Good Things In Small Packages

I thought that this week I’d do something a little different and share with you one of my favorite local micro-parks.

The Barry M. Goldwater Memorial Park in Paradise Valley, Arizona, is located on a previously vacant lot on the corner of a major arterial intersection, nestled between two small mountain formations known as Mummy Mountain and Camelback Mountain.

The views from the park are incredible, as is the rare peaceful serenity of this quiet desert oasis in the heart of a busy metropolitan community.

The park was designed by landscape architect Michael Dollin of Phoenix-based Urban Earth Design LLC. It was dedicated on February 14, 2004, the anniversary of Arizona’s day of statehood, and features exposed aggregate concrete sidewalks with marble inlay leading to a prominent 10-foot-tall bronze statue of the former senator near the center of the park.

The statue is oriented so that Goldwater is looking in the direction of his home a few miles to the southwest. It is surrounded by stacked flagstone walls leading visitors to the patio-like seating area.

On the walls hang bronze medallions with facts about the senator’s life and career. A metal footbridge traverses a rip-rap-lined arroyo leading visitors to the center of the park. A cascading waterfall greets visitors as they enter the main seating area surrounding the statue.

What I find truly unique in the landscape of the park is the variety of specimen plants used throughout. While there are many native gardens in the Phoenix area, I find this one unique because it contains a variety of vegetation species that attract all forms of wildlife.

There are a variety of penstemons and salvias that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. I have also seen squirrels and chipmunks feeding on the beans of the mesquite trees.

Most of the vegetation blooms in the late spring, in a variety of pale colors. The palo verdes have a brilliant yellow flower that adorns the entire tree and the ground canopy plane when in full bloom.

The penstemons bloom in a variety of colors, from pinks to red.

The ruellia bloom a brilliant purple, and attract bees and other insects year round.

There are also many varieties of cacti and native plants that provide an array of color and textures, including agaves, saguaros and barrel cactus.

The thing I like most about this park is that it is in the middle of a busy part of town. With major arterials bordering two sides of the park, there is a lot of vehicular traffic in the area.

But the flagstone walls and densely landscaped border edges provide enough of a sound barrier that you feel like you are in a secluded desert oasis.

When the weather is nice, it is the perfect place to sit and read, or sketch or take photographs.

The variety of avian species that visit the park is incredible. I’ve seen everything from sparrows and quail to thrashers and hawks. I’ve photographed more birds here than at any of the local mountain preserves in the area.

While most people think of parks as big open areas of green space with play areas or ball fields, I really am fascinated by the concept of the micro-park.

Whether it is a professionally designed park or a simple community garden, I like to visit these micro-parks.

I find it very interesting to see what a designer can accomplish in a small space that is usually no larger than a city lot.

Do you have any micro-parks in your community? Or do you have any place in particular you like to visit to seek solace during the busy day? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Feel free to leave a comment below, send me a tweet, or even an email. I look forward to hearing from you. Have a great weekend!

Boyd Coleman is a landscape architect in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached on Twitter at @CDGLA or email: