This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

The trees of Phoenix


I love living in Phoenix. And I try not to get into arguments with people. I used to be a teacher, and I know that most people mean well with whatever information that they have been given, even if it's wrong. And mostly that misinformation is harmless, and it usually just inspires me to write in this blog the "bet'cha didn't know" stuff about Phoenix, which is mostly trivial.

But trees are different. I love trees. I love the shade, especially in the summer. I love the way that trees cool a desert city like Phoenix, not just physically, but visually. Yeah, I like looking at trees.

And... here is comes... bet'cha didn't know that Phoenix used to have a LOT of trees. I collect old photos of Phoenix, and from the time the first canals were dug by the pioneers in the 1860s, there were trees. Territorial Phoenix was practically a forest. There are a lot of people today we have clear memories of the cottonwood trees along the canals. And then apparently it all went wrong in the 1970s.

I'm still trying to figure out why the trees went away. I used to think that it went back to the 1920s, and the invention of air conditioning, but now I'm not so sure. There were still plenty of trees in Phoenix in the 1960s. But by the time I got to Phoenix, in the 1980s, they were mostly gone. And at this point I'm kind'a thinking that people meant well?

It pains me to see trees cut down, or to hear people proudly talking about how they got rid of all of their trees on their property. And people are proud of it. The reasons I've heard are that they're messy, or that they use water. Then I do a Google Satellite view of millions of gallons of water in swimming pools all over the valley. I drive past huge areas of grass, which consume millions of gallons of water. And then when I park my car I drive all over the parking lot looking for a tree for shade.

No, I won't get into an argument with you, and I won't tell you what to do. I just hope that if you live in Phoenix you will plant, and care for a tree. And at the very least you won't cut one down.

Image at the top of this post: The tree-lined boulevards of Phoenix in 1924


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