El Paseo de los Arboles Park, Commemorative Parks

(Tucson, AZ)- Trees for Tucson spearheaded a reforestation and beautification project where the public could sponsor tree plantings in commemoration of their loved ones.

Category: Partnership Building
El Paseo del los Arboles “Pathway of the Trees” Park serves the dual purposes of offering the public commemorative space and providing private funds for the landscaping of a public park.
Established in 1989 as a program of Tucson Clean & Beautiful, a nonprofit environmental organization, Trees for Tucson is a grassroots urban forestry program which encourages and facilitates tree planting in the Tucson metropolitan area using desert-adapted, low-water use trees such as mesquite and desert willow. Its goal is to provide a “cleaner, cooler, more enjoyable environment for all.”
Since the organization’s inception, more than 100 residents had called TFT each year to ask where they could plant a tree to commemorate a loved one. Due to concerns about the design and maintenance issues involved with signage, there were no public places available. TFT mentioned these requests to various public officials but no appropriate space became available.
In 1994, the Pima County Department of Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation identified a potential area and worked with TFT to gather the other partners necessary to develop a commemorative tree park. A section of the Santa Cruz River had recently received riverbank protection by the Pima County Flood Control but had no additional funds for landscaping. As a result the Pima County Board of Supervisors agreed to have this section designated a public area for commemorative tree planting. The Arizona State Parks Board-Heritage Fund provided a grant for installation of an irrigation system, and the Arizona State Lands Department provided additional support with a grant through the Arizona Forestry Council. The City Of Tucson Transportation Department designed and created a parking area on land provided by the City of Tucson Parks and Recreation.
Another highlight of the project is the historic significance of the area. In 1775-1776, Juan Bautista de Anza led a group of 300 colonists 1,200 miles from Sonora, Mexico to San Francisco Bay to establish a presidio and mission for New Spain. In 1990 Congress designated the area as part of the National Trail System.
Approximately 600 low-water, desert-adapted tress were planted in six groves over the first two and a half years. A tile wall adjacent to each grove lists the people to whom the trees have been dedicated. Each name was given a number. A tile with a corresponding number was placed by each tree. The tile walls were designed by Pima County Illustration Section and produced by GY Graphics.
Tree purchasers were charged $125. This covered the planting and care of the tree as well as the inscription of names on the grove’s tile wall and on the directory walls at both entrances to the park. In addition, corporate sponsors underwrote the cost of the construction and are given special recognition on the walls.
The county maintains the park and replaces trees that are damaged or diseased. At this time, all commemorative trees have been sold for this park, but TFT is exploring options for future park sites.
1. When working with a group of agencies, it is important to form a committee with people who can make the needed decisions. It’s the quality of the committee that matters, not the size.
2. Make clear policies from the start on what can be commemorated in the park. In the case of El Paseo de los Arboles, trees can be purchased to honor an individual or family or to commemorate a special occasion. Trees cannot be purchased to honor pets.
3. Be sure to give recognition to all the players in the process. In the El Paseo de los Arboles project, each sponsor was given special recognition on the walls, in brochures, in press releases and at biannual tree dedication ceremonies in the spring and fall.
4. Involve neighborhood leaders in the process to ensure community ownership of project.
5. Be aware and plan for long-term maintenance issues. Choose materials that are durable and less vulnerable to vandalism. Think about this as you evaluate the design of signage.
6. When choosing a site, consider the land use adjacent to the park as well as future plans for nearby property. Is this an area that is likely to experience vandalism? Are neighbors nearby likely to adopt the park and help with its upkeep? Is there room to expand? Over the long-term, is this an area people will want to visit?
7. If you really want to undertake a project, do not let a lack of money be your excuse to give up. Keep working at it and you will get a response.
8. There is a natural tendency to resist change. Do not let that stop you. There was a concern that signage design and maintenance would be a major issue in a commemorative park and that has not turned out to be the case. Graphic designers from Pima County took great pride in the design of the walls and tiles that reflect the cultural diversity and historical significance of the area. That has been one of the highlights of the park.
Contact Information:
Joan Lionetti, Executive Director
Trees for Tucson
P.O. Box 27210
Tucson, AZ 85726-7210
Phone: (520) 791-3109
Fax: (602) 622-7116
(c) 2005 Alliance for Community Trees