The Sky Island Tourist Association (SITA) reopened the Visitor Center on October 1, 2021 after an 18-month Covid-related closure. Current hours are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10-4p.m.
The VC is located at the corner of McKeown and 3rd Avenue in Patagonia, at least for now. It will soon be located to a caboose, gifted to the Town of Patagonia. Linda Shore, SITA president, explained that the $5500 annual rent paid by SITA for the current site was too much for the 65-member tourist association to sustain. Once the caboose is delivered to Patagonia and refurbished for use as a visitor center, there will be no rent to pay.
The caboose, a Southern Pacific bay window model 1848, is the gift of Peter Robbins, owner of the Little Outfit Ranch in San Rafael Valley. South32 will cover the cost of transporting the 55,000 lb. caboose from Casa Grande to Patagonia, where it will be placed in Doc Mock Park next to the gazebo on 4th Ave. The plan is to have it sit on the McKeown side of the park running parallel to the highway. A caboose, located in the former switching yard, will be a fitting symbol of the Town of Patagonia’s railroad history.
The caboose is scheduled to arrive in the near future but getting it ready to serve as the Visitor Center will take some work and time.
In the meantime, JoAnn Wales, SITA board member, is coordinating the volunteers who greet visitors and provide information about local sites in Patagonia, Sonoita, and Elgin and beyond. Visitor Center hours are limited by the number of available volunteers. Wales says they are very actively looking for volunteers to handle two-hour shifts, especially on Saturdays. “The main qualification for volunteers is enjoying meeting people,” she said.
New volunteers will get an orientation and a regular time slot to cover. It is quite an enjoyable volunteer job. You can tout the wonders of the Sky Islands when visitors arrive and sit outside and hold court with your friends and neighbors when there are none. In the month of October, 72 visitors signed in at the Center, which likely represents less than half of those who stopped and talked. Looking to the future, Shore and Wales said that they hope once the caboose is refurbished, to expand the hours and the volunteer corps to staff it.
If you are interested in volunteering, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voicemail for JoAnn Wales at 503.944.9757.