Monday, August 1, 2016

Desert Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian Church

David Aber told me about this spot — on the east side of town, near 22nd & Harrison. It's almost three acres (350 x 350 feet) of desert environment with dirt paths, benches, foot bridge, ramada, fire pit, maze/labyrinth, and a multi-sided column with messages in several languages. He visits often because it's a great place for wildflowers. But he also points out that the only shade is under the ramada, and there's no water. David sent these photos to give you a good idea of the place.

Here's the column and some benches for contemplation:

David wrote that it “has two words on the side that I photographed — Dodolimdag and Vrede. Dodolimdag is Pima/Tohono O’odham meaning peace. Vrede is Dutch, also meaning peace. Presumably, the other sides also have words meaning peace.”

Views of the rest of the parklet:

Thanks so much, David!

Location: Southeast of the church buildings and parking lot. Directly south of Saguaro Eastside Medical Group at 9302 E. 22nd. Here's a Google satellite view.

Parking: You can use the church parking lot, though it might be polite to leave spaces for churchgoers during services and other events. (The church website is During weekends, you can also use the Saguaro Eastside Medical Group, then walk south into the parklet; there's easy access to the trails from there.

Hours: Always open, but no light at night… and, as David points out, desert critters (like rattlesnakes) may be visiting at night, too. (Still: Walking a labyrinth under the full moon can be magical — especially on a warm summer evening.)

Monday, July 4, 2016

A pocket park in your complex

As I've mentioned before, your neighborhood can set up a parklet to bring neighbors together… or just sit yourself… at almost no cost, with much benefit.

Here's a photo of a little spot at a friend's apartment complex that sits next to a former dumpster pad. It used to be desolate; now it's a pleasure:

Monday, June 6, 2016

Pima County Extension

The Rillito River has paths for biking and walking (and horseback riding and…) along most of both its sides in the Tucson area. Though there are benches and shady spots, a special spot is southeast of the junction with Campbell Avenue: the gardens (and more) at Pima County Extension:

Pose as farmers or veggies (I added the red arrows)... though I'm not sure if selfie sticks work here:

You'll find benches and picnic tables among the gardens:

Last but not least, there's a tile mural near the entrance. Click there to see it on the Tucson Murals Project blog. I took the photos during one of the twice-monthly Saturday morning tours May 14th.

You can read more about the gardens, and one of the Saturday tours, in the Arizona Daily Star article Tucson's hidden glorious gardens are open to all.

Location: Entrance is east of Campbell, across the street from the Trader Joe's parking lost.

Parking: Limited. The parking lot for the Rillito River trail is nearby. You might try the parking lot at the shopping center's parking lot — or walk along the river from one of the other spots.

Hours:The office is open 7:30-4:30 weekdays. After 5pm the gate to the parking lot may be closed, and you can park in the Rillito lot… but it may not be safe (there have been break-ins). The office (and parking lot) are are also open some Saturday meetings.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Alfonsa McKenna-Luis Redondo Park

Though the solid fences and walls around this parklet may look a bit forbidding, they actually make it a safe place to bring kids — or your whole family:

David Aber (who also contributes to the Tucson Murals Project blog) visited on December 28th. He wrote “It’s the nicest pocket park that I’ve seen. It has a basketball court, a playground and a covered picnic area with charcoal grills.”

This plaque along 5th Avenue, next to the park entrance, tells a bit of the story:

These photos are by David Aber. The park walls are lined with murals, inside and out; you can see them on today's McKenna Park entry on the Tucson Murals Project blog.

Thanks, David!

Location: 2020 S. 5th Avenue (more accurately: Just north of the alley, west of 5th Avenue between South 30th & 31st Streets)

Hours: When the gate is unlocked. At night, there are lights along 5th Avenue, inside the park, and along the alley south of the park.

Parking: Street parking along 5th Avenue and 30th Street.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Sit a while at 36th & Kino

Here's a little spot that's not worth a long drive to reach. But if you're visiting the (soon-to-be) UA Tech Park at The Bridges, or you want a place to take a break on a bicycle ride, this bench surrounded by desert plants might be just what you're looking for:

Walk south a minute or two and you'll be at a series of tile murals. (Click there to see them on the Tucson Murals Project blog.) Across the street, behind the library, is the larger Quincie Douglas Park.)

We're still short on new pocket parks. I'll keep looking! And please feel free to suggest one.

Location: Southwest corner of 36th Street & Kino Parkway

Hours: 24 hours

Parking: Across 36th, next to Quincie Douglas library.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Your own parklet

Like pocket parks? Why not get together with your neighbors — or your neighborhood association — and make a special spot? It can be more than a place to relax… it can bring neighbors together.

