TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - It’s hard to believe, but Tucson’s birthplace, which goes back more than 4,000 years, is still not designated as a historic landmark.
But that may be about to change.
The Tucson City Council is set to discuss next week whether what’s left of the proposed Tucson Origins Heritage Park should become a historic landmark.
It’s being done, in part because of development that is beginning to encroach on the site.
The sites being looked at include the Convento, graves from the Native America cemetery, the grainery, Mission Lane and Mission Garden.
Mission Garden is four acres of land at the base of 'A' Mountain on Mission Road, which has been continuously cultivated for 4,100 years, likely making it the longest in the United States.
It was first settled by a Native Americans who found the soil fertile and close to a water source, the Santa Cruz River; and was first visited by Father Kino 300 years ago when he introduced many of the food plants, including winter wheat and melons.
Now Mission Garden has become a tourist attraction visited by people from all over the world.
“It’s a way people can taste the fruit, the same fruit that was grown by the Europeans 300 years ago,” said Dena Cowan, the garden supervisor. “The same corn that the ancients were growing.”
The idea of a Tucson Origins Heritage Park was first introduced as part of the Rio Nuevo voter initiative which as passed in 1999.
However, financial issues and controversy over Rio Nuevo spending put the idea on the back burner.
Now, Caterpillar has built its new surface mining headquarters on what would have been the northern tip of the park and other land is being prepped for development.
Next door, Barrio Sin Nombre is being gentrified, which is attracting more interest from developers.
“A formal designation of the Tucson Origins Heritage Park will provide a layer of protection against future commercial development on these cultural sites,” said Ward 1 Council Member Regina Romero. “And show that the City of Tucson is serious about preserving our archaeology and heritage.”
Cowan echos the sentiment.
“It’s a place where people get in touch with nature, our history, the cultures and it’s not just buildings everywhere,” she said.