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Find a splendid slice of the natural world at this urban preserve on Tucson's east side

Find a splendid slice of the natural world at this urban preserve on Tucson's east side

You won’t find true wilderness in Tucson, but an urban preserve of desert vegetation and animal habitat offers an excursion into the natural world amid the bustle of the city.

The preserve — the 55-acre Atturbury-Lyman Bird and Animal Sanctuary on the edge of Lincoln Regional Park — makes things easy with a mile-long loop trail through a rich mix of terrain.

A Basin Trail segment of the loop winds through a wooded area with mesquite and palo verde trees and views of sandy, tree-lined Atturbury Wash.

A Ridge Trail segment follows a broad, open ridge with observation points for taking in the distant Rincon and Catalina mountain ranges.

Information signs along the trails identify and describe plants such as desert hackberry and animals known to frequent the area. Animal life ranges from pack rats to coyotes.

More than 100 native bird species have been seen at the sanctuary. Among them are Wilson’s warbler, great horned owl, Lucy’s warbler, phainopepla, Anna’s hummingbird, verdin, Cooper’s hawk, broad-billed hummingbird and Abert’s towhee.

A short side path leading off the Basin Trail segment crosses a wooden bridge over a shallow wash with a sandy bed that is almost always dry.

Walkers often get a laugh when they read a sign beside the wash that reads: “Please no fishing from bridge. Endangered sand trout.”


An effort to create the sanctuary on city parkland in the mid-1990s was led by the Groves-Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association and its then president, the late Michael Lyman.

The association raised funds to make improvements over the years, and volunteers have helped maintain the site.

“Mike Lyman and his wife, Murph, did a fabulous job with the sanctuary,” said Richard Schwartz, current president of the neighborhood association. He noted that Murph died recently.

“They did so many things to improve it,” Schwartz said. “They got grants for projects. They had all kinds of volunteers. They worked with the trails and made rest areas.”

The Lymans’ efforts, Schwartz said, left a valuable legacy: “It’s a very peaceful place.”

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz

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