MAR5 Interpretive Trail garners awards for innovative design and infrastructure

Christopher Lomahquahu

Gila River Indian News



The Community’s interpretive trail received awards for their unique approach to building a location dedicated to the history of the Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh. The Managed Aquifer Recharge Site 5 Gila River Interpretive Trail was recognized by Arizona State University and the Arizona Parks & Recreation Association for two awards this year. 


The ASU School of Sustainable and the Built Environment Metis Center for Infrastructure and Sustainable Engineering award the Community a first of its kind Sustainable Infrastructure Award, earlier in the year on May 22.


“The award is intended to highlight cutting edge infrastructure practices that drive sustainability, including those that address environmental, social, or emerging technology challenges,” said Hunter Contracting in a press release. 


“Everything out there from the color and type of material was determined by a cultural committee of elders,” said DeJong Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project Director. “We had Yolanda Elias, Aaron Sabori, Robert Johnson, Huhugam Heritage Center Language Specialist, Billy Allen and so many more, who did a lot of work, meeting every week, for months at a time,” said DeJong. 


He said others such as Willard Antone III, Department of Environmental Quality Director, Henrietta Lopez, Charles Enos, DEQ Aquatic Specialist, Althea Walker, Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis and Lt. Gov. Robert Stone contributed to the projects.


 DeJong said the reuse of old electric poles was implemented, based on the ideas of individuals from the cultural committee to serve an aesthetic purpose and as roosting poles for birds. He said, “It was a great way of recycling, which in keeping with the ASU award, which is based on sustainability and reuse.”


The Arizona Parks & Recreation Association announced on July 24, of the Community’s notification of the Outstanding Natural Resource Facility award. During an APRA awards reception on Aug. 21, the Community was recognized for the MAR 5 Gila River Interpretive Trail for, “The facilities’ incorporation of resource management and innovative approaches to delivering superb park and recreation services,” said Hunter Contracting. 


Hunter Contracting, was the principal builder of the interpretive trail, in collaboration with Neill + Young Associates, LLC, who designed the facility based on input from the Community. “The design was really instrumental because of the Community elders and the cultural committee,” Todd Neill, Neill+Young Associates, LLC Designer. 


He said, “The number of individuals and departments involved and drawing upon cultural aspects of the project, made sure to use the indigenous plant material within the wetland and plateau with indigenous plant material.”


Incorporated into the design were mesquite benches, vatos, which are located within the public and private area of the interpretive trail, which can be used by the elders, which could serve as a place of teaching about harvesting for materials for basket weaving. 


“In the water recharge area, we incorporated a trail system that has plant identification symbols along the way, we also have signage for animal species that are both riparian and non-riparian animals, with signage of the different native plants, including photos that document the history of the area,” said Neill. 


DeJong said long-term care of the interpretive trail will be transferred to DEQ ant the Gila River Drainage District. He said when it is formally transferred to the Community, DEQ will oversee the upkeep of the facility, managing the plants, GRIDD is responsible to the water deliveries and the irrigation system of the facility.