Treat Walkway

By Richard Roati

The origin of the Treat Walkway goes back to the original design of the Broadmoor neighborhood in 1945.  At the north end of the neighborhood, the original plans called for Treat Street to end at Manchester Street.  At the south end of the neighborhood, Treat Street ended at East Stratford Drive.  Between them, a six block easement connected the neighborhood from north to south. The easement allowed neighbors to walk from the north end to the south end of the neighborhood without walking next to cars.  The north end was one block from Broadway and with it, a whole series of shops, restaurants, and other retail establishments.  The south end was one block from Robison Elementary, a TUSD school with long ties to the neighborhood.  In the middle of the Treat Walkway lies Arroyo Chico, with its own walking paths on the north and south sides, which connect Tucson Boulevard through Broadmoor and Colonia Solana Neighborhoods to the Reid Park multi-use path and beyond.

From the 1940’s until 2011, the Treat Walkway was an unpaved easement with uncut curbs.  While several neighbors, including Steve Bauer, Jeff Unrein, Ralph Pattison, and several others, planted desert trees, shrubs, and cacti, much of the walkway easement was uncultivated dirt, hot and dusty in the summer, muddy during the monsoons, and unnavigable by neighbors in wheelchairs.

When Broadmoor Broadway Village became an official neighborhood under the leadership of neighborhood President Connie Anzalone and many others in the 1980’s, improving the Treat Walkway was made part of the neighborhood’s strategic plan.  Connie Anazalone and BBVNA prioritized the living environment of the neighborhood.  In 1987, Connie Anzalone wrote the “Broadmoor Broadway Village Urban Forestry Manual.”  Long before “Climate Change” became a household word, Connie Anzalone defined why the greening of in-town neighborhoods should be a priority for the City of Tucson.  In the Introduction to the Manual she wrote,

“Let us show the City of Tucson that progress for the future is not only big business, high density living quarters and more transportation routes.  It can also be producing life-giving oxygen to improve air quality in a congested urban area.  It can also be providing a system of roots to aerate the soil to accept rainwater and prevent erosion.  It can be providing homes for wildlife to maintain a better balance in nature…  Bare spaces can be augmented with even the most simple easy care things like a Palo Verde tree, a desert broom bush, succulents that never need watering like prickly pear bush, agaves or aloes, or a dish garden.”

She went on to state, “A reality of life in Southern Arizona is the seasonal heat, which is worse in urban Tucson than the surrounding open spaces because of all the cement, glass, asphalt, cars, air conditioners, etc.  Trees can buffer us from the extremes of high temperatures with their shade, and evapotranspiration…  Not only does the residential urban forest help to buffer noise and air pollution, provide shade and micro-climate control, and increase property values, but it provides wildlife habitat, supplies us with food, and beautifies/unifies our neighborhood.”

It was with these words written in 1987 that Connie Anzalone declared the environmental ethic that provided the spirit of the Broadmoor Broadway Village neighborhood which continues to this day!

Among many other things, Connie Anzalone was known for being a neighborhood leader who joined with others to stand in front of Army Corps of Engineers bulldozers that were poised to remove all the vegetation from Arroyo Chico and channelize the wash with concrete in the early 1980’s.  Because of the efforts of her “little old ladies club,” Arroyo Chico remains un-channelized with native trees along much of its banks.  It was under the direction of Connie Anzalone that BBVNA created the Urban Forestry Committee, a standing committee on the neighborhood board.

In 1991, sections of the Arroyo Chico wash at the east and west ends of the neighborhood, between Eastbourne and Country Club Roads, and between Stratford and Tucson Boulevard, were unplanted dirt, hot, dusty, and uninviting entrances into the neighborhood.  The neighborhood hired permaculturist Dan Dorsey to draw a design to plant mesquite, acacia, Palo Verde, and Texas Olive trees along the top of the banks of Arroyo Chico.  Neighbor Ralph Pattison and others used an augur to drill planting holes, trees were planted, and Ralph, Mary Terry, and others watered the trees periodically when young until they were large enough to live on their own.  Today many of these trees are more than 30 feet tall, and form beautiful entrances into the neighborhood from the east and west.

In 2004, Dawn Bell submitted an application to the Drachman Institute to help fund new ideas to improve the neighborhood.  When this grant was accepted, under the leadership of John Thomas, Karen Martin, and others, and assisted by the staff at Parson Brinkerhoff, the neighborhood gained the momentum it needed to hold public hearings, survey public opinion, and then submit and win an application (on the second try) in 2007 for Transportation Enhancement funds from the State of Arizona to build the Treat sidewalk.  The neighborhood was aided by the City of Tucson Transportation Department, which agreed to maintain the sidewalk.