A bench like this one is a good start. One neighborhood has a simple group of outdoor chairs on the “traffic-calming” circle in an intersection of their quiet streets.

If you make a parklet in your neighborhood, please let me know about it (if you'd like to spread the word, that is). You can reach me through the comment form.

By the way, there's a little tile mural at the south end of Tucson Boulevard — a very short walk away. Click there to see it on the Tucson Murals Project blog. Also check out the beautiful garden-covered mailbox at 1521 Bristol Avenue (on the Tucson Mailbox Art blog).

Location: Southeast corner of Tucson Blvd. and Warwick Vista, one block south of 22nd Street.

Hours: Daytimes

Parking: Street parking.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hunting for parklets

I didn't come across any new small parks during December, so I don't have any to post here for January. I've done some searching online and found a few places to check out. If you know of a pocket park that isn't on this list — which is open to the public without payment — I'd be glad to pass your tips on to other readers. You can reach me through the comment form.

See you next month!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Take a break at Grant-Campbell Park(let)

Just northwest of the traffic-clogged Grant-Campbell corner is this patch of green:

Logically enough, its official name is Grant-Campbell Park. Thanks to sponsor U of A Phi Delta Chi (the professional pharmacy fraternity - Alpha Nu Chapter), you can pull over here on your bike — or park on a side street from your car — to catch your breath along a busy ride.

Location: Northwest corner of Grant & Campbell

Parking: Street parking on Edison Avenue just northwest of the park

Hours: You'll probably like daylight more than the distant nighttime streetlights and car headlights along Grant, just south

Monday, November 2, 2015

Peaceful corner at Govinda's

Maybe you've come to Govinda's to chow down on their vegetarian buffet or for one of the festivals. (For more about Govinda's, see the ISKCON website.)

Besides the outdoor patio near their buffet — which doesn't count as a parklet because it's a restaurant seating area — head toward the back (north) side of the parking lot to find an aviary and koi pond with some benches and stones for sitting. It makes a nice place to relax before or after a meal — or even if you just want to stop by for a complete change of scene. (I wouldn't suggest spending a long time here unless you check with the people who live at Govinda's. This small space is next to private residences. If you love this little spot, you could always book some time in their guest cottage.)

Location: Just east of 1st Avenue, north of Glenn

Parking: Small parking lot, but street parking just outside the entrance on Blacklidge is kind to other visitors

Hours: Lunch through dinner unless you're staying overnight

Monday, October 5, 2015

Labyrinth at Unity of Tucson

There are lots of labyrinths around Tucson; we can't list them all here. (If you'd like to find others, try the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator.) As Unity's website says, “Unity of Tucson is a Church, School, Bookstore, Wedding Chapel, Health Ministry, and a House of Worship...”

Along the middle of their north-most parking lot (which is graveled) is a sign welcoming you to the labyrinth and asking for quiet. At times when the parking lots aren't emptying or filling, it's definitely quiet.

If you aren't familiar with labyrinths: A labyrinth is a place for meditation… for some people, it's a holy journey. As you walk very slowly around, step by step (it's not a maze; there's only one path through), noticing the details along the way can help make your time there more meditative. For instance, Unity's mural is lined with small colored tiles and some hearts. There's more about labyrinth walking at Walking the Labyrinth: Labyrinth Walking for Spiritual Exercise.

Location: 3617 N. Camino Blanco (south of River Road between Swan and Craycroft), north of gravelled north parking lot

Parking: Parking lots south of labyrinth

Hours: Daylight hours (though it's also magical at night, with a flashlight and city lights in the distance... no other lighting). It's hot out here in the summer, so early mornings or evenings may be best then.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Plaza Palomino

Although Plaza Palomino is a shopping center, it's also a place with benches for sitting (many of them shady at different times of day):

There's a fountain in the middle of the complex:

There are also restrooms, a drinking fountain, and plenty of shops to browse if you'd like.

Location: Southeast corner of Swan & Fort Lowell (not Camp Lowell)

Hours: Business hours (into the evenings when the restaurant — currently closed — is operating)

Parking: Lots on north and south sides (south lot is bigger)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Women's Plaza of Honor

The University of Arizona campus has lots of surprises scattered around (and in) its buildings. Between Centennial Hall and the south side of the Arizona State Museum — just inside the Main Gate, southeast of University & Park — is a long, narrow memorial to Arizona women. (It's also lined with shady spaces — including benches hidden under cool, spreading trees.) You'll probably see the north end first:

That's one of three parts — north, Youth Plaza; center, Maturity Plaza; and south, Seniority Plaza — representing three stages of a woman's life.

