Monday, May 28, 2007

Hohokam Temple Park still on Mesa’s wish list

[Source: Sarah N. Lynch, East Valley Tribune] -- Archaeologist Jerry Howard has dreamed for years of transforming the Mesa Grande ruins near Brown Road in Mesa into a park for the public. The site is home to the ancient temple grounds of the Hohokam Indians, and it’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Mesa has owned the land since 1985, and archaeologists and volunteers from the Mesa Southwest Museum have been studying and preserving the land for more than two decades. But today, there is still a lack of funding for the park and the plan remains in limbo. The proposal has sat on a waiting list of capital improvement projects for more than 21 years. “It’s our greatest accomplishment,” Howard said, referring to public ownership of the mound. “But it’s also our greatest pain.”

The holdup, as usual, is money. The city this year will apply for $600,000 in Indian casino funds to help get the overdue project off the ground. The money would be used to build interpretive trails, signs, shade shelters and to pay for a study that would lead to an educational visitors center, said Tom Wilson, director of the Mesa Southwest Museum. The park enhancements would cost $5 million or more. When finished, it would be similar to the Pueblo Grande public recreation site in Phoenix. Mesa and museum officials hope to someday build an environmentally friendly 30,000-square-foot visitors center with exhibits on the Hohokam tribe, trails, parking and restrooms. The problem is, Mesa has applied for the casino money twice before and was rejected both times. This will be the city’s third attempt to secure the money to build a Mesa Grande park. It is one of 18 projects Mesa will pitch to Indian tribes for grant consideration, said Jerry Dillehay, the city’s grants coordinator. Altogether, the projects would cost $9.7 million to complete. Mesa Grande is one of the few surviving platform mounds in the Valley. It is larger than a football field. Between 1000 and 1450 A.D., it served as a place of religious significance for the Hohokam tribe, according to museum officials.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Lisa Olson, East Valley Tribune.]