Crossroads at Silverbell Park in the southwestern part of Marana is the town's newest park and one that reflects the community's cultural and archeological history.
Nestled among the play areas, ball fields, basketball courts and green lawns are the remains of a Hohokam Indian village that dates between 1100 and 1400 AD, as well as remnants of the Bojorquez-Aguirre Ranch that was established in the 1830s and continued until the early part of the twentieth century.
Interspersed with the historical remains are sculptural obelisks created by artist To-Ree-Ne Wolf of Tucson.
The park, located on the
east side of Silverbell Road, south of Cortaro Road and adjacent to the Pima County Wheeler Taft Abbett Sr. Library, was officially dedicated Feb. 27.
The Crossroads at Silverbell Park has two soccer fields, two baseball/softball fields, an adult slow-pitch softball field, two basketball courts, a tennis court, two sand volleyball courts, a festival and outdoor performance area, and a dog park.
The area occupied by the park, lying west of the Santa Cruz, historically was a center of activity because of the water and good farmland there, according to Tom Ellis, director of the Marana Parks and Recreation Department. Marana did extensive archeological excavations in the area of the park and along the rebuilt Silverbell Road, uncovering approximately two dozen adobe pit houses that were part of a an 80-acre Hohokam Indian village.
Both Desert Archeology and Old Pueblo Archeology performed archeological investigative work at the park and on Silverbell Road, which runs along the park’s western boundary.
The southern-most area of the park that lies between two branches of the Yuma Wash, which drains from the Tucson Mountains into the Santa Cruz River, will remain native desert with some walking paths in it, Ellis pointed out. He said the town plans to work with nonprofit groups to do interpretations of Hohokam pit houses and shade structures.Jennifer Christelman, manager of Marana’s environmental engineering division, said the archeological work uncovered more than 100 pit structures, 300 human burials and 100 dog burials, as well as pottery shells, tools and bones. She noted that more than 55,000 artifacts were recovered, all of which will be donated to the Arizona State Museum after they are analyzed.
“The Hohokam inhabited the area from 300 BC to 1415 AD,” she said, “and we have been able to repatriate human remains back to the Tohono O’odham nation as the descendants of the Hohokam in the area.”
The area also was the site of the Bojorquez-Aguirre Ranch, and the remains of the ranch house, cistern and other structures have been fenced and preserved. Ellis said the remains will have interpretations constructed to educate the public about the ranch’s history and contributions to Marana.
Christelman said the interpretive panels for the ranch house, bunkhouse and cistern will depict the purposes of those structures and how they relate to the site from their time period.
“Also, while funding is still an issue, we’d like to build a replica of what a pit house looks like and install it at the park,” she added.
The artwork in the park and along the east side of Silverbell Road leading north to the park from Ina Road was created by Wolf to depict five conceptual snapshots of historic Marana, Wolf said.
“They are the prehistoric age, the age of the Hohokam, the age of Spanish and Mexican influence, the American age and contemporary times,” Wolf noted.
The 10 obelisks, five on Silverbell Road and five in the park, are double-sided and stand 10 feet high by 3 feet wide. Each has mosaic panels inset on its front and back depicting concepts from a specific era.
“I’m a painter, so I start with the land itself and work with that imagery,” Wolf said, “meaning that my tile work is different from most because I come at it from a different sensibility.”
Each of the obelisks is a hand-painted metal and concrete structure with a faux treatment to replicate rust cast into the concrete, and adorned with inset mosaic panels composed of glass, porcelain tiles, river stones and metal.
“Silverbell Road is my favorite drive in Tucson, so I wanted the artwork to be a visual feast,” Wolf said. “I wanted the obelisks to delight people and to get them to think about what they are seeing and how rich our heritage and history are.”