Tohono Chul Park

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Tohono Chul Park
Tohono Chul wall.jpg
TypeNature Preserve
LocationCasas Adobes suburb of Tucson, Arizona, United States
Area49 acres (20 ha)
Created1985
Operated byTohono Chul Park, Inc.
StatusOpen all year
 
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Tohono Chul Park
Tohono Chul wall.jpg
TypeNature Preserve
LocationCasas Adobes suburb of Tucson, Arizona, United States
Area49 acres (20 ha)
Created1985
Operated byTohono Chul Park, Inc.
StatusOpen all year
Christmas at the Tea Room, Tohono Chul

Tohono Chul Park is a 49-acre (198,300 m2) nature preserve in Casas Adobes, a suburb of Tucson, Arizona, United States.

Park History

In the 1920s, the entire northwest section of Tucson was considered ideal for growing frost-sensitive citrus and date palms. Maurice Reid owned property from Orange Grove Road to Ina Road and planted it with groves of citrus trees. He introduced black date palms and grapefruit to the property that would become Tohono Chul Park. Groves of citrus trees remained even after Samuel W. Seaney subdivided the area in 1931, calling it Catalina Citrus Estates.

Maurice Reid, acting as realtor for Seaney, sold the future site of Tohono Chul Park to John T. deBlois Wack in 1937. Mr. Wack was an avid polo player from Santa Barbara and a friend of the Reverend George Ferguson, pastor of the newly consecrated St. Philip’s in the Foothills Episcopal Church. Following an afternoon spent drinking mint juleps, the Fergusons and young Gene Reid (future namesake of Tucson’s Reid Park Zoo) escorted the Wacks around the property. The Wacks purchased an 80-acre (323,700 m2) parcel for $16,000 – or $200 an acre (4,000 m²).

Later in 1937, a Santa Fe style house was constructed. The house still stands today as the Exhibit House.

The Wacks actually spent little time in Tucson. Gene Reid and Mr. Wack’s father, Henry Wellington Wack, founder and first editor of Field and Stream, acted as house-sitters. By the end of World War II the home had exchanged hands several times. Clifford Goldsmith, creator of the old-time radio series Henry Aldrich, rented the home at one point.

The Foundations of Tohono Chul Park

In 1966, a couple named Richard and Jean Wilson started piecing together patches of the desert that would form the core of Tohono Chul Park, ultimately owning 37 acres (149,700 m2) of the Wacks' original 80 acres (323,700 m2).

The son of a Texas oilman, Richard Wilson is a geologist, trained at Yale and Stanford. With his wife Jean, he came to Tucson in 1962 to teach at the University of Arizona. The Wilsons never occupied the Wacks' old home, but instead offered it to a succession of non-profit organizations as a halfway house or youth residence. It was during the 1970s that the couple was approached several times by developers seeking to purchase the land for commercial development. The couple always refused. In fact, when Pima County condemned a strip along the southern boundary of the property in order to widen Ina Road, Richard Wilson demanded that the county move every saguaro and replant it on their adjacent property.

A Crested Saguaro at Tohono Chul Park

In 1979 Jean Wilson opened the Haunted Bookshop on Northern Avenue along the eastern edge of the site. Once the bookshop was up and running, the Wilsons began planning trails behind the building and marking the names of the native Sonoran Desert plants with tags. In 1980 they received a citation from the Tucson Audubon Society for saving the desert greenspace and opening it to the public.

The Wilsons then established the non-profit Foundation for the Preservation of Natural Areas in the early 1980s. The purpose of the organization was to promote the conservation of desert regions and to educate the public about arid lands and responsible water use. Over time, demonstration gardens, a re-circulating stream, a geological re-creation of the Santa Catalina Mountains, ramadas and areas with special plantings of arid-adapted vegetation were developed. The Wacks’ original 1937 stuccoed adobe house was carefully renovated in 1984 to provide space for changing art exhibits, a museum shop and administrative offices.

Tohono Chul Park was formally dedicated as a 37-acre (149,700 m2) desert preserve on April 19, 1985. The Wilsons deeded the property to the non-profit foundation, Tohono Chul Park, Inc., in 1988. An 11-acre (44,500 m2) parcel abutting the property on the north was slated for higher density rezoning and offered for sale. With the help of longtime park members, Tohono Chul was able to acquire the property. The final acre (4,000 m²) was added in 1997 with the Haunted Bookshop closed and the land it occupied was donated to Tohono Chul Park.

External links

Coordinates: 32°20′23″N 110°58′52″W / 32.3397305°N 110.9812135°W / 32.3397305; -110.9812135