With Tohono Chul’s 25th anniversary approaching in 2010, park officials are trying to get as much in line for the big day as possible.
The park’s North Trail, which is surprisingly unknown by many, has recently undergone widening, lengthening and leveling, and two new ramadas on the trail are nearing completion.
The North Trail, previously a quarter of a mile long, has doubled in length as part of the $100,000 project. It now allows visitors to travel around the 49-acre property more freely than before.
The ramadas, which are about 13 feet in diameter, will offer visitors a little break from the Arizona sun, allowing them to surround themselves slightly off the trail with wildlife and vegetation. Installation of the ramadas will take about 80 man-hours, total, which is being spread over the course of a couple of weeks.
“We are working on this only a couple hours a day just because of the heat,” said maintenance worker Russ Smith.
Throughout the North Trail, benches offer sightseers a relaxing rest on their journey. New benches can be purchased in honor of a loved one for $3,000.
The park’s communication coordinator, Glenn Nowak, said the park has yet to set a date for completion of the north end of the park, but completion appears to be close.
“We are looking at by the end of September having all of the improvements done, all the benches out, and the two ramadas finished,” Nowak said.
Nowak mentioned that park officials would like to have a new garden completed in time for the anniversary, which will be April 19, 2010.
“It will be called the Sonoran Seasons Garden,” Nowak said. “It will be five gardens, one for each season so one would always be in bloom throughout the year.”
The fifth season would be the desert’s monsoon.
The garden project is expected to cost a half million dollars.
Nowak said the park is looking to put the new garden in the “big eye-sore” — the large dirt lot visitors see when they enter the park just before reaching the gift shop and museum inside.
The park has yet to start obtaining funds for the garden from donors and admission fees, but it doesn’t expect fund raising to be a problem.
The park, which is widely known for its large public collection of night-blooming cereuses, strives to bring the Sonoran Desert’s vegetation to the general public in an accessible manner, eliminating the need for strenuous hikes and searches. Plants and trees are marked with signs identifying them for the visitors.