It was during the 1970s that the couple was approached several times by developers seeking to purchase the land for commercial development. They always refused. Jean Wilson told them, "I don't want to sell the land. I don't want it cemented over. I want to preserve it." In fact, when Pima County condemned a strip along the southern boundary of the property in order to widen Ina Road, Dick Wilson demanded that they move every saguaro and replant it on their adjacent property.
After opening the Haunted Bookshop, the Wilsons began planning their next project--a park. "At first, we just went out and put down some lime to make a path and marked the names of some of the plants and bushes, but then it started to snowball." The path gradually grew into a loop trail meandering a half-mile into the surrounding desert. In 1980, they received a citation from the Tucson Audubon Society for saving the desert greenspace and opening it to the public.
Tohono Chul Park was formally dedicated as a 37-acre desert preserve on April 19, 1985. The Wilsons deeded the property to the non-profit foundation, Tohono Chul Park, Inc. in 1988.
"We wanted to keep something natural in the middle of all the (surrounding) development so that people could come easily for a few hours and get out of the traffic and learn something at the same time. It's probably contrary to what most people would do, but we feel it's really important for people to have something like this."
For a more detailed history and a trail-by-trail description of Tohono Chul Park, download the Official Guide (pdf file)
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