Blog Archives

Voice your ideas on connecting Rio Salado to downtown Phoenix, Feb. 11

[Source: City of Phoenix] — The first of three stakeholders meetings to discuss the HOPE VI Rio Salado Connector Trail to downtown Phoenix has been scheduled for Thursday, February 11 at 5:30 p.m., 1150 S. 7th Ave. (northwest corner of 7th Avenue and Buckeye; the yellow building with bell tower).  Please attend to contribute to the pedestrian improvements plan for this project.

This session will be held as part of the Matthew Henson Village Community Action Team meeting.  For more information, please contact Gail Brinkmann, City of Phoenix Street Transportation Department, 602-495-2073.

Viewpoint: Phoenix’s new Audubon Center brings life to formerly bare area

[Source: Sam Campana, Audubon Arizona, Special to the Arizona Republic] — When the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center opens in October in Phoenix, children from an underserved and diverse population who may never have connected with nature will find themselves in a green and LEED-certified wonderland. What was once a neglected site is now a riparian ecosystem blooming with native plants indigenous to the Salt River.

The 8,000-square-foot center is the National Audubon Society’s first education center in Arizona and a centerpiece for the city of Phoenix’s Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project.  Six years in the making, it was funded by a capital campaign that raised $7 million.  Our new light-filled and green space features a multi-use classroom, exhibits and discovery areas, and numerous outdoor interactive spaces for children and adults.  An adjoining hummingbird garden invites everyone to enjoy the antics of these amazing birds.

Birds are the main attraction, but children also learn natural science, geology and history here.  Our Arizona-centric curriculum is geared for grades four through eight, and students may also participate in week-long programs during school intersession.  Thirty-five schools in four districts are within 5 miles of the center.

In planning for this center, we aimed for LEED Gold Certification.  But, during the design and building phase, it became apparent to our architects from Weddle Gilmore & Associates and Blackrock Studio that we could aspire to LEED Platinum, the highest rating given by the U.S. Green Building Council.  Some LEED points came from installing solar panels donated by Salt River Project.  Others came from our innovative landscaping design which allows storm water to filter into the ground instead of running into storm drains.  More points were garnered from our attention to water use and diverting 75 percent of construction waste from disposal.

Before we rehabilitated this site, only four mesquite trees grew on the entire 4 acres and just 40 bird species had been spotted in the area.  Our volunteers planted 180 trees to ensure that birds and other wildlife find food and cover.  Today, our center is visited by more than 200 species of birds, and dozens of species nest here.

But this historic restoration of the Salt River is also good for people.  Visitors can walk a trail on the property that joins with the 5-mile Rio Salado Restoration Project where 20 more miles of trails wait to be explored.  By every measure, this is a dramatic first step in revitalizing the entire area, a point that was elegantly driven home on the evening that we previewed the new center to our donors.  As we all marveled at this beautiful and sustainable building and landscape, a great egret, the proud emblem of the National Audubon Society, soared over the new wetland at sunset in full view of all the guests — proving that going green really is for the birds.

Phoenix’s “New Vision” city council slate unveils Plan 468


Proposed Playa del Sol along the banks of the Rio Salado.

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Free health care for all Phoenicians.  The creation of a Mexican Riviera-type development along the Rio Salado.  And a new Phoenix energy board to oversee the city’s sustainability efforts.  They are just a few ideas from Plan 468, which the New Vision slate unveiled during a Thursday evening news conference attended by one reporter.

City Council candidates Robert Dennis Johnson (District 4), Nathan Oshop (District 6) and Jon Garrido (District 8), all Democrats, published the six-point strategy online.  “Everybody talks about a comprehensive plan.  We’ve done it,” said Garrido, who is in a three-way race with incumbent Michael Johnson and Darlene Jackson. The plan calls for:

  • Transforming the Rio Salado, or Salt River, into a giant lagoon that would anchor a multi-billion dollar beachfront development called Playa del Sol.  It would serve as a world-class destination, attracting 8 million new tourists to its resorts, golf courses, shops, casino, and Phoenix SeaWorld.
  • Free health care insurance for all Phoenix residents, paid for using $1 billion in casino revenue from the Playa del Sol project.  The only caveat: The proposal relies on Arizona voters to pass an initiative allowing a casino to be built on non-tribal land.
  • Refocusing economic-development efforts from downtown to the Indian School Road Corridor by creating jobs in research and development, light manufacturing, and international trade.  The city would forge business ties with Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Spain.
  • Forming a city energy board charged with reducing the city’s carbon emissions by 30 percent within 10 years, and redeveloping blighted landfills into revenue-generating commercial developments.
  • Widening the reach of city community centers so they serve all segments of the population.
  • Developing urban mixed-use “nodes” where people can work, shop and play.

