Tag Archives: Tucson

San Xavier Mission School Turns 150

Tim Van Den Berg | San Xavier del Bac

Tim Van Den Berg | Mission San Xavier del Bac

The school at Mission San Xavier del Bac is celebrating its 150th year of operation this school year. San Xavier Mission School, located on the west side of the mission, opened in 1864 and serves students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

The school’s students are primarily from the Tohono O’odham Nation, but some are from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and other areas surrounding the mission. The nuns who operate the school are Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity from Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

Karen Faber, a teacher at the school, says in an email that the school is “the oldest business in the southern corridor of Arizona.” She adds that the school’s sesquicentennial “is something to celebrate and should be shared with the rest of the nation.”

The mission itself was founded by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino in 1692. It’s a popular tourist attraction near Tucson.


Filed under History, News

Weekend (Kids) Getaway: Mount Lemmon

Ray Minnick | Mount Lemmon

Ray Minnick | Mount Lemmon

The drive up Mount Lemmon has a lot to offer — spectacular views of the Tucson area, varied plant and animal communities, and cool weather just about any time of year. What it doesn’t offer is much comfort to those who are prone to getting carsick around winding, curving mountain roads, which is why my wife kept her eyes closed for most of the 30-mile drive from Tucson to Summerhaven.

But my 4-year-old son, Wes, loved it — which was good, since the whole trip was his idea. For quite a while, he’s been obsessed with roads and maps, and he recently found Tucson on a map and asked whether we could go there someday. He also expressed an interest in visiting Crater Lake in Oregon; I told him the Beaver State might have to wait, but we could knock out the “Old Pueblo” right away.

We drove down from Phoenix on an overcast Friday morning. After checking out Diamondback Bridge — true to its name, it’s a bridge that looks like a diamondback rattlesnake — we headed down Tanque Verde Road, then up Catalina Highway (also known as General Hitchcock Highway and Sky Island Scenic Byway).

A forest of saguaros marks the early part of the drive. Wes has a love-hate relationship with saguaros, by which I mean he loves them as long as he’s not anywhere near them. The safety of the car was enough for him to put aside his anxiety and enjoy the scenery, which changed from desert vegetation to ponderosa pines, then other evergreens and aspens, as we climbed higher.

What makes the drive ideal for young children is that there are plenty of places to stop along the way. We stopped at Windy Point Vista, which offers an incredible view of Tucson, but other viewpoints feature hiking trails, interpretive signs or views of the other side of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

In Summerhaven, near the summit of Mount Lemmon, we ate lunch at the Sawmill Run Restaurant, which has a kids menu. The town also provides a teachable moment for children old enough to understand the importance of preventing forest fires: Much of Summerhaven burned in the Aspen Fire of 2003, and the fire’s effects are still visible throughout town.

After a quick exploration of Summerhaven, we headed back down the mountain, then back to Phoenix, having crossed one destination off my son’s list. Wes now wants to visit Payson, another relatively easy drive for us … but if he ever notices Kayenta on his map of Arizona, we might have to do a little more planning.

— Noah Austin, Associate Editor


Filed under Getaways, Things to Do

Q&A: Tucson Nonprofit Hopes to Bring ‘Parklet’ to Downtown

A "parklet" recently installed in Bellingham, Washington | Courtesy of Sustainable Connections

A “parklet” recently installed in Bellingham, Washington | Courtesy of Sustainable Connections

What is a “parklet”? If you don’t know the answer, you’re not alone: The concept is relatively new, but the idea is to transform an underutilized public space, such as a parking spot, into a “pocket park” with plants, shade and seating. A Tucson nonprofit organization, Living Streets Alliance, is working to bring a parklet to the city’s downtown. We spoke with LSA’s executive director, Emily Yetman, about the project.

Q: What is a “parklet”? Where did this idea originate?
A parklet is essentially a super-tiny “pocket park” created by transforming an on-street parking space into a semi-temporary public green space. Parklets usually include enhancements such as planters, seating, shade and other elements that make them a great public space for gathering or just relaxing and enjoying street life.

Parklets originated in San Francisco, which now has dozens of them throughout the city through the “Pavement to Parks” program. It’s a trend that’s catching on throughout the nation in cities like Portland, New York and even Los Angeles.

Q: How does adding a parklet benefit area businesses and residents?
A: Lots of times, roadways are much bigger in scale than they need to be, while amenities that make them comfortable for walking or shopping are scarce — things like shade trees, benches, planters, kiosks, lighting and greenery. (This is especially true in many sprawling cities here in the Southwest.) At the same time, local businesses and neighborhoods lack good public space that helps create a sense of “place” and gives people opportunities to interact and enjoy the area.  Parklets solve both of these problems by reactivating underutilized street space and giving it back to people. And, as if that’s not reason enough, a number of recent parklet studies have shown that revenues and foot traffic increased for nearby businesses after parklets were installed.

