Cottonwood Tucson Celebrates 25 years of Recovery!

The early years…

Cottonwood de Tucson was founded in 1987 by a group of recovering individuals. Their vision was to create a world-class treatment center in Tucson, and then use that model in building other centers in key areas around the country. The treatment model they developed was welcomed and needed in the late 1980’s and Cottonwood de Tucson experienced rapid growth and success. Cottonwood de Tucson was followed by Cottonwood de Albuquerque and Cottonwood de Austin in short order.

Ron Welch -CEO Emeritus

In 1989 and 1990 the industry began to change rapidly. 12-Step treatment and co-dependency treatment, which were Cottonwood’s strengths, started to come under fire. Growing pressure from insurance companies regarding behavioral health diagnoses and compensation began to wreak havoc on the Cottonwood model of treatment. Economics forced Cottonwood de Austin to close in 1990 and through 1991 things seemed to go further and further south until the spring of 1992 when Ron Welch was hired to right the ship.

The 90’s…

In the fall of 1992 the decision was made to close Cottonwood de Albuquerque. All resources and assets were focused on Cottonwood de Tucson. Ron’s background with Psychiatric hospitals was just what the situation required, and in April 1993 the Welch family purchased the controlling interest in Cottonwood de Tucson.

By early 1993 Cottonwood began to emerge with an innovative dual-diagnosis treatment model that to this day continues to set us apart from other treatment facilities. Key behavioral health staff began arriving, a multi-disciplinary team was assembled, and slowly Cottonwood de Tucson began to be recognized as an addiction rehab treatment facility that married the best-of-the-best treatment modalities. Patients and their families were walking away after treatment with tool bags full and sobriety well in hand.

The Welch family and the Board of Directors continued to build on the emerging behavioral health and addiction treatment model, and marketing expanded from local to state to regional to national and now our Arizona treatment center has international exposure.

Cottonwood de Tucson’s addiction rehab continues to reinvest in its facilities and its people. On average, tenure for associates is in excess of five years, with key management, medical, nursing and clinical staff averaging 12-plus years.

Referrals continue to come from all over the country and the world, and over 45 percent come from Cottonwood alumni, family and friends. Patients that get well at Cottonwood often beat the odds and stay well, and are always considered part of the Cottonwood family.

Into the new millenniun…Cottonwood Tucson

In 2009, we elected to shorten our name to make it easier for people to contact us and for this reason, quite often you will see “Cottonwood de Tucson” in the text. We are now simply, Cottonwood Tucson.

Cottonwood is a unique organization with a deep history as an Arizona treatment center.

But what about Cottonwood Tucson before 1987?

Here is what you might not know.
According to the National Park Service the property that is now Cottonwood Tucson has a history in the Saguaro National Monument. It was a guest ranch or what we sometimes refer to as a dude ranch.

The first enterprising individual to operate a resort near Saguaro National Monument (Rincon Unit) was James P. Fuller. About 1879 he established Fuller’s Springs or Agua Caliente, as it was also called, approximately four miles north of the monument’s boundary. Fuller advertised that the resort was for “those who seek temporary recreation away from the heat and business of the city.” He had cottages and hotel accommodations as well as medicated water that was eighty-eight degrees.

The real dude ranching in the Rincon area, however, began on October 1, 1928, when James Converse added that dimension to his Tanque Verde Ranch. He remodeled the main ranch house and added guest rooms to the north. Since Tucson was an attractive winter vacation area even during the 1930s, Converse had no trouble filling his guest rooms and the same held true for other dude ranches in the area.

Although a few guest ranches opened during the Second World War, such as the Bar BR near the Rincon Unit, the real boom for such operations began just after the end of that conflict. During that period the Tucson area had about 100 dude ranches. Horseback riding was the most popular sport. Those ranches near the monument east of Tucson, in addition to the Bar BR, which accommodated sixteen guests, included the Arrow H with housing for ten, the Lazy Vee, just south of the monument, with room for twenty people, the Thunderhead Ranch on the western boundary with accommodations for twelve, and the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch to the north with lodging for twenty-four people. During this period, Converse kept about fifty head of horses, used for guest riding, on the cactus area and his grazing allotments. About 1950 the 49ers Ranch Resort came into existence. It advertised camping trips for tourists into the monument. Several small dude ranches such as the Lazy K Bar, Picture Rock Ranch, and Sundancer Saddle and Surrey Ranch developed in the 1940s and 1950s in the Tucson Mountain area.

