 cities around the world utilize bike share systems, according to the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy based in New York City. In the United States, 77 cities are either operating or launching a bike share program....

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Miss Rita: Bringing heart and soul to Arizona football

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It’s impossible to miss her big smile and bright blonde hair bouncing through the football facility. If you know anything about Arizona football, then you know who Coach Rich Rodriguez is. But if you know the ins and outs of the team, you know “Miss Rita” Rodriguez. Rita grew up playing sports and has loved football for as long as she can remember. She attended Fairmont State College for three years and then met Rich. She transferred to West Virginia University, where she cheered and he played football, and they’ve been a team ever since. Throughout Rich’s career, Rita has been his never-ending encouragement. When he was coaching at Glenville, W.Va., State College the budget was small and they relied on volunteer help. Rita did her share. The field didn’t have an emblem on it and she wanted to...

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Youth soccer on the rise in Arizona

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More and more Arizona youth are taking up soccer as they look up to the stars in the FIFA World Cup and Major League Soccer. The Arizona Youth Soccer Association, a Phoenix-based group that governs youth soccer for the entire state, reported participation by boys and girls spiking from 31,504 in 2013 to 40,078 this past year, a 27 percent increase “With the increased popularity of soccer and the growth in our state, we would be excited to reach our goal of over 50,000 players by the year 2017,” said Kelleigh Evans, administrative assistant for the soccer association. The group oversees more than 70 youth clubs spread throughout Arizona as well as the Olympic Development Program state team, which hosts annual tryouts to identify the best talent in the state for competition in national tournaments. According to Evans and Wendy Anaya,...

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Phony baron swindled early Arizona residents

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Once upon a time, the area of land stretching from Phoenix to New Mexico was part of the Barony of Arizona. At least, that’s what James Reavis, the “Baron of Arizona,” would have had you believe. In the early 1880s, Reavis swindled settlers in the Arizona territory, claiming he had a Spanish land grant for 12 million acres. He set up shop in Florence, opening an office for quitclaim deeds. A quitclaim deed is a piece of paper that transfers a claim of land from one person to another. Reavis sold them to settlers for $25 apiece, but retained water rights.  “People were horrified,” said Lynn Smith, a volunteer at the Pinal County Historical Society. “This was early on when people were settling and to find out that they don’t own the land, that Reavis does? A lot of...

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Legislative roundup: Fast-paced finished to session

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PHOENIX — The hours dragged on Thursday into the evening and then into the early morning Friday as lawmakers moved bill after bill to reach a historic — and chaotic — early finish to the legislative session. Sine die, Latin for “without day,” marks the end of the session for the Arizona Legislature, which is supposed to finish its work in 100 days. This year it finished in just 81 days — the shortest in decades. Following the early passage of the budget last month, major bills remained on the calendar for the final week. Sine die Legislators attempted to speed bills through during the hectic final day. While the Senate began its day early and moved quickly, things got bogged down in the House with more members speaking on bills. The Senate adjourned sine die Friday morning around...

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Pickleball serves sport and socialization for Arizona seniors

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Pickleball is becoming a hit with seniors in Arizona with an increase in places to play as well as clubs to join. The game, which combines tennis, badminton and ping pong in a small court with low impact on joints, is especially popular with seniors who want to participate in physical activity and enjoy socializing. “It can be competitive, but we’re mostly just in here laughing and carrying on and having ourselves a good time,” said Joey Brandt, who also played tennis until discovering pickleball at a recreation center in Ahwatukee. The USA Pickleball Association lists 137 places to play throughout Arizona, including sporting complexes dedicated exclusively to pickleball. In early March, the association had already added four new places to play, including two venues in Tucson. The Green Valley Pickleball Club has 625 members who play regularly, according...

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Bisbee’s Warren Ballpark pitches memories

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Warren Ballpark was named after Bisbee’s most renown drunk. George Warren was a man who bet the equivalent of $20 million today that he could beat a horse in a foot race. The results didn’t end in his favor. The field is named after him because he was a figure in the mining industry and was referred to as the “Father of the Mining Camp.” Even though he is known today as the town’s biggest alcoholic, he was iconic. The park was built over 100 years ago, 1909, and is older than Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and any other major league field in America. Today, it’s home to the Bisbee Pumas, Bisbee’s high school team. To get to Warren Ballpark, one must drive through Old Bisbee. Just by looking at it, it doesn’t look like it would be anything special. The...

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Visitors tee off at the border

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A fence separates Naco, Arizona, from Naco, Sonora, but wedged in the Turquoise Valley is the reason many people visit this part of the world. The valley is home to the state’s longest continually operating golf course with a challenging 15th hole that draws visitors year round. Most Naco residents commute to nearby cities such as Bisbee and Sierra Vista for work but unlike most, Joseph Moreno, drives from Bisbee to Naco.  For the past three years, he has been coming to Naco to work at Turquoise Valley Golf and R.V.’s Pro Shop. Moreno works the front desk, he provides assistance to those staying at the RV Park and those who are in town just to play golf. He works closely with long-time employee Pete Campbell, who has seen an increase in tourisms since the course added the 15th hole, a Par 6 (longer than...

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