SDCP desert scene  - Illustration by Bill Singleton
SDCP
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A Vision for Cultural Resources

Pima County is rich in history, culture, regional character, and diversity, all of which contribute greatly to our collective heritage and community identity. Cultural and historical resources are those places that are created by and reflect upon the people who have lived for thousands of years in what is today Pima County. The citizens of Pima County have long recognized the value of preserving their cultural resources.

Hohokam pot - Illustration by Bill Singleton

Cultural Resources

Pima County is committed to cultural resource conservation so future generations may know the wonders of their past.
Through the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan process, Pima County, Arizona has gained a comprehensive understanding of its cultural resources.

Continuous Occupation
Pima County has been continuously occupied for approximately 12,000 years from the end of the last Ice Age to the present day.

Archaeological Sites
There are 3,984 archaeological sites known in Pima County, yet only 12 percent of the land base has been formally investigated. Most common are sites dating to the period from A.D. 750–1450 during which the Hohokam people occupied central and southern Arizona.

Historic Buildings
More than 4,000 historic buildings have been recorded, most of which are within the Tucson city limits. In general, these represent settlement during the 19th and early 20th centuries when Tucson emerged from a fortified village to a major metropolitan center.

National Register
There are 121 places listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s honor role of historically important properties. Twenty-six of these are districts that contain multiple buildings or archaeological sites. The City of Tucson has 16 such districts alone, five of which are also city designated districts.

Historic Communities
Ten historic communities are 50 years old or older: Silverbell, Marana, Rillito, Catalina, Redington, Vail, Continental, Sahuarita, Arivaca, Sasabe, and Tucson itself.

Cultural Locations
Five traditional cultural places have been identified, four of which are important to the Tohono O’odham Nation and one that is important to the Mexican American community in Tucson.

Ghost Towns
Thirteen communities have been abandoned and are now ghost towns such as Greaterville and Total Wreck in the Cienega Valley, Twin Buttes and Helvetia in the Upper Santa Cruz Valley, Cerro Colorado in the Altar Valley, the Silverbell mining camp in the Avra Valley, and Clarkstown on the west side of the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation. These reflect the importance of silver, gold, lead, and copper mining in Pima County’s history.

Historic Trails
There are three historically significant trails. The Anza Trail of 1775-1776 was used by Captain Juan Bautista de Anza in his excursions to the Pacific Coast. The Camino del Diablo linked Sonora with southern California during the 18th and 19th centuries. Thirdly, is the Butterfield Trail, an overland mail route between St. Louis and San Francisco, that was used between 1858 and 1861.Priority Cultural ResourcesThe Technical Advisory Team for the Cultural Resources Element of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan reviewed nearly 4,000 archaeological sites and over 4,000 historic buildings and structures. This group selected 70 individual archaeological sites, 29 clusters or “complexes” of archaeological sites representing repeated use of the landscape over thousands of years, and 138 historic resources all built over the past two centuries. In total, 237 places have been identified as Priority Cultural Resources. These are high value cultural resources that because of their importance to the history and culture of the citizens of Pima County deserve conservation in the public interest.

San Xavier scene - Illustration by Bill Singleton

Priority Resources
The selected Priority Cultural Resources include:
• Ancient Native American villages, including some of the oldest sites with evidence of irrigation agriculture in North America.
• The magnificent Mission church, San Xavier del Bac, known the world over as one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial ecclesiastical architecture.
• Mexican and U.S. Territorial era ranches, such as the Canoa Ranch in Green Valley.
• The 19th century ruins of Fort Lowell, a frontier military base that played an instrumental role in the “Indian Wars” of the mid- to late 19th century before Arizona statehood.
• Old mines, such as Kentucky Camp in the Cienega Valley.
• Residences of both the local Sonoran style of architecture and the imported Victorian styles that followed the coming of the railroad to Tucson in 1880.
• Churches, school houses, commercial establishments, bridges, and other transportation related features that followed statehood in 1912.
• Several parks, including Tucson Mountain Park, created in 1929 and developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Together these priority cultural resources represent 10,000 years of settlement in what is today Pima County, representing a physical legacy of the struggle for survival for hundreds of generations of people who have made Southern Arizona their home.