Sundancer Saddle and Surrey Ranch!

Cottonwood Tucson was the Sundancer Saddle and Surrey Ranch!

According to the Arizona Daily Star Newspaper:

For more than 27 years, Jack Jackson and his wife, Colette, ran their Western-style resort surrounded by the isolated sights and sounds of the Sonoran Desert. But civilization was encroaching on the Sundancer Saddle and Surrey, at 4110 W. Sweetwater Drive, and Jackson knew the dude-ranch atmosphere was threatened. On May 9, 1979, Jackson…acknowledged this, saying: “I figure I’ve got maybe 10 years left here. It’s not conducive to good business to have a guest ranch located in a subdivision.” The resort operated until the 1980s and was then converted to the Cottonwood de Tucson treatment center.

And according to a report prepared by the Tucson Mountains Association regarding the Sweetwater Preserve:

“An extensive trail system exists in Sweetwater Preserve. Many of these trails were created in the 1940s and ’50s by ranches located on Sweetwater Drive. They began with the Sun Circle Ranch in the 1940s which later became the Saddle and Surrey Guest Ranch.
The guest ranch operated from the 1950s to the 1980s, then becoming Cottonwood de Tucson, a residential treatment center which exists today at 4110 West Sweetwater Drive.”

“By the time the Saddle and Surrey closed its doors, increasing population in the area resulted in even more intense use of the trails by area equestrians, hikers, and mountain bikers. There are a number of long-time residents in the area who can attest to the continuous use of these trails. In fact aerial maps taken in late 1960s and 1990s show continuous use of trails in Sweetwater Preserve.”

Features from long ago are still with us today…

The Sundancer Saddle and Surrey Guest Ranch – Circa 1960s (click to enlarge)

So now we know that our beautiful campus started out as the Sun Circle Ranch in the 1940s, from the 1950’s to the late 1980’s it was The Saddle and Surrey Guest Ranch, sometimes referred to as the Sundancer Saddle and Surrey Guest Ranch. Some features that the Saddle and Surrey Guest Ranch advertised “way back when” are still with us today.

  • Our address and telephone number remain unchanged!
  • Desert oasis lush with many varieties of desert foliage.
  • We still offer excellent food from snacks to specialties (now award winning!)
  • The large, serene swimming pool in a beautifully landscaped area still welcomes our guests.
  • The exclusive sunbathing tower still graces our property; however, we don’t use it!
  • We still have responsive and well-trained horses, but now they are used for equine therapy or equine assisted counseling, as opposed to riding to explore the desert foothills.

We will be posting a photo album on our Facebook page and we will share some historical promotional items from the Sundancer Saddle and Surrey Ranch Resort. In case you are wondering how we come to have these historical items, you can file it under “you never know what you might find hidden behind a desk.” One of our employees that has been here since the early years found the brochure behind a built-in desk after he tore out the desk. What a find!

Today at Cottonwood Tucson…

Cottonwood Tucson is an inpatient holistic behavioral health treatment center. For 25 years Cottonwood has been and continues to be a place of understanding, healing and hope.
The Jackson’s brochure welcomed guests with the following words:
“Accept our invitation to experience firsthand the casual pace of the Southwest and the serenity of Tucson’s desert foothills…their home has been a favorite retreat for many years…become a part of the tradition…enjoy a vacation that will refresh you in body and in spirit. An experience that will stand out in your memory forever.”

Serenity…retreat…refresh you in body and in spirit. 

Cottonwood Tucson – Aerial View of Campus 2011

For fun you can view our Facebook Cottonwood Tucson’s 25th Anniversary Album here.

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