An Inflatable Dam in Tempe – A Symbol of What I Don’t Understand about Arizona

Dana, Dad, and Julie on the O'Shaughnessy Dam - 1972

I’m a San Franciscan. There’s history there – My parents, grandparents, and every generation since the 1850s have lived there and helped build the City. They raised goats in Noe Valley. They laid bricks since the Gold Rush, worked at the Fleishhacker Pool, and fought fires with the SFFD, among other things.

In the City, things were built to last.

I live in Arizona now, and I’m desperately trying to understand why so much of Arizona is temporary and fleeting– even the damn dam  created for “Tempe Town Lake” is temporary. I’ll let you guess what happened the other day. Let’s say that the smell of dead fish is not so nice right now in the 115 degree heat.

Am I nuts, or does an entire  state have absolutely no value for quality and continuity?  They had to build a dam made out of rubber? What did they think was going to happen in the heat of the desert? Yep, it was going to break. This is not a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. This is a dam that creates one of the biggest features of the area.

I spent my youth hiking the O’Shaughnessy Dam that formed the Hetch Hetchy Resevoir near Yosemite. It was built in the 1920s and is still functioning nicely today – thick layers of concrete, not rubber, built by workers who had pride in their accomplishment.

I’m embarrassed today to call myself an Arizonan as fish rot in the heat in the bed of the lake that fronts one of the largest universities in the country. The state should be ashamed, and perhaps, it’s time to rethink the logic of being solely focused on the here and now. On a larger scale, perhaps it’s time to rethink how we view our environment – from the buildings to the communities that we build. Are they just for the present or actually built to last for the long haul? Maybe, it’s time to return to my home turf?

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