The Rillito River Park Trail is best known as a venue for vigorous exercise, but one segment of the route caters to folks in search of something else: a place to plop down and relax.
Four permanent lounge chairs — fashioned from stone and thoughtfully supplemented with coffee tables — flank a stretch of the trail east of Alvernon Way.
“These pieces are unique in the river park,” which traces the Rillito’s course between North Craycroft Road and Interstate 10, said John Spiker, civil engineering manager for the Pima County Regional Flood Control District.
Spiker said the lounges are part of a “functional art installation” created by Tucson artist Rebecca Thompson.
The installation, which also includes checkerboards with seating for players, “provides an aesthetic value but also functions as a usable park element,” he said. “It just helps people enjoy the park a little bit more.”
Thompson, who received a $16,000 commission for the work through the Tucson Pima Arts Council, completed the installation several years ago on the south bank of the river.
“The lounge chairs were based on the concept of pulling up your pool chairs and viewing the mountains,” Thompson said. “On the tables between the chairs used to sit a bronze coffee cup and newspaper. But those were stolen off both tables. It would cost about $1,000 to replace each set, so they haven’t been replaced.”
The lounge chairs are near a river park trailhead and parking area that can be reached by driving east from Alvernon on Paradise Falls Drive and watching for a turnoff for the trailhead on the left.
Spiker said plans call for installing additional pieces of functional art along other segments of the river trail system.