In 2006, aided by designs provided first by University of Arizona lecturer and BBVNA neighbor Oscar Blazquez and his students and later by the Drachman Institute, BBVNA won a Pro Neighborhoods grant to build the first water-harvesting pocket park in the City of Tucson:  Malvern Plaza.  Neighbors Karen Martin, Irene Ogata and Oscar Blazquez met with city officials to plan the design of the plaza.  In 2008, at the intersection of Malvern Avenue and Arroyo Chico, a large swatch of asphalt was removed by City of Tucson work crews, basins were constructed, and Palo Verde, Mesquite, and Netleaf Hackberry trees were planted.  Today, the trees are more than 20 feet tall.  During the monsoon rains, the basins flood with water from Malvern Avenue, replenishing the trees.  The plaza, one block west of the Treat Walkway on the south side of Arroyo Chico, is otherwise unirrigated.  Suzie Husband started a neighborhood effort in 2007 to create beautiful tiles that decorate the tops of the cement tables, making the plaza an inviting location to stop and sit and converse with neighbors.  Today you can also read a book from the Little Free Library at Malvern Plaza.  The library was built in 2014 with design and construction work led by Ryan Brown with help from Joan Thomas, Janice Welchert, Justine Hernandez, and Ginny Kovatch, and art work by Judy Nostrant.

Little Free Library
The Little Free Library

Many neighborhood events take place in the Malvern Plaza, including but not limited to:  the Plant Swap, Movie Night, Oktoberfest, Meet and Greets, Yoga, and others. The Malvern Plaza remains a gem of the neighborhood, and for the City of Tucson!

In February, 2011, construction began by the City of Tucson on the Treat sidewalk.  Enhancements included wheelchair ramps at the pedestrian bridge over Arroyo Chico, the construction of two low walls at Arroyo Chico, the installation of benches for sitting, curb cuts at the street, and pedestrian crossings at each street.

After the sidewalk was completed, discussion turned to enhancing the sidewalk with vegetation and shade.  The only problem:  much of the walkway was without vegetation, the easement was used by T.E.P, Southwest Gas, and the city of Tucson, with both above ground and underground utilities, there were no designs to convince vested entities about what we were planning, the neighborhood had no budget for buying plants, there was no irrigation along the walkway, and few of the residents along the walkway wanted to use their water spigots to water plants that were on a neighborhood easement that was not their own property. 

BBVNA resident and University of Arizona landscape architect Oscar Blazquez agreed and provided beautiful drawings, and even an animated video showing what it would be like to walk down  the as yet unplanted sidewalk.  Newly appointed Chair of the Urban Forestry Committee Richard Roati, Oscar Blazquez, and neighborhood Treasurer and long term board member Rita Toland met with Tucson Electric Power, Southwest Gas, and the City of Tucson and showed them our drawings, and discussed what we were planning.  The utilities stated their concerns:  the plants should not impede utility vehicles from accessing their poles, lines, and meters, the underground utilities should not be cut when the neighborhood dug holes to plant trees and plants, and large trees should not be planted under power lines.  With these parameters set, Tucson Electric Power, Southwest Gas, and the City of Tucson gave their blessings to planting the Treat Walkway.

The neighborhood set out to work to plant the walkway.  The first section was identified:  the section between Exeter and Devon Streets.  The BBVNA Board approved the purchase of three 15 gallon Palo Verde Trees from Trees for Tucson, Civano Nursery donated ocotillo and deer grass plants, Blue Stake (811) was called to mark underground utilities, and a neighborhood work day was announced for April 22, 2012.   A large contingent turned out.  Neighbors brought gloves, shovels, rakes, food, and water for thirsty workers.  The three Palo Verde trees planted at the corner of Exeter and the Treat Walkway exist to this day, and are some of the biggest trees on the walkway.

However, the neighborhood realized that the methods used to obtain plants for the section between Exeter and Devon was not sustainable for the rest of the walkway.  We could not continually go begging to nurseries for plants.  A new source of plants was needed.

