On Saturday, the Marana Heritage Conservancy is conducting its “Surprising Marana” bus tour, which visits more than a dozen historical sites. The tour is a fundraising campaign for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which is dedicated to preserving Marana’s history.
John Scheuring, a naturalist and historian, narrates the two-hour tour, revealing such facts as how Ina Road is named after Ina Gittings, the University of Arizona’s first director of physical education for women. The road is adjacent to land Gittings homesteaded in the 1920s.
He also points out a lot on North Silverbell Road that served as an ancient burial ground for 300 humans and 100 dogs.
The $10 tour, which is sold out, leaves at 9 a.m. and noon Saturday from Crossroads at Silverbell District Park, 7548 N. Silverbell Road. It travels the town as Scheuring discusses former prisoner of war camps, the University of Arizona Experimental Farm and Hohokam ruins. The next tour session will be March 8. See accompanying box for details.
We discussed the tour with the 66-year-old Scheuring.
Q: What do you want to accomplish with the tour?
A: I want people to realize that under their feet they’ve got a whole lot of history. Centuries and centuries of history. And what I’d like to do, especially for Marana residents, is help them realize that this is a significant place, not just a Tucson bedroom community with a lot of isolated desert in it. There’s been a lot that’s gone on. What I really hope is that when they walk away from it, they have a much higher awareness of where they live, and a love and respect for the land.
Q: What reaction do you like to instill in tour-goers?
A: I want them to say to themselves, “Wow, I didn’t know that!” I want them to have a series of realizations. And that’s pretty much the reaction I get from people when they step off the bus, is that they learned so much. And that’s hopefully going to give them an appreciation for whatever they discovered, and get them to go out and learn more.
Q: How do you know so much about the area’s history?
A: I’m retired and I don’t play golf. My background is agricultural research and plant science, so I’ve spent a lot of time in Arizona. I give nature tours and I also go to a lot of lectures.
Q: What’s your favorite surprising fact about the town?
A: Marana comes from the Spanish word meaning “thicket.” The whole area north of Pointer Mountain is where the Santa Cruz river slowed down and broke up into a lot of braids. And that’s where the name comes from. I think that’s kind of a big deal for people to understand. Geology determines so much of the human use of an area.
Q: Do you ad lib or stick with a script?
A: I just go from one story to another. I guess it amounts to that. But I’m really insistent that it be factual. I’ve got notes and visuals to pass around.
Q: Is there a tone you strive for?
A: I’m talking seriously and I try to make this historically correct. I’ve been doing this for two years and I’m pretty happy with what we’ve started.