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Tumamoc Hill
Looking East from Tumamoc Hill -Photo courtesy of Jim Scotti - Lunar & Planetary Laboratory - University of Arizona

A message from the Chairman of the Pima County Board of Supervisors:

Thank You Letter

Pima County Buys Tumamoc Hill Parcel, Will Preserve It

Pima County won rights at a February 23 auction to buy 320 acres of state land on Tumamoc Hill. This 860-acre icon now will be protected in perpetuity, 105 years after the University of Arizona’s Carnegie Desert Laboratory was established on it.

The laboratory’s unique studies of Sonoran Desert flora and fauna no longer are threatened with disruption or curtailment. Pima County will be custodian of one of the most significant archaeological and historical sites in the American Southwest.  It is designated as a National Historic Landmark and considered an ancestral site by the Tohono O’odham. The road to the laboratory that is one of the area’s most popular walking paths because of its great beauty.

Board Chairman Richard Elías and Congressman Raúl Grijalva, other elected officials over the years, and the dedicated efforts County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and his staff made this purchase possible.

But it actually is the voters of Pima County who enabled us to purchase these vital Tumamoc Hill acres by passing bonding authority for this purpose in 1997 and 2004, and for that we are very grateful. We will use $2.35 million from these bond authorizations to match a $2.35 million state grant from Arizona State Parks to buy the $4.7 million parcel.

The final hurdle to the county’s Tumamoc Hill purchase was cleared when the Tucson City Council unanimously approved Member Regina Romero’s February 10 motion for the City of Tucson to take title to the 25-acre landfill it operated on the site from 1962 to 1966.

Pima County began trying in earnest to buy these Tumamoc Hill acres back in the late 1990s, but was thwarted by quirks in state law. Congressman Grijalva and former Congressman Jim Kolbe developed legislation a few years ago to enable the federal government to get involved in preserving this land. But the Senate refused to cooperate.

Finally Chairman Elías was able to work with Ms. Romero to get the city of Tucson to cooperate with Pima County’s renewed efforts, and that led to final success. Tumamoc Hill is in Pima County District Five, which Chairman Elías represents, and in the City of Tucson’s Ward One, which Ms. Romero represents.

The word Tumamoc is O’odham for horned toad, and the shape of the hill behind Sentinel Peak resembles this desert creature. On Tumamoc Hill, Hohokam settlement and agricultural fields show that food crops were grown the harsh desert climate in ancient times. Centuries later, the Tohono O’odham view this as an important and sacred place that has been occupied by their ancestors since time immemorial. 

Pima County is proud and pleased that its voters enabled us to protect this invaluable historic, scientific – and beautiful – desert resource for future generations.    

Copyright ©2011, Pima County Arizona, all rights reserved.
Revised: Friday, August 26, 2011 1:40 PM

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