Around this time, Ann Pattison and Richard Roati were walking the neighborhood seeking input on obtaining Historic Designation for the neighborhood.  They would notice agaves, aloes, and prickly pear plants in neighborhood yards and ask the neighbors if they would be willing to donate plant pups or plant sections for propagating plants for the Treat Walkway.  Invariably, the answer would be, “Absolutely.”  The Treat Walkway Nursery was born.  As plant pups, sections, and divisions were collected from neighbors, they were placed into plant pots and grown until reaching sturdy 5 gallon size.  We found that plants grown in 5 gallon pots for six months to a year tended to survive better when placed onto the walkway than unrooted plants planted directly.  The plantings were arranged so that rainfall from the sidewalk and the surrounding area flowed to the plants, providing enough rainfall to sustain them without supplemental irrigation.

In addition to providing shade and beauty, many of the plants on the Treat Walkway are food sources to both wildlife and people.  Mesquite Trees provide pods which can be ground into flour.  Palo Verde beans can be eaten like peas when green or dried and cooked.  Prickly pears provide nopalitos and prickly pear fruits.  Chollas provide cholla buds and bird nesting sites.  Agaves provide fibers and edible hearts or “pinas.”  Peruvian apple cactus provide edible fruits.  Purslane or verdolagas are harvested after the monsoon rains.  And the list goes on.  Many of the uses of these foods are detailed in books such as “East Mesquite” by Tucson Desert Harvesters.

Another event that happened around this time is neighbor Steve Safken was re-landscaping his yard.  He had a number of large Century Plant agaves and Peruvian Apple Cactus in his yard that he wanted to thin out in order to plant other kinds of plants.  You can still see many of the agaves that he donated that were planted on the section of the walkway between Malvern Street and Arroyo Chico in 2012.

Anita Scales, a neighbor, and Steve Safken after planting a large Century Plant at the corner of Malvern and the Treat Walkway in 2012

BBVNA is lucky in many respects in that the soil in much of the neighborhood is some of the best in the city of Tucson.  The section between Stratford and Arroyo Chico sits between Citation Wash and Arroyo Chico.  As Connie Anzalone noted in her book, “Through years of constant flooding, a thick layer of fertile soil was deposited in the floodplain.”  As the neighborhood moved north in their planting efforts and planted the section between Devon and Manchester in March, 2013, the start of a section of caliche was found.  In fact, in order to plant the three Palo Verde trees just north of Devon Street, a jackhammer was required to provide drainage.  The bottom of the caliche layer was never found.  At one point it took more than two hours to retrieve a stuck jackhammer blade from the clutches of the dreaded caliche.  Still, the holes were completed, the trees were planted and took hold, and are growing successfully to this day on the walkway.

Steve Safken, Damian Baca, Mike Weingarten, Joan Thomas, Ralph Pattison, and Richard Roati after planting the section between Devon and Manchester in March, 2013

In the spring of 2014, BBVNA worked with the City of Tucson, which provided funds through the Treat Bicycle Boulevard project, to work with Watershed Management Group to install a traffic circle at the intersection of Manchester and Stratford.  Because the Treat Walkway is a narrow sidewalk, often filled with neighbors walking their dogs, runners, parents with baby strollers, etc., it is not really wide enough to be a multi-use path.  Heading south from Broadway, the Treat Bicycle Boulevard turns west at Manchester, turns south at Stratford, and then south again onto Treat Street to continue south through the Arroyo Chico neighborhood.  Bicyclists in a hurry find that it is faster to take the designated route than to attempt to ride on the Treat Walkway.  In 2015, a young bicyclist unfamiliar with the area rode his bicycle south on the Treat Walkway and ran into the side of a car traveling west on Exeter Street, breaking his foot.  He was taken to a hospital in an ambulance.  Since that time, the City of Tucson installed signs and sharrows encouraging bicyclists to use the designated route when traveling the Treat Bicycle Boulevard through the neighborhood.

Bicyclists riding the designated route as well as cars encountered a dangerous intersection at the corner of Manchester and Stratford Avenues.  It was often unclear as to who had the right of way while traveling through the intersection.  Also, the intersection was an entrance to the neighborhood that presented an unnecessary “sea of asphalt” to visitors that did not represent the values of the neighborhood.  The solution was to install a traffic circle at the intersection. Once again, it was the design of Oscar Blazquez which helped to convince the city to install the traffic circle.  The city dug out the pavement, and on 9/14/2014, Watershed Management Group staff member Kieran Sikdar directed neighbors in the planting of rocks to direct storm water into the traffic circle, and to plant the circle.  Many of the plants selected by Oscar Blazquez in his design can be seen in the traffic circle today, such as the large Palo Brea tree in the middle, and the Texas Ranger plants on the north side of the circle.

