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A Tribute to Joe Maierhauser

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Joe MaierhauserOperator of Colossal Cave Mountain Park since 1956

Joseph G. Maierhauser, 79, died March 7, 2007. Born in Yankton, South Dakota, March 23, 1927, Joe spent most of his growing-up years in Gayville, South Dakota. Immediately after graduating from high school, he volunteered for the Navy to serve in World War II. Afterwards he attended the University of South Dakota and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

In 1956, Joe came to Arizona to take over the operation of then 495-acre Colossal Cave Park. This was the first such arrangement in the country, where a private individual administered an entire park as operator, not concessionaire.

Over the years, he served on the Army Association, the Air Force Association, and the Board of Directors of the Salvation Army. He was a member of the Mountain Oyster Club for 30 years, serving on the Board of Directors in various capacities, including President. He loved poker and played a monthly game, where his opponents say he was a force to be reckoned with.

But his passion was parks. In 1987 he joined with three others to found and incorporate the Pima County Parklands Foundation, whose mission is to protect and enhance the parks of Pima County, Arizona. Joe served on the Board of Directors for several years before stepping down as Director Emeritus.

Joe's lifetime achievement and enduring legacy is 51 years of preservation and protection of Colossal Cave Mountain Park. Starting the moment he took over Colossal Cave Park in 1956, Joe recognized not only the beauty but also the fragility of the 495 acres under his care, and that of the surrounding lands, and he envisioned a larger park. Between 1989 and 1992, as a result of a partnership between himself, Pima County, and the Pima County Parklands Foundation, the Park was expanded from its original 495 acres to over 2,000 acres, and Colossal Cave Mountain Park was created. In 1992, the Park was named a National Historic District.

Today, Colossal Cave Mountain Park is the cornerstone of the Cienega Corridor region east of Tucson, and a link in a cultural and biological corridor that stretches from the Mexican border to the Coronado National Forest, Rincon Division. On February 4, 2005, Joe and his wife, Martie, were given the Sonoran Institute's Faces of Conservation Cele Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award.

Joe is survived by his wife Martie, son Joe, granddaughters Loy and Addison Maierhauser and their mother Carole Foster, all from Rapid City, South Dakota, brother and sister-in-law Francis and Fran Maierhauser from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and beloved friend Tom Robles, from San Jose, California. He also leaves a devoted-and Beloved-Staff and many friends. All who knew him will miss his wit and humor, his intelligence and dignity, and his ability to cut to the heart of any topic.

We will miss you Joe.


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Colossal Cave Mountain Park
16721 E. Old Spanish Trail
Vail, AZ 85641 - 520.647.PARK (7275)


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