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'A' Mountain restored for Earth Day

ASU students, community members and businesses team up to clean up Tempe butte

students picking up trash on A Mountain
April 21, 2017

On hiking paths, under desert rocks and stuck on cactus thorns, trash left behind by hikers and visitors piles up every year on “A” Mountain until a group of volunteers braves the desert heat to clean it up.

On Friday, April 21 — in honor of Earth Day — community members, local businesses and the ASU community rallied to help keep Tempe’s only preserve clean at the the annual “A” Mountain Restoration.

The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and the School of Sustainability partner with the city of Tempe to organize the event for the well-known butte with panoramic views.

“This is a mountain that is used, and overused and loved, and loved too well,” said Lauren Kuby, councilwoman and manager of events and community engagement for the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. “So every Earth Day, the least we can do as a community is give back to this mountain.”

 The mountain has a rich history that many Tempe residents might not know about: It was first home to the Hohokam who lived there around AD 700, according to Tempe city planner and architect Bonnie Richardson.

Petroglyphs dating back to when the mountain was surrounded by water are one of the main reasons this mountain is so special to the local landscape — and why restoring it is important to this group.

“We have about 100 people here. They’re devoted, and I’ve seen people come back too, along with new people. For them, it is a ritual.” Richardson said.

Companies like FedEx and Slickables, along with ASU student groups and Tempe residents, gathered at the base of the mountain at 8:30 a.m. They were supplied with garbage bags, trash pickers and rakes as well as coffee, hats, sunscreen, a sack lunch and, of course, water.

“We pick up tons of trash, literally,” Richardson said. “They’re raking, putting new gravel on the pathways and setting the rocks so that the paths are very well delineated.”

Richardson says that she has seen the city of Tempe grow significantly and that the turnout for this event is pretty steady. For her, it’s about preserving Arizona’s rich history and landscape.

“We call ourselves ‘sustainable Tempe’ for a reason,” Richardson said. “And the more we can get out with the community and share why it’s important is what’s important.” 

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