Sunday, January 17, 2010
Living on the fringe is very temporary here in Phoenix. When my in-laws moved to their brand new home in 1958, they were surrounded by agricultural fields to the north, and feeling quite rural just four miles from the city center. Now they are thirteen miles south of the northern fringe, and the regional population has swelled from 500,000 to 5 million.
Similarly, we have seen our neighborhood become engulfed by other developments in the six years since we moved here at the end of 2002. Last week I was visiting the site that I've chosen to post as the banner on my companion blog, Natural History of Deem Hills, and realized that the view pictured there no longer exists. Between Pyramid Peak and the once wild wash where I took the photo, there is now a soccer field and hundreds of two story 4000 square foot homes. The photo above was taken in March of 2005. Below is roughly what the same view looks like today (though January lacks the blooms). This, people say, is "progress." I'm not so sure.
Of course, I realize that our neighborhood, which was built in 1999, has also contributed to the changing views and loss of wildlands in this part of the desert. It is easy to ignore our own impacts while watching the landscape transform around us. A neighborhood just to the west of us is an extension of our own, built within the past four years. From the top of Deem Hills, a 900+ acre desert preserve to the north, I chronicled this progress in a series of three photos. Unfortunately, I had never taken a photo before the bulldozers came, but the first two photos show "before" and "after" views of what it looks like from ground level. I imagine the first is similar to what our yard looked like prior to 1999.
My stomach turned another flip yesterday when we hiked to the top of Deem Hills and noticed for the first time the march of a new expressway across a broad span of desert to the north. Light poles and power lines have been erected. The swath of bulldozed lanes that will soon be covered with cement and asphalt is now clearly visible. It's called the "303," logically following the "202" and the "101," a series of expressways that circle around Phoenix. When this road is completed, and surrounding lands similarly developed, the "fringe" will be five miles north of Deem Hills.
This is a good time to get out my copy of "Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau" by Ron Blakey and Wayne Ranney, and remember just how constant changing views of the landscape are. And maybe find a new "fringe" to occupy?