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Honor a loved one with a tree at Tucson's Gardens of the Ancient Signs

Honor a loved one with a tree at Tucson's Gardens of the Ancient Signs

Gardens of the Ancient Signs — a site created about five years ago along the Pantano River Park Trail to offer symbolic connections to the past — has since been beautified with hundreds of tree plantings alongside the site’s depictions of ancient rock carvings known as petroglyphs.

“It’s very unique,” said Glenna Overstreet, administrator with Tucson Parks and Recreation. “The petroglyphs serve as the symbol for each garden, and every tree is a commemorative tree for someone who has passed or someone who is alive and being honored.”

The site — a cooperative project involving the city, Pima County and the nonprofit Tucson Clean & Beautiful organization — features seven gardens marked with their associated ancient signs. It extends from Michael Perry Park, near East Golf Links Road and the Pantano Wash, northwest for 2.4 miles along the wash. Touring the entire site takes walkers and cyclists past Golf Links Road and 22nd Street to Kenyon Drive.


The seven Gardens of the Ancient Signs include:

  • Garden of the Children
  • Garden of the Families
  • Garden of the Masks
  • Garden of the Flute Players
  • Garden of the Winter Solstice
  • Garden of the Summer Solstice
  • Garden of the Sun

The gardens include depictions of petroglyphs related to the garden themes. Designed mainly as a “thematic experience,” the site doesn’t include extensive information panels or detailed displays.


“Every single tree there has a special meaning for family or friends” of people honored by the tree plantings, said B.J. Cordova, membership and communications director for Tucson Clean & Beautiful. The organization oversees planting of trees at the site.

“At the moment, we have 355 trees in the ground, with plans to plant 570 in all,” Cordova said. “We’re focusing on trees that are native and well-adapted to planting along our waterways, both for habitat restoration and shade along the route.”

Tree species include mesquite, palo verde and desert willow as well as a few oaks.

Members of the public can arrange to have a tree planted at the site for a cost of $225 per tree.

The cost includes the tree, planting and irrigation system installation, numbered markers, corresponding name dedication with tree numbers on a commemorative wall near the tree, and replacement should a tree become damaged or diseased.

Information about tree plantings is available by calling 837-6832.

Cordova said people who purchase trees are welcome to hang lightweight ornamentation on them or place small mementos nearby.

“But we ask that they not dig or place anything into the ground,” he said.

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

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