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November 25, 2010

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I recall the reonovation of Encanto Park in the late 80s. It seemed to emerge from the Neo-Soviet aparatchiks of the Parks Department where water conservation, charmless utility, and parking were the overriding values. For all the crushed granite and defoliated grounds, the architecture itself prevailed in spite of this mugging. Still, it couldn't compare to the park I knew as a youth. Its lushness was incredible. The lagoon had swans through the mid-60s (vandals finally took them out). And the lighting was softer unlike today's maximum-security prison ambience.

I was a member of Encanto pool's swim team in the 50s and early 60s. Swimming competitions were a big deal back then and there were about a dozen different teams in the city back then. The meets were well-attended and figured prominently in the sports' pages. Just a note in passing: Charlie Hickox died five months ago, one of Arizona's greatest swimmers and three-time Olympic gold medalist. He went to Washington High, which didn't field a swim team so he trained at country-club facilities. But he was a legend in our circles.

I'm in a running group that jogs through the park and golf course every Wednesday evening. The rest rooms are no longer available due to budget cuts and the park itself feels underused and unloved. There's a new ornamental gate on Encanto Blvd, however, that is a grace note. I understand that as the city changed the park needed to adapt to those changes. Encanto Park remains, less enchanted but still a jewel in a city despairing of the love it once bestowed so freely.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a talk by Tucson's Brad Lancaster, do so. He talks about Tucson's rich riverside cottonwood forests that disappeared long ago. The antique pictures of that forest are a stunning vision.

http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/

Once again, Seattle's parks blow away anything within the Phoenix metro area. I love the desert, but the mountain parks within Phoenix now only exhibit how bad the city's air pollution has become. From the peak of Camelback, where one could once witness blue skies in some directions, one is now surrounded by the ubiquitous brown cloud. One must now travel out to the Peralta Trail to find a peaceful desert hike with blue horizons.

Just imagine how 8 million people would kick up desert dust to choke each other!

The few times I visited Encanto, I was less than charmed. For me, a park requires topology. Even the somewhat artificial Kiwanis Park is more attractive to my mind.

Having spent some time in London and Tokyo, I think it's fair to say that Phoenix is a wasteland with regards to urban public parks. During the suburban explosion, several orders of magnitude more has been invested in exclusive golf courses than urban parks in Phoenix. 'nuff said.

Thanks, Soleri, for reminding me of the swans. Such a loss.

"I recall a story saying 'nothing could be done' about the lost trees. That's madness." - Rogue

Madness, indeed. Were all the lost trees of the same age?

Fanning out to the East from Encanto, we're blessed with an assortment of historical districts that have gradually become more desirable in comparison to living in the 'burbs and driving forever. We spent Thanksgiving at a lovely backyard celebration in the Country Club district and were reminded of Phoenix at its best. The host had a cool 70 year old brick bungalow that would be termed a crackerbox by those who thought (until 2008) that 4,000 sq. ft. of faux Tuscan was living high. Today, by contrast, a $70,000 mortgage looks pretty good. Reminds me of the 3 Little Pigs.

I absolutely love Encanto Park and the new Entrada is a great little addition that was paid for by the Friends. Replanting of flowers and trees can be done by volunteers at any time. If you wish to do so, just give the office at Encanto a ring and they can give you details.

As for the swans, they have been replaced for some time now. I remember my niece being chased by one briefly when she got too close. They are beautiful but not as nice as the ducks! The central parks in Phoenix are really making a strong come back.

From large to small neighborhood islands, the center city is very green and canopies will provide shade to the newly planted areas in relatively short time in Civic Space Park, Portland Park (trees already reaching large size), to Steele Park. I'm somewhat shocked to read that Jon isn't fond of the changes taking place at Steele in the past few years (especially the restoration of the historic buildings of the Indian School). http://downtownvoices.org/2008/10/25/grand-opening-set-for-phoenix-steele-indian-school-park%E2%80%99s-restored-memorial-hall/

I look forward to the changes and investments that will be coming to Hance Park soon. What I would like to see happen at both Hance and Steele is a reduction of parking spaces. There is no need for the small lot west of 3rd Ave towards Kenilworth. In the last two years, use of the parks in the central city has skyrocketed and emptying only at night. It is great to be a part of a neighborhood and community that has returned to public spaces such as these in the urban areas.

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