Two unrelated incidents on Mt. Graham draw attention of UAPD

By Michelle Roberts

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Labor Day weekend marked the end to a quiet summer at the controversial Mount Graham telescope facility.

Despite the calm of the recent weeks and months, however, the "end" was a bit stormy.

In the last week, the University of Arizona Police Department has been called out twice to deal with suspicious persons and trespassers. They are the only such incidents as of late, according to John Ratje, assistant director for operations at the UA Steward Observatory.

On Aug. 31, a German female wearing Native American dress and turquoise jewelry and a Native American male arrived at the Mount Graham International Observatory base camp, according to university police reports. They requested a tour of the facility.

When Ratje refused, the woman said she came all the way from Germany for a tour. She offered $120 for a tour.

Employees said they had never seen either person before.

Then on Monday, five people all from Texas were found hiking in the refugium area without permits.

Above 10,000 feet, the area has been declared a refugium to protect the red squirrels. Without a forest service permit, it is illegal to hike in the area.

The hikers had two camcorders and two 35mm cameras. The police report said the hikers videotaped the exchange with the three officers on the scene whenever they could.

They told officers they were photographing and taping the scenery, but later admitted they were looking for red squirrels.

An officer noted that a member of the group was wearing an Earth First shirt in his driver's license photograph.

The hikers said they were camped at Grant Hill, an area where anti-telescope groups had been camped for the Labor Day weekend, according to university police reports.

They told officers they did not know about the telescope or the refugium.

The hikers were told they were trespassing and were asked to leave the area.

Four of the five people got into one hiker's car and left immediately. The fifth person continued to hike below the 10,000-foot line. Officers did not see him again.

Ratje said the recent incidents do not particularly concern him.

"Well, we've had everything from conventions to the recent incidents, so it's rather routine for us."

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