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Preserving urban-area desert

Brookings artist and author Peter Chasar was honored last month in Scottsdale, Ariz., during The Gateway to the Preserve Dedication Ceremony.

Chasar, billed as “Artist and Early Preserve Advocate” on the agenda for the dedication, played an important part in the formation of the McDowell Mountains Task Force and Commission, plus the 1995 Preserve Tax election that resulted in expanding and funding the preserve.

Not only was Chasar honored as a special speaker for the ceremony, his painting of the McDowell Mountains was also featured at the dedication.

When Pete and Diana Chasar moved from New York to the West in 1971, he began a love affair with the Sonoran Desert and surroundings that are detailed in his book, “Desert Spring.”

The book recounts his experiences hiking and painting the beauty of the desert and the surrounding McDowell Mountains. It includes the story of a life-changing experience during a hike to a hidden spring. That experience was the impetus for his determination to help form a preserve to protect the desert from the threat of annexation and commercialization.

“It’s a personal story, as well as a preservation case history, with these underlying messages,” Chasar said. “Western landscapes can be magical places that transform an ordinary person into a dedicated advocate for preservation.”

In his book, Chasar recounts the experience of that hike, and closes that chapter with, “But would this magical desert environment still be here in 20 or 30 years? Or, like so much of Scottsdale, would it be erased by asphalt and upscale subdivisions?”

Thus began Herculean efforts that resulted in the formation of the preserve, also documented in “Desert Spring.” Chasar has received numerous awards for his preservation and anti-pollution activities.

He may have retired from his career in advertising in 1998, but he is not retired from his career in art and literature. His art is displayed at Words and Pictures and in a number of galleries from Crescent City, Calif., to Coos Bay.

Chasar will be the featured artist at Words and Pictures for the Second Saturday Art Walk June 13 and will read from his book “Desert Spring” at 5:30 p.m. during the “Fifteen Minutes of Fame” program.

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