Fountain Hills’ Trail Building Pioneer: Roy Kinsey
Roy Kinsey and his wife, Bev, couldn’t have anticipated the legacy they would leave in Fountain Hills when they drove over the mountains from the Valley for their first views of the developing town nestled into the McDowell Mountains and the mountain ranges in the distance.
Long before, Roy had served in World War II and was with the second wave of Marines that landed on Iwo Jima. He returned to college after serving his country and graduated with a degree in analytical chemistry and worked for E.I. DuPont for more than three decades.
By 1984 the Kinseys had retired to Fountain Hills. “We were hikers and loved the mountains surrounding us,” Bev Kinsey recalls. The Kinseys volunteered and were Stewards with the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy in Scottsdale and met Chet Andrews and his wife there, among others.
They also began exploring the canyon and mountains beyond the Adero hotel, where the road ended. “Roy strongly felt that some of the area needed to be preserved, similar to what was being done in Scottsdale, and proposed that the FH Town Council create a Preserve and float a bond to cover the cost of the land,” Bev says. Through several purchases, the McDowell Mountain Preserve (Preserve) grew to 824 acres.
After the Preserve was formed, Roy and Bev attended a trail building seminar, learning about different soil types, water drainage and so on. “He was now well-trained, very excited,” Bev remembers. He started pulling together a small group of volunteers and their first accomplishment was the Overlook Trail.
The group of volunteers eventually formed the group of trail building and maintenance enthusiasts now known as the Trailblazers. Steve Fleming, a former leader of the group and friend of Kinsey, describes him as, “A fascinating man and a visionary. He was a very kind and thoughtful person. He led by example and never had to motivate us to do anything – he would start doing the trail work and we would follow.”
Bill Craig, who currently leads the Trailblazers, agrees. “They don’t make them like Roy anymore. One time Roy asked me to put an 80-pound bag of cement on his back and he took it up to the top of the ridge where we were working. I took an 80-pound bag too, and only made it about half way.”
Early on, Kinsey also recognized that volunteer leadership to assist the Town Council with management of the Preserve was needed. Along with others, he was instrumental in the formation of the McDowell Mountain Preservation Commission, which maintains the existing natural landscape while developing a trail system, and Sonoran Conservancy of Fountain Hills, which is charged with protecting and promoting the Preserve, FH Desert Botanical Garden and the Lake Overlook Trail. Kinsey served on both Boards.
Fleming recalls that the Trailblazers spent a lot of time talking about interconnecting with the McDowell Mountain Regional Park and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale. “There were visionaries in both Preserves and the motivation of Roy and others was to have a top-notch trail system for others to enjoy,” Fleming says. The Sonoran Trail was completed in 2010, linking the Preserve with the regional park.
Work began to connect to the Scottsdale trail system. “We started flagging the trail route,” Fleming says. “We had help identifying soil types and an archeologist from Scottsdale hiked the area and found chipping sites and walled areas used by the Native Americans and we worked around those areas to make sure they were untouched.”
As the Trailblazers worked up a canyon in 2013 and 2014, a crew from Scottsdale worked across the mountains to meet at the Preserve borders. “When we joined from both ends,” Fleming says, “it was like the excitement at the completion TransContinental Railroad! There was a lot of satisfaction.”
In 2014, FH and Scottsdale’s Councils named the trail for two trail-building champions: Roy Kinsey and Chet Andrews. The 2.8-mile Andrews-Kinsey Trail connects to Sunrise Trail and gives hikers a route from Scottsdale to Fountain Hills, the McDowell Mountain Regional Park and beyond. Mr. Andrews passed away in 2014 and Mr. Kinsey in 2018.
Next time you’re on the Andrews-Kinsey Trail, take a moment to remember these gentlemen and the contributions they made to our enjoyment of the mountains.