The Oscar Blazquez design for the Traffic Circle at Manchester and Stratford

Ezra Roati, Richard Roati, Margaret Johnson, Damian Baca, Judd Ruggill, Kieran Sikdar, Justine Hernandez, WMG volunteers, and other neighbors after planting the Traffic Circle on 9/14/2014

In October, 2014, the neighborhood planted the section of the Treat Walkway between Croyden and Exeter streets.  Many of the plants planted on the west side of the walkway can be seen to this day, including Tucson Prickly Pear, yellow flowering aloe plants, octopus agave, mesquite, and Palo Verde trees.

Mike Weingarten, Damian Baca, and Judd Ruggill after planting the section between Croyden and Exeter Streets

In February, 2015, Tucson Clean and Beautiful recognized the efforts of BBVNA to improve and maintain the Treat Walkway and installed an “Adopt a Path” sign letting passersby know that the BBVNA Urban Foresters were maintaining the walkway.

The Tucson Clean and Beautiful sign on the Treat Walkway just north of Arroyo Chico

In March, 2015, neighbors planted the last unplanted section along the Treat Walkway, the west side of the sidewalk between Malvern and Stratford Avenues.  Compared to the others, this effort was a walk in the park.

Also in the spring of 2015, neighbors awoke one day to find graffiti with a bullying message aimed at a young resident on the cement sides of Arroyo Chico just to the west of the Treat Walkway bridge.  Neighbors sprung into action and in just a few hours, painted two murals on the cement walls.  Luckily, after the mural paintings, the graffiti did not return.

Ron Kovatch, Richard Roati, and Judd Ruggill painting one of the two painted murals on the cement walls along Arroyo Chico at the Treat Walkway, March, 2015

It was during 2015 that the neighborhood partnered with the Tucson Arts Brigade (TAB) to create a tile mural on the two low walls that the City of Tucson installed as part of the Treat Walkway sidewalk installation in 2011.  Working with TAB, neighborhood residents hand painted clay pieces that were fired and then installed on two sides of the two walls.  After the installation of tiles on the two wall sides, we had used up all the tiles obtained up to that time for the project, but two wall sides remained to be tiled.   Kathleen Lavoie visited a number of tile stores and obtained tiles from many of them, including a large number of beautiful tiles from the Mexican Tile Store on Broadway (since moved off Broadway and now a wholesale shop).  The tiles were broken into mosaic sized pieces, and eventually, all four walls were tiled and the project was completed.

Emma Stapleton, Linda Stapleton, and Judd Ruggill work on the south side of the north wall at the Treat Walkway and Arroyo Chico, May, 2015

Michael Schwartz, TAB members, and Richard Roati construct the sunflower mural on the north side of the north wall, October, 2015

In October, 2015, under the direction of then Tucson Bicycle Coordinator Ann Chanecka, the City of Tucson completed the installation of a “HAWK” traffic light at the intersection of Treat Street and Broadway Boulevard.  A HAWK beacon (High-Intensity Activated crossWalK beacon) is a traffic control device used to stop road traffic and allow pedestrians and bicyclists to cross a street safely.  Suddenly, it was easier for Tucson residents living south of Broadway (such as in BBVNA) to walk or bicycle to Himmel Park and the Himmel Park library, visit shops such as Rincon Market, and dine at restaurants such as Tucson Tamale, Rocco’s Pizza, and Zemam’s Ethiopian Cuisine, all north of Broadway.  It was also easier for residents living north of Broadway to walk or bicycle to shops and restaurants at Broadway Village, Laff’s Comedy Café, and stores like Deco, all south of Broadway.  On December 8, 2015, BBVNA President Shirley Papuga organized a “Walk the Hawk” celebration, as more than 50 BBVNA and Sam Hughes residents met at the intersection.  BBNA residents walked north to dine at Rocco’s, while Sam Hughes residents walked south to dine at Falora.  And a fun time was had by all!  While participation in the Treat Bicycle Boulevard has been greatly increased by the installation of the HAWK light, participation could be even greater if two small improvements were implemented.  The pavement on the section of Treat Street between Broadway and Speedway needs to be improved from its current washboard, potholed state to a smoother, bike-able state, and a short paved path needs to be constructed to connect 22nd Street to Bristol Avenue.  And then, with these two small improvements, a real bike-able connection will exist from the Aviation Bike path all the way to the Rillito River on the Treat Bicycle Boulevard.  May both improvements happen soon!