Evaluation Process
The challenge we face is to develop strategies that effectively protect cultural resources for future generations. An important part of this involves comparing the location of high value cultural resources with data on high value natural resources. Data layers mapping core biological, habitat, and riparian areas were compared with the location of priority cultural resources to determine where they overlap and where they are distributed separately.
The analysis indicates that priority cultural resources overlap with important riparian areas both within and outside the urban core. However, more of the priority archaeological sites are located within the urban core where natural resource values are low. For the archaeological site complexes, the reverse is true. Most historic resources are located within the Tucson Metropolitan area, although a small number are distributed in areas with high natural resource values in the rural countryside.
High value cultural resources overlap with high value natural resources in some places but not in others. Some are on private land and some are on lands that are publicly owned. A majority exist in the urban core under the jurisdiction of local governments. Some resources, including many of the archaeological complexes, cover thousands of acres, whereas others, particularly the historic resources, are located on less than one acre.The challenge we face is to develop strategies that effectively protect cultural resources for future generations. An important part of this involves comparing the location of high value cultural resources with data on high value natural resources. Data layers mapping core biological, habitat, and riparian areas were compared with the location of priority cultural resources to determine where they overlap and where they are distributed separately.
The analysis indicates that priority cultural resources overlap with important riparian areas both within and outside the urban core. However, more of the priority archaeological sites are located within the urban core where natural resource values are low. For the archaeological site complexes, the reverse is true. Most historic resources are located within the Tucson Metropolitan area, although a small number are distributed in areas with high natural resource values in the rural countryside.
High value cultural resources overlap with high value natural resources in some places but not in others. Some are on private land and some are on lands that are publicly owned. A majority exist in the urban core under the jurisdiction of local governments. Some resources, including many of the archaeological complexes, cover thousands of acres, whereas others, particularly the historic resources, are located on less than one acre.The challenge we face is to develop strategies that effectively protect cultural resources for future generations. An important part of this involves comparing the location of high value cultural resources with data on high value natural resources. Data layers mapping core biological, habitat, and riparian areas were compared with the location of priority cultural resources to determine where they overlap and where they are distributed separately.
The analysis indicates that priority cultural resources overlap with important riparian areas both within and outside the urban core. However, more of the priority archaeological sites are located within the urban core where natural resource values are low. For the archaeological site complexes, the reverse is true. Most historic resources are located within the Tucson Metropolitan area, although a small number are distributed in areas with high natural resource values in the rural countryside.
High value cultural resources overlap with high value natural resources in some places but not in others. Some are on private land and some are on lands that are publicly owned. A majority exist in the urban core under the jurisdiction of local governments. Some resources, including many of the archaeological complexes, cover thousands of acres, whereas others, particularly the historic resources, are located on less than one acre.

Pottery sherds - Illustration by Bill Singleton

Conservation Stategies
The citizens of Pima County are blessed with an abundance of cultural resources, some of which are extraordinary in nature. Cultural resources in Pima County have been and continue to be threatened, most immediately in areas that are just developing now or will be in the near future. Protecting these resources will require long term, region-wide planning and cooperation on the part of public entities and private citizens.
A variety of conservation strategies employed on different scales and time frames will be needed to address the realities of cultural resource conservation.

• Work cooperatively with federal, state, and local governmental entities to achieve shared conservation goals.
• Develop a regional management strategy that is centered on adaptive management concepts.
• Purchase land containing high value cultural resources when and if public monies become available.
• Create an incentive program to encourage private land owners to voluntarily protect cultural resources that are on their land or that compensate them for giving up development rights to lands containing cultural resources.
• Implement land use regulations to ensure that when private land is developed cultural resources are considered as a part of the development review approval.
• Inform and educate the public about the past and engage them in saving our collective heritage for the future.

Cultural Resources Map (PDF)

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Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan
Pima County Administrator’s Office
130 West Congress, 10th Floor
Tucson, AZ 85701
520-724-6460

 

 

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