On the northern side of Tempe and the southeastern side of Phoenix sits a plot of land with some small buttes. This desert space is known as Papago Park and it holds lots of activities for the residents and visitors to the Phoenix Metropolitan area. There is the Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden, and picnic and hiking areas.
But, did you know that Papago Park once was a national monument named Papago Saguaro National Monument? That’s right folks, it was once a land dedicated to preservation, beauty, and the saguaro cactus.
The national monument was a good idea in 1913, when representative Carl Hayden helped lobby the land to become a national monument. Woodrow Wilson officially signed the papers in January of 1914, making it Papago Saguaro National Monument. It only took 16 years for the national monument to be the first ever monument to be abolished. Why? Well, I don’t know if you noticed, but there aren’t many saguaro cacti in the park. People back in the day would take these giant spiky, prickly plants and steal them to put in their own lawn. Now, if someone could tell me how they managed to do that, I’m all ears. I certainly do not enjoy handling plants with giant thorns sticking out of it.
Stealing the cacti was not the only issue the monument had. The lack of funding led to degradation and dirtiness. Many organizations like Tempe, Phoenix, and the Arizona National Guard wanted to use the land in a way that would benefit its urban location. They proposed ideas of bass hatcheries, a canal, shooting range, and a zoo and garden, among others. Senator Carl Hayden then lobbied for the abolishment of the Papago Saguaro National Monument and it was turned over to the cities and the state.
Papago Park today is entirely different than it was 100 years ago. There are lagoons with fish, a spring training facility for the Oakland Athletics, and lots of roads and buildings. The space has changed its function with the expanding human population in the desert.
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