As you can see above, the Youth Plaza is a series of arches supported by columns with curved sides. Each arch describes the women memorialized below it. For instance, the arch inscribed Women Lawyers … Women Leaders has two lists of women's names below it, one on each column. Here's one of the two:

The whole plaza is lovingly documented on its website, There — among many other things — you can look up an honoree by her name (on the Women Honored list) or see lists of the Youth Plaza arches and the women listed under each (for instance, Women Lawyers … Women Leaders).

The central part, Maturity Plaza, is lined with low walls topped by tile mosaics like this:

The plaza was dedicated in 2005:

Location: See first paragraph above

Hours: 24 hours

Parking: Street parking along University Blvd. west of Park Avenue, campus parking.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Fixed location for El Parque de Orlando y Diego Mendoza, and others

The other two blogs I contrubute to, The Tucson Murals Project and Tucson Mailbox Art, have a place near the bottom of each entry that gives its location. You can click on that location to get a Google map.

I've filled in the location box most times I've made entries here on the Tucson's Pocket Parks blog. But today I discovered that the location info hasn't been appearing as it does on the two other blogs. I just fixed that this morning. So, although this particular entry you're reading just now doesn't have a location to click (because this entry isn't about a particular place), most of the others should.

If you'd like an example, have a look at the end of our February, 2015 entry 8 x 18.

See you next month!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Miramonte Park(let)

This place is called a “park,” but I'd call it a pocket park. It's packed with benches, a table with a checkers-chess board, a sandbox, a quote by Emerson along the winding sidewalk, and a Little Free Library at the street corner.

Location: Just southwest of Speedway & Alvernon at the corner of 3rd & Richey

Hours: Daylight hours (I didn't see any lighting in the park)

Parking: Street parking

Friday, May 1, 2015

Aviation Bikeway parklets

Just north of the high-speed road that connects downtown Tucson with Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is a separate path that does the same thing for bicyclists (and pedestrians, and skateboarders, and...). Starting from the west end, you can pick up the path just east of the 4th Avenue railroad underpass and south of the Hotel Coronado. A bit farther east are the Iron Horse park(lets). You'll cross the Rattlesnake (Diamondback) Bridge and the Basket Bridge (here's an article with a great series of photos in the November 15, 2007 article Basket Bridge to be dedicated Friday).

Just after the Basket Bridge, you'll cross the end of Park Avenue and be at the first pocket park. It has a drinking fountain, benches, a bike rack, and shade (although there's no shade for the few colder months that the trees don't have their leaves):

Next stop is at Highland Avenue. There are bike racks, benches and shade, but the water fountain was either shut off or broken when I rode by on January 24th:

A bit farther east is the pocket park under Kino Parkway at 18th Street and Vine Avenue, with a drinking fountain, benches, a bike rack, and often a lot of shade from the overpass. A quiet homeless man is often here with his grocery cart; I took the photo from a distance so I didn't disturb him:

The shadiest spot along the bikeway — maybe not counting Eastmoor Park — is at Wilson Avenue. It also has a drinking fountain, bike racks and benches:

The next stop isn't a pocket park; it's a bigger park, Eastmoor Park, at the south end of Bristol Avenue. It has picnic tables, a water fountain, a bike rack, shade (thought not at the tables), and some mosaic murals next to the bikeway. There are photos on the Tucson Murals Project in the blog entry BBQ at Bristol and Bikeway.

Another few minutes' ride brings you to the parklet on the west side of Country Club — with benches, water, and bike racks... but not much shade:

The farthest east I rode along Aviation Bikeway was the parklet at 34th Street. Again: a drinking fountain, bike racks, benches and shade:

The Veterans Memorial Plaza is close by. Farther east, there may be one or two other pocket parks, but I don't remember seeing them on earlier trips. A big city park you'll pass east of Swan is Freedom Park; it has water and rest rooms.

Location: From the 4th Avenue underpass past Davis-Monthan AFB, mostly north of Barraza-Aviation Parkway and Golf Links Road.

Hours: 24 hours, though mostly deserted at night (with lots of gang graffiti that the city keeps painting over)

Parking: Try along 10th Street, several blocks east of 4th Avenue, for free car parking. You can also park a car at the south end of Park Avenue, south of Broadway... but you'll miss Iron Horse Park, as well the Snake and Basket Bridges, unless you backtrack.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Iron Horse park(lets)

There are several dots of parkland just north of Broadway, east of 4th Avenue. They aren't directly on a city street, and the official address doesn't make much sense. To get there by car, drive along 10th Street and park around the corner with 2nd Avenue. If you ride Aviation Bikeway, or walk the path that starts at the southwest corner of the Coronado Hotel, you'll pass all three park(lets).

