Banff Mountain Film Festival Grant

by frank Tuesday, March 8th 2011

Each year, for the past 12 years, Summit Hut has brought the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour to Tucson. The tour is an evening filled with some of the world’s best films on mountain sports and mountain culture. It is equal parts adrenaline pumping and inspirational.

For the past three years, we have donated a portion of the proceeds to wonderfully deserving non-profit organizations. Last year, due in large part to the film festival being a sell-out crowd, we were able to donate $2,000 to Friends of Saguaro National Park and $2,000 to Friends of Sabino Canyon.

This year, we decided to let the community in on the fun of helping us give away some money! Back in December, we announced an open request for applications for our First Annual Banff Grant Program. For our first year, we got a wonderful response from some amazing organizations. We got back 18 applications from a huge range of groups from Tucson Clean and Beautiful, to the Arizona Trail Association. Each of the groups that applied does great things for our community and we are in awe of their work.

We then gave three of our staff members the incredibly challenging task of selecting our five finalists. They considered every angle, the impact the organizations have on our region, the work they have done in the past, the work they plan to do in the future and what they would specifically use the grant dollars for. After careful consideration, the team selected five incredibly deserving organizations:

Sonoran Desert Weedwackers: Our mission is to protect wildlands around Tucson from the encroachment of invasive plants that threaten to destroy the Sonoran Desert. The Weedwackers work in Tucson Mountain Park mapping and digging out buffelgrass and fountain grass three times a month.

Tucson Wildlife Center: The Tucson Wildlife Center is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of injured and orphaned wildlife throughout Southern Arizona. They are responsible for the rescue of 700 animals per year!

Inner City Outings: Sierra Club Inner City Outings is a community outreach program that provides opportunities for urban youth and adults to explore, enjoy and protect the natural world.

Southern Arizona Rescue Association: A non-profit, all-volunteer search and rescue organization serving southern Arizona and Pima County since 1958. SARA members are volunteers from all walks of life, donating their time, skills and enthusiasm to provide a vital service to the public.

Friends of Kartchner Caverns State Park: The Friends will partner with the community, and provide resources, to advocate for and ensure the continued preservation of Kartchner caverns through research, education and public awareness.

To select our two grant winners, we have put it up to a customer vote. That’s right, we’re letting you decide who gets a portion of this year’s Banff ticket sales. Through next Monday, we have voting tables set up at each of our Tucson locations. All you have to do is come in and drop a poker chip into the jar of the organization you think is most deserving.

Banff Voting Display

After two weeks, we have had over 600 people vote and here are the standings:

Tucson Wildlife Center: 230

Inner City Outings: 145

Southern Arizona Rescue Association: 121

Sonoran Desert Weedwackers: 91

Friends of Kartchner Caverns State Park: 74

There’s still plenty of time to mount a campaign for your favorite group! Get the word out to come in and vote and get the word out to buy tickets to the Banff Film Festival at the Fox Theatre on March 25th. We’ll be announcing the winners at intermission on the night of the festival so don’t miss it!


Coiling Barbed Wire in Douglas

by frank Monday, October 11th 2010

For a little over a year now, Summit Hut has had a program running called “100 Days of Service”. This program allows staff members to take time out of their work-week to volunteer in the community. Staff members are then compensated, by Summit Hut, for their hours. Over the last year, we have been out in the community counting bullfrogs, leading youth birding trips and doing a saguaro census! We’ve had staff members build trails, pull invasive grass and teach Girl Scouts outdoor skills at the Summit Hut Outdoor Adventure Camp. Most recently a group of six staff members, including myself, joined an effort put forth by the Sky Island Alliance (SIA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to remove barbed wire fence from the border just east of Douglas.

Me Pulling Fence - Photo by Sarah Williams

This event was interesting on many fronts: social, political, environmental and personal. When one heads down to the border, one cannot avoid thinking about the political issues going on, but interestingly enough the politics of immigration played a very small role in this adventure. Politically, this was a great partnership between a government organization, BLM, and an advocacy and service organization, SIA, which worked towards a greater good for all of us. The mission was simple, or so it seemed. Head to the border, a few miles east of Douglas, and remove a seven-strand, barbed-wire ranching fence that was acting as a second barrier for wildlife using this corridor in their migration (the iron vehicle fence being the primary blockade).

Barbed Wire Fence and the Border – Photo by Meaghan Callahan

As soon as we got to our border marker, we could sense there was something amiss. Just the other side of the vehicle fence there was a bright and shiny, brand-new barbed-wire fence. Apparently the rancher had changed his mind about the agreement to remove the fence and he replaced it instead. This new fence was only a three-strand fence which does alleviate some of the issue, but still poses more of an issue than no fence at all. Without permission to remove the new fence, our task would shift. Our new goal was to clean up as much scrap fence as we could (and tires, trash, clothing…and a car bumper) that all acts as a tangling threat to wildlife.

The entire day spent down there was a tremendous reminder of just how amazing the southern Arizona desert is. The cliffs and rolling hills were amazing, the vegetation was spectacular, even the giant grasshoppers and their slightly annoying clicking were impressive. It was also a reminder of how human actions (and inactions) contribute to harming this spectacular environment. We spent just about five hours cleaning around 2 miles of border. We collected a trailer full of barbed-wire fence, eight tires, and a pretty good collection of trash, in just two miles! As we returned to Tucson, the crew was in agreement that more work needed to be done, and we wanted to help. Hopefully you want to help too! Keep an eye on the Summit Hut website and Facebook page for future volunteer events you can join us on and check out the Sky Island Alliance for a great organization that is out there all the time doing their part.

The Summit Hut Crew
Front: (left to right) Meaghan Callahan, Kathy Simko, Costas Sofianos;
Back: Frank Camp, Dave Weeks, Traci Henne


The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!