Nature in the hood

Because of the population explosion over the past 15 years, much of Phoenix is shiny and new. Still, if you drive on Central Avenue south of Washington, you’ll find the old, weathered part of the city – warehouses, rundown storefronts, a creepy strip club or two, and even a working sand and gravel mining business. It’s not exactly a nature-friendly part of town.

It’s the last place you’d expect to find an urban wetland, and yet, there it is. It exists because Audubon Arizona decided to build its state headquarters at 3131 S. Central. It opened about a year and a half ago, and it isn’t your ordinary office complex. The building is LEED-certified, and it serves as a gateway to a 600-acre park space in the Salt River corridor. The complex, which costs nothing to visit, offers interactive exhibits, an interpretive loop trail, connections to the Rio Salado Habitat’s sixteen miles of hiking and riding trails, and a variety of programs, including family nature walks, wildlife encounters, birding classes and bird walks, and school field trip programs.

Last Sunday, the center’s hummingbird garden attracted several of the birds while I was there, and its mini-wetlands area was playing host to several ducks. Flying overhead were two beautiful egrets who find the wetlands area attractive. More than 200 species of birds and other wildlife can be found in the riparian habitat provided by Arizona Audubon.

This project is a great example of what can be done to help animals survive and thrive in an urban environment. If you get to Phoenix, it’s definitely worth a visit.

What kinds of nature-friendly habitats do you have in your city?

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