|Tempe Town Lake, 2010 (photo by Jose Fernandez)|
South of Loop 202, between Priest and McClintock, Tempe
Today, Tempe Town Lake is one of Tempe’s greatest points of interest. The lake features a beautiful bridge, which is beautifully lit by lanterns at night. There are also many grassy areas and even a dirt path dedicated to walk, run, or bike. In addition to its scenery , Tempe Town Lake is home to numerous events and attractions. However, very few people know the history behind Tempe Town Lake.
The Tempe Town Lake is an artificial lake that derived from the Rio Salado, also known as the Salt River. In the 1800s, the Salt River had a tempestuous flow of water. During the late 1800s, Charles Hayden built a mill near the current location of Tempe Town Lake. Hayden was an entrepreneur whose contributions were key in the foundation of Tempe. Due to Hayden’s contributions, the Tempe Town Lake area became instrumental to many business and trade interactions. During the 1960s, ASU became involved in the development of this area. A group of students from the College of Architecture developed a blueprint known as the Rio Salado Project, which was “a series of locks and channels creating an inland seaport in the desert.” This proposition suggested a linear green belt along the river bed and also included parks and recreational areas. In 1997, Tempe accepted the proposition for the construction of Tempe Town Lake. The city partnered with the Central Arizona Project, which, according to the CAP website, is “a 336-mile lo ng system of aqueducts, tunnels, pumping plants and pipelines and is the largest single resource of renewable water supplies in the state of Arizona,” to fill the lake. There is significant controversy over how Tempe acquired the water. Tempe bought water from the Colorado River system. The water purchase brought speculation due to the fact that Tempe paid an astonishingly low rate for it. Apparently, Tempe purchased it for a significantly lower price than other municipalities, such as California or Nevada, would have payed for it. The Rio Salado Project marketing coordinator said, “It’s not that we ‘stole’ any water.” Tempe’s justification for buying the water at such a low price was that if they had not bought it, then California or Nevada would have bought it. They argued that the water “would be up at a casino in Las Vegas.” Several Tempe citizens, along with a group of Native Americans, were irritated by the “special rate” that Tempe bought the water for. In addition to the low purchase rate, local citizens were angered because they believed the water could be used in more efficient ways. Arizona, being predominantly desert, has had a history of drought. Opponents argued that the water could be better used be used in ways that were more environmentally friendly than using it for recreational purposes. Tempe’s acquisition of the water is an example of how a governing agency will use its power over a group of people who have little voice in such matters.
- Jose Fernandez
Honker, Andrew M. (2002, November 1). River sometimes runs through it: A history of Salt River flooding and Phoenix. Retrieved November 15, 2010, from ProQuest Dissertations.
Ingley, Kathleen. (1999, June 27). Tempe Defends Filling Town Lake. Arizona Republic,p. A. 1. Retrieved November 9, 2010, from Arizona Republic.
No Drought for Tempe Town Lake. (2002, May 23). Retrieved November 15, 2010, from Arizona Republic.