Picture Rocks Pride

Volume 7, Number 3 March, 2009

Welcome to the Picture Rocks Digest, a free newsletter about issues and events in the community. The print version of this all-volunteer publication is distributed at area businesses and community sites. If you have calendar events or news items, or if you would like to be added to our email list, please contact us at PictureRocksDigest@comcast.net.

The Picture Rocks Digest is a publication of Citizens for Picture Rocks, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(4) civic organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in the community. Citizens for Picture Rocks meets the third Tuesday of each month at 7:00 pm in the Picture Rocks Community Center, 5615 N. Sanders Road. Meetings are free and open to the public. The next meeting is March 17, 2009. Everyone is welcome to attend. Membership not required, but highly recommended. Dues are $20/year for an individual or $25/year for a family.

Monthly Meeting &
St. Patrick's Day Potluck
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Potluck Dinner at 6:00 p.m.
Meeting begins at 7:00 p.m.

Picture Rocks Community Center
5615 N. Sanders Road

Special Guests: Pima County Sheriff's Dept.
Featured Topic: Home Safety & Security

Free and open to the public.


Democracy In Action

The Pima Association of Governments (PAG) is holding a series of public meetings to discuss county transportation needs and wants for the next 5-30 years. Ideas and proposals, including thoughts on the I-10 Bypass through the Avra Valley, can be expressed by organizations and individuals on Friday, March 20, 4:30-6:00 p.m. at the Foothills Mall Food Court, or online here. The C4PR Board of Directors voted unanimously to ask PAG to include bus and van service, Handicar service, and park and ride lots in Picture Rocks.

Democracy Inaction

Our new state legislators have not responded to emails from constituents about the I-10 Bypass. Noting Bypass opposition from the Pima County Board of Supervisors, Saguaro National Park, and others, e-mails to Dist. 25 State Representative David Stevens (R) and State Senator Manny Alvarez (D) have received no response. Governor Jan Brewer (R) sent a form "thank you for your views" reply. State Representative Pat Fleming (D) said on Jan. 6, "I am discussing this with staff-let me get a statement together and forward that to you shortly."

They can be reached at dstevens@azleg.gov, PFleming@azleg.gov, malvarez@azleg.gov, and through a contact form on the governor's web site. We elected them and they work for us. They need to hear from us loud and clear, whichever side of an issue you are on.


Part Two: The Huhugam Engineers

A long drought may have brought about a change in religious beliefs and in ways of governing throughout the Southwest, and the Huhugam culture emerged in southern Arizona about 1,600 years ago. (Hohokam is an archaeologist's made-up word; Huhugam is the O'odham word for their ancestors, and means "all used up.")

The Huhugam culture begins with decorated pottery, pit-house villages, and extraordinary engineering skills. Miles and miles of irrigation canals were dug with sticks and rocks from the Gila, Salt and Santa Cruz Rivers to extend farming areas and support a growing population.

There is a Huhugam village in Marana six miles from the river, with a canal and platform mound, which, along with ball courts, were based on Mexico's early civilizations. Tons of rocks were moved on and around hillsides to create terraces, trincheras, for living and farming, and to control the summer chubasco rains to create and irrigate growing areas over the hill, in the Avra Valley. Reservoirs were dug to provide year-round water to villages.

More rock art was created throughout the Avra Valley, and Picture Rocks takes its name from the petroglyphs at the Redemptorist Center and on Signal Hill in Saguaro National Park, as well as at several other hard-to-find Avra Valley locations. There are many spirals and concentric circles which are solstice and equinox markers, telling an agricultural people when the seasons changed. There are also stories and prayers for good hunting and for tribal fertility, and to mark special events.

The Huhugam developed a sophisticated politics to coordinate tasks. They spaced villages 1-1/2 to 2 miles apart on alternating sides of the Santa Cruz River to preserve resources. Some villages took on specialized tasks such as making plain or decorated pottery or working shells brought from the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California into jewelry. Some villages in the Tucson area were occupied for over 700 years. Gradually, the Huhugam culture became the present-day Tohono O'odham whose reservation juts into the Avra Valley.


With mild temperatures, light freezes and more than 3-1/2 inches of rain over the winter months, spring wildflowers are sprouting in the desert. Fairy dusters came early. Some have faded but could return with more rain.

More rain is exactly what's needed to go from "a good botanist's spring" to a "Chamber of Commerce spring," according to University of Arizona Herbarium Curator Phillip Jenkins. Spring wildflowers were the topic of the guest speaker at the Feb. 17 Citizens for Picture Rocks meeting. Jenkins, a resident of Avra Valley's Barrio Sapo, off Mile Wide Road, reviewed what we are seeing now and what we might expect to see during the spring floral show time, saying that without some more rain, "It won't be a fantastic show."

Even so, look for penstemons and poppies, lacepods and lupines, hibiscus and honeysuckle, chia and chicory, daisies and dandelions, brittlebush and borage, and dozens more which may display themselves locally. Some flowers are so tiny it takes belly-watching to see them; others rise up almost overnight to call out to butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

Phil gave the 40 neighbors present a warning about oleander, a killer plant if eaten by animals or humans. "Use gloves and wear a mask if cutting or handling oleander," he said, "and do not ever burn it."

Bird migrations are well underway, with some sparrows flying as far as 300 miles in a single day. White-winged doves arrive for the summer, along with nighthawks and raptors and a variety of hummingbirds.

Doves are especially at risk in springtime for a fungal disease called trichomoniasis, which interferes with their ability to eat. The disease is often spread through bird feeders, and those maintaining bird feeders should consider scrubbing them out regularly, substituting quail blocks, or just sprinkling birdseed on the ground.

Desert tortoises are on the move. If you see one about to cross a road, pull over safely and carry the tortoise to the other side, pointing it in the direction it was going.

It's the month the O'odham people call the Green Moon, as spring abundance replaces winter's chill. It's a season to practice peaceful coexistence with desert dwellers. They are part of what makes living here so special.

If you haven't already started running evaporative coolers to deal with February's heat wave, here are some spring cleaning tips from the Water Conservation Alliance of Southern Arizona:

Clean out debris in the water pan. Check the motor's fan belt tension - it should move about an inch when pressed. Check cooler pads and replace if necessary. When turning water on, check the float valve to make sure it is working properly. Make sure cooler pads are being evenly saturated, and look for leaks. Use ceiling fans to circulate inside air. Open windows a crack in rooms being cooled to draw air. In the evenings, operate the cooler fan without the water pump. And take note that President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has tax breaks up to 30% ($1500) for the purchase of energy-efficient air conditioners.

The Picture Rocks Digest is written by Albert Lannon (email: bluemoon@dakotacom.net; phone: 622-3561). Additional materials and design by Karen J. Zopf.