Even though the slate is being outspent by incumbent candidates, none have put together a more ambitious and complete plan than New Vision, said Robert Dennis Johnson.  “We realize we are outgunned.  This is a David vs. Goliath fight,” he said.  “But what we have, when you look at this, is substantially more than any of our challengers are offering.”  [Note: Read the full blog post at Phoenix’s “New Vision” city council slate unveils Plan 468.]

Rio Salado habitat a lush revival in heart of Phoenix

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The Rio Salado habitat project, just south of downtown Phoenix, is a hidden jewel of nature that attracts egrets, ospreys and more than 200 other bird species – but relatively few people. That may be about to change after today, when the city opens the final 1.5 miles of the riverside habitat and prepares to unveil a new nature center.   The once-dry river, which had been a dumping ground for industrial businesses along its banks, is a symbol of renewal.

The $100 million, 600-acre park, which envelops the Salt River from 19th Avenue to 24th Street, is an oasis of cottonwood trees, marshes, waterfalls and trails just as the city envisioned more than a decade ago.  The first part of the habitat-restoration area, between 19th Avenue and 16th Street, opened in 2005.  Today, the parkland between 16th and 24th streets will open to the public.   “What we have been able to do is take this underutilized riverbed and create a public amenity,” said Karen Williams, a deputy parks director, adding that $500 million in commercial and housing development has been built within 7 miles of the park since 2000.  “It’s a wonderful amenity for the public and wildlife, and it can be a trigger for development,” she said. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Would you guess this is minutes from downtown Phoenix?

Rio Salado, Habitat Restoration by cobalt123.Just south of downtown Phoenix, as noted by local photographer Cobalt123, a great habitat restoration project is in progress to return a desert wasteland and dumping ground to the former natural beauty and wildlife refuge.  The Rio Salado (Salt River) was once a mighty river but dried up to serve only as path for effluent water after diversion to man’s uses. Now the historical plants are being returned with care from cuttings and seeds found in the area along the former river banks.  Click here for Cobalt123’s slideshow of this thriving downtown oasis.

Valley Forward honors eight City of Phoenix projects

Memorial Hall, Steele Indian School Park

Memorial Hall, Steele Indian School Park

[Source: City of Phoenix] — The city of Phoenix won eight awards for significant contributions to the environment during the recent Valley Forward Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony.  Phoenix received first-place Crescordia Awards for the following projects:

  • Memorial Hall at Steele Indian School Park in the category of Buildings and Structures, Historic Preservation
  • Neighborhood Resource Center in the category of Buildings and Structures, Public Works
  • Rio Salado Equestrian Trailhead in the category of Site Development and Landscape, Trails
  • Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area – Solar Irrigation Enhancement in the category of Environmental Technologies

Phoenix received Awards of Merit for:

  • Camelback East Village Core Pedestrian Streetscape and Underpass in the category of Buildings and Structures, Industrial, and Public Works
  • Recycling Changes Everything – On the Weekend in the category of Environmental Education/ Communications, Public Sector
  • Henson Village HOPE VI Development in the category of Livable Communities, Master Planned Communities
  • Arts, Culture, and Small Business Overlay District in the category of Livable Communities, Public Policy/Plans

The Valley Forward Association, which promotes cooperative efforts to improve the environment and livability of Valley communities, received more than 130 entries in this year’s competition.  For more information about Phoenix’s sustainability efforts, click here.

And just south of downtown, along the Rio Salado

The purpose of the “Rio Salado Beyond the Banks” Area Plan is to protect the investment in the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project, maximize the long-term benefits to the community, and increase the potential value of properties adjacent to the river.  The area is close to the Rio Salado, Downtown Phoenix, Sky Harbor International Airport, other job centers, and regional transportation links.  Goals are to:

  • connect to the restored Rio Salado as an attractive recreational and environmental amenity;
  • provide an attractive mix of land uses abutting the Rio Salado;
  • build on existing neighborhoods, area history, and cultural identity;
  • provide infill housing to support seven city employment centers;
  • employ a growing and increasingly skilled workforce; and
  • create a vibrant place that attracts area residents and visitors to a wide variety of recreational, environmental, and commercial activities

The City of Phoenix encourages public participation in the planning process.  For details, visit