Q: What makes this parklet location in Tucson so appealing?
A: Tucson is at a really exciting transition point where, for the first time in decades, little business districts are starting to pop up in different parts of town, each with their own local flavor. Most of these are driven by small, locally owned businesses banding together, and that is definitely the case in the “Sixth and Sixth” area, where we’re proposing the first parklet. There’s been a tradition of arts and crafts in that area for years, and with the recent arrival of Exo Roast Co., a local roaster and café, and Tap & Bottle, a new neighborhood bar, it’s finally possible to spend an entire afternoon in the area exploring, hanging out and enjoying a variety of shops and businesses. To date, the one major challenge has been that the streets connecting these businesses are still pretty car-dominated, and even the sidewalk space is relatively uninviting. There’s virtually no shade and nowhere to sit in between shopping and dining experiences.

The businesses in the area have identified a parklet as a great way to begin to transform their neighborhood into a vibrant destination, since it doesn’t require any major infrastructure changes, is relatively affordable and will create a great focal point for their district. Right now, we’re looking to get artists, designers and craftsmen in the area involved in the designing of the parklet so that it will reflect as much of the character of the district as possible.

Q: Where can people learn more about the project, and how can they help?
A: We’re hoping to have the parklet completed by this fall, and we’ll continue to have status updates on our website, www.livingstreetsalliance.orgSince this will be a public space for everyone, we’re fundraising to cover the costs of building the parklet and will gladly accept tax-deductible donations on our website or via mail to Living Streets Alliance, P.O. Box 2641, Tucson, AZ 85702.

We hope to see parklets spring up all over the city.  They’re a win-win-win: Tucsonans get quality public space, it attracts more business to the area, and it doesn’t cost taxpayers a thing.  What’s not to love?


Filed under Eco Issues, Et Cetera, Make a Difference, Q&A

Happy Birthday Tucson!

Screen Shot 2013-08-16 at 1.34.16 PM

Wishing our friends in Tucson a very Happy Birthday! Tell us what you love about the Old Pueblo in our comments section.


Filed under Covers

Celebrate Catalina State Park’s 30th Anniversary

Rainshadow Images by Audrey Kanekoa-Madrid | Catalina State Park

Rainshadow Images by Audrey Kanekoa-Madrid | Catalina State Park

This Saturday, Catalina State Park in Tucson will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a fun-filled day of hiking, activities, animal displays, food and more.

Though the official ceremony will take place at 11 a.m., there will be guided hikes starting at 7 a.m., and beginning at 9 a.m., there will be interpretive programs, live animal displays, informational booths from partners and friends, activities for children, food trucks, vendor booths and a raffle. There will also be a “star night” party, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., where visitors can explore the night sky through astronomers’ telescopes.

Here’s more information about Catalina State Park and the role it plays in the lives of Arizonans:

  • The park attracts between 170,000 and 200,000 visitors each year from all over the world.
  • The Park plays an important role in the communities of northern Tucson, Oro Valley and Catalina.
  • Many people who live and work in these areas visit it regularly with their families to hike, camp, picnic, ride bikes and horses and walk their dogs.
  • Many local groups and associations — such as the Tucson Audubon Society, local schools such as Basis Schools, Citizens for Solar, and the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection — organize events at Catalina State Park.
  • Catalina State Park has a significant economic impact on Pima County. People who visit and camp at the park patronize many local businesses and visit other sites in the area. A 2009 report by Northern Arizona University estimated that the park created 262 jobs in Pima County.

Catalina State Park’s regular entrance fee of $7 per vehicle will be waived for this event. Primitive to full-hookup camping sites are available at a fee of $15 to $25, depending on the type of camping site needed. Catalina State Park is located on State Route 77 (Oracle Road) at mile marker 81, just 9 miles north of Tucson and 6 miles north of Ina Road.

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Filed under Things to Do

Explore Tucson… On Your Bike

Photo by Pascal Maramis

Attention Tucson: Bike Fest 2012 is back through April 22 and many local groups are hosting bicycle events to inspire riders of all ages and skill levels.

Bike Fest serves as an umbrella network for nearly 20 bike-friendly events such as Bike to Work Week, Tucson’s Inaugural Kidical Mass, The Old Pueblo Grand Prix, Bike to the Zoo Day and more. Bike Fest 2012 is expected to attract more than 50,000 participants across all scheduled events.

Bike Fest showcases bicycling as a safe and convenient alternative means of navigating through the community, while educating and encouraging riders to participate in community bike activities.

So, mount your saddle, brrriing that bike bell and pedal down to celebrate healthy living, open streets, fresh air and Tucson sunshine this spring! Keep up with all the events by following the “Bike Fest 2012” Facebook page.

What’s happening this week?

Bike to Work Week – Bike to work and your efforts will be well rewarded! All week long, businesses throughout Greater Tucson will be hosting Bike to Work Stations with freebies, discounts, bike tune-ups and more – from breakfast giveaways to happy hour. Support your local bike-friendly businesses and discover some new ones.


Who: Everyone!
What: Bike Fest 2012
When: Through April 22
Where: Throughout the greater Tucson region
Why: To have fun, be healthy, and celebrate bicycling

1 Comment

Filed under Loco for Local, Make a Difference, Things to Do