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Best Public Landscaping

Reid Park
Country Club Road and 22nd Street

READERS' PICK: One of the best things about the landscaping at Reid Park is that huge, grassy hill in front of the DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center. We don't know how they do it, but all year round they keep that grass as plush and green as the fur on Kermit the Frog's butt. Some people prefer to lay out a blanket, but we don't need no stinking blanket--the grass is its own cushion. (Could there be anything more perfect than laying in that grass and watching the clouds go by?) Then there are those little waterfalls over by the duck pond; and the streams and footbridges connecting the southern network of duck thoroughfares. When interviewed, one duck commented, "Quack." (Translation: "I love this place!") And even though we hope they don't cut down any more trees to make space for sporting areas, the recent addition of four baseball diamonds arranged in a circle makes a terrific walking/jogging track.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way. (See Best Urban Garden.)

CLUE IN: If someone told you the best things in life are free, and the most impressive constructions you'll ever see can't be crafted by human hands, would you believe it? Well, the best landscaping ever done in this old town doesn't rely on drip irrigation. And it doesn't need to be pruned. And it wasn't passed in a bond election. It's been around since pre-history, and it's even survived the post-modern scourge...so far. We're talking about the Tucson Mountains, located just beyond the western city limits, where a forest of saguaros and native plants still thrive against the changing colors of the Old Pueblo's smallest mountain range. Go out some time while the desert is in bloom, preferably after it rains, and behold. The parking area at the top of Gates Pass is a local favorite for sunset viewing.

CLUE IN: Tucson has no shortage of nicely groomed parks and tree- and cactus-lined neighborhoods. Lately we've been noticing our vegetative splendor is spreading to the roadside as well. Speedway Boulevard between Alvernon and Country Club Road, for instance--a stretch which Life magazine once called "the ugliest street in America"--is starting to resemble a neo-tropical garden, with a gallery of cortia, agave, fountaingrass, and other desert plants. The formerly barren hillside where Aviation Parkway meets Broadway, too, has lately sprouted a stately saguaro forest that should be beautifully lush about the time a decent mass-transit system is put into place--in, say, 100 or so years. And neighborhoods all through town are now sporting miniature cactus and succulent gardens in once-bare traffic circles. This trend toward postage-stamp-sized greenbelts is a definite turn to the good.

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