To me, Iron Horse Park itself is too big to be called a “parklet.” To the west is “For Speed These Lines," a sculpture by John Davis and Siobhan Roome:

There's no place to sit near the sculpture, but a path winds through it. Have a look at the details in the columns. For a place to sit, head east past the main part of Iron Horse Park to this sitting arc (and bike rack):

It's at the mouth of the Diamondback Bridge. Aviation Bikeway continues from there past Davis-Monthan AFB.

Closer to 10th Street is Iron Horse Community Garden with a pretty mural on the fence in front. (That page is from the Tucson Murals Project blog.)

Location: South of 10th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues

Parking: Street (and bike) parking

Hours: Basically, daylight hours — though there are some lights near (and through) the snake bridge

Friday, March 6, 2015

Next to the Corbett House

This brick patio with shade (more when the trees have leaves), and a rare patch of green grass, are just northwest of the Tucson Museum of Art — part of its Historic Block. The easiest access is through the museum's free parking lot (though the lot is for museum visitors only; there's plenty of street parking in the area).

On the wall below this spot, at the corner of Main and Washington, is a plaque marking the northwest corner of the Presidio:

Location: Downtown, at the southeast corner of Main Avenue & Washington Street

Parking: Street parking

Hours: None posted

Friday, February 20, 2015

Coming soon, we hope: Centennial Park(let)

On the southwest corner of Main Avenue and Washington Street downtown is a (currently) empty lot with a sign:

As the website says: “With your help, Tucson's Christopher Franklin Carroll Centennial Park will transform a 30' by 130' vacant lot into an attractive pocket park.” The website also describes gifts from Tucson Water, including an historic plaque, and has a page explaining how you can buy a commemorative brick to help fund this peaceful little parklet downtown, across from the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block.

Once it opens, I'll update this entry. In the meantime, if you have news, please leave a comment below!

Update (October 2. 2017): The park has been completed and open for more than a year. There are photos in today's blog entry Christopher Franklin Carroll Centennial Park.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Orlando y Diego Mendoza Memorial Park(let)

While I was cruising the 2014 autumn Tucson Artists' Open Studios, I found a parklet between downtown and 22nd — at the corner of 8th Street and 18th/Convent Avenues:

Location: Northwest corner of 18th Street and Convent Avenue (also called 8th Street) (click on the Location link below for a map).

Parking: Street parking.

Hours: Nothing posted, but how about 8 AM to sunset? (Neighbors need their rest...)

Update (June 24, 2015): An Arizona Daily Star article, Local memorials, says that this pocket park “El Parque de Orlando y Diego Mendoza … [is] dedicated to two young brothers killed by a drunk driver.”

Update (April 16, 2019): David Aber sent more photos and information. I don't think the shrine was there when I visited five years ago, but maybe I just missed it!

David wrote:
It's a small park (about 1/4 acre) and here is what Tucson Parks and Recreation has to say:

"In 1981, two young brothers, Orlando and Diego Mendoza, died when a drunk driver ran a stop sign at the intersection of S. Convent Avenue and W. 18th Street, hitting the car in which the two children were riding. Orlando was two years old; Diego was 17 months old. The accident left behind their heartbroken parents, Frank and Mary Mendoza. The rock and concrete shrine was built by neighbors in memory of the two children. Today, this park serves as a quiet respite and a reminder of how precious life is.

The colorful wall adornments in the park are based on papel picado (paper cutouts) used on el Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) which is celebrated annually on November 2nd. On this day, the memory of departed loved ones is honored by Hispanic families. Dia de los Muertos celebrations are held at el Parque de Orlando y Diego Mendoza in memory of the two little brothers and other children that have left before their time. We can all do our part to honor the memory of Orlando and Diego by not drinking and driving."

Friday, January 2, 2015

Plaza de la Mesilla

You've probably seen the brightly-colored La Placita complex as you enter downtown on Broadway from the west. But maybe you rolled right past Plaza de la Mesilla, the remnant of a Tucson landmark standing across the pavement from the Tucson visitors center. What you'll notice most is the gazebo:

Under the shade of the trees close by are picnic benches where you can cool off and enjoy food from La Placita vendors:

There's more to this story. According to a page on The Arizona Womens Heritage Trail, “La Placita was a communal plaza used mostly by the Mexican and Mexican American residents of Tucson from the 1860s to the 1960s. When urban renewal occurred in the Tucson downtown during the 1960s, a committee, made up primarily of women, saved a small part of the plaza, located near Congress and Broadway Streets.” You can find more on The Historical Marker Database page.

Location: On the north edge of La Placita, just west of where Broadway and Congress merge.

Hours: 24 hours, as far as I know — though most Tucson parks are closed overnight.

Parking: is metered on downtown streets. Evenings and weekends are free (so far).