In March, 2017, neighbor and poet Elizabeth Salper won a grant to install a poetry mailbox on the Treat Walkway.  The idea of the poetry mailbox is to “give a poem, take a poem.”  Elizabeth fills the mailbox with poetry (as well as chalking poems along the walkway periodically). Ginny Kovatch helped Elizabeth find the mailbox, Heather Free painted it, Ryan Brown built the base that supported it, Cynthia Holmes proposed the location of the mailbox, Joan Thomas organized the "planting", and Ryan, Mike, and Richard Roati “planted” it.

Joan Thomas, Mike Weingarten, Cynthia Holmes, Ryan Brown, Richard Roati, Heather Free, Ginny Kovatch, and Elizabeth Salper pose next to the newly installed poetry mailbox on the Treat Walkway

In 2016, artist Ellen Abrams proposed a memorial consisting of metal flowers, dedicated to all BBVNA neighbors who had passed on, including her sister, Linda Abrams.  After a year of negotiation with the City of Tucson, the memorial was finally approved and constructed in May, 2017 at the median at the intersection of Manchester and Eastbourne Streets.  The memorial is a beautiful piece of art welcoming visitors into the neighborhood and bidding them goodbye as they leave.

Judd Ruggill, Mike Weingarten, Richard Roati, Ellen Abrams, Amy Persechini, Ralph Pattison after constructing the flower memorial in May, 2017

More recent improvements include the addition of minerals donated by the Tucson Botanical Gardens in the fall of 2017 to provide beautiful “smiles” next to the plants along the walkway.

In March, 2017, the BBVNA Urban Foresters partnered with neighbors in the Country Club Manor apartments and elsewhere in the Arroyo Chico neighborhood to beautify the north side of Winsett Avenue between Treat Street and Country Club Road.  This section of Winsett Avenue forms the border between BBVNA and the Arroyo Chico neighborhood.  The north side of Winsett contains an easement between the street, and the walls and fences forming the south borders of the houses on the south side Stratford Avenue.  Over the years, buffelgrass had invaded the area, creating a potential fire hazard during the hot, dry months.  In addition, several trees were leaning onto the street, forcing bicyclists and pedestrians traveling west further into the street and closer to cars.  On March 5, 2017, a contingent of more than 20 neighbors removed buffelgrass, cleared out dead vegetation, and trimmed the trees.  The result was a safer and more beautiful section of Winsett Avenue.

Justine Hernandez, Charlie Knower, Richard Roati, David Holder, Paul Fisher, Joan Thomas, Mike Weingarten, Dusty Jacobs, Liza Raiser and other members of BBVNA and Arroyo Chico neighborhoods after successfully cleaning up the north side of Winsett Avenue on March 5, 2017

Efforts to maintain the Treat Walkway and other vegetated areas of BBVNA are ongoing.  As in nature, some plants die due to insect infestation, drought, or old age.  As some plants die, new plants are added to replace them.

Palo Verde Trees, Devon at Treat, April, 2018, showing rock “smiles” next to trees

In June, 2018, Joan Thomas, Susie Husband, Danica Sagona, John Walters, and Richard Roati stenciled the street names of each street along the Treat Walkway to help orient visitors to their surroundings.

In addition to the Malvern Plaza, the Little Free Library, the Poetry Mailbox, the traffic circle at Manchester and Stratford, the Art Memorial on the median at Manchester and Eastbourne, the Treat Walkway remains one of the major features of the Broadmoor Broadway Village Neighborhood.  Residents often walk with their children and their dogs along the walkway, meeting and talking to their neighbors as they go.  Palo Verde and Mesquite trees provide shade to the walkway and make it more inviting and pleasant.  As the Treat Walkway has become more inviting to neighbors to visit, crime has been reduced and neighborhood interaction has increased.  The trees and other plants on the Treat Walkway continue to grow and shade continues to increase.  The Treat Walkway has become one of the unique features of the City of Tucson.

Palo Verde trees, Exeter at Treat, April, 2018

Periodically, the BBVNA Urban Forestry Committee brings together neighbors to maintain the many public spaces in the neighborhood, including weeding, pruning trees and shrubs, and removing trash.  Agave and aloe plants produce pups, and prickly pear plants produce extra sections which are provided to the BBVNA Plant swap and given to neighbors and residents at no charge.  Neighbors continue to provide plants to help replenish the plants along the Treat Walkway.  These efforts will continue.  New locations for urban forestry efforts to beautify and green the neighborhood are continuously being identified.  The members of the Urban Forestry Committee and the Treat Walkway Nursery remain as resources to provide help to BBVNA, Arroyo Chico, and other City of Tucson neighborhoods to bring more shade, oxygen, beauty, and food to public places in the city in need of vegetation but with limited irrigation availability.