The Arizona Forward Environmental Excellence Awards program recognizes outstanding contributions to the built and natural environment of communities throughout Arizona and just recently Tohono Chul was added to its list of organizations that honor that key endeavor. Tohono Chul’s Master Plan’s recognition is due to the contributions of Arizona architect John Douglas of John Douglas Architects and reflects a 20-year tenacity to maintain a vision to enhance visitor services, easier accessibility, interpretive signage, lighting, and expanded parking and public restrooms. Although the official award title is for Site Development and Landscape – Landscapes and Preserves, Douglas’ contributions extend far beyond that. In addition to the master plan, Douglas has also designed the Gathering in the Garden Pavilion to be built summer of 2019 that has integrated water harvesting and solar into its construction. This new space is a crowning achievement for Tohono Chul as it furthers their mission to create a place where community can come together and connect with nature.

“No one has done more than John Douglas to ensure that this beloved place retains its unique charm and beauty as it has grown over the years to welcome more visitors. His latest achievement is a new garden pavilion to be built this summer. The pavilion will be as functional as aesthetically pleasing—providing shade and shelter rain or shine.” says Dr. Christine Conte, Tohono Chul Executive Director, who has worked closely with Douglas and his family over the years at Tohono Chul.

The classrooms of the Desert Discovery Education Center, the landscapes of the Desert Living Courtyard, and a new and expanded retail greenhouse are attributed to improving Tohono Chul’s programming. The new Sin Agua Garden and Desert Living Courtyard replaced former parking lots, repurposing bladed and compacted sites with interesting gardens that underscore the benefits of sustainable gardening. Other improvements consist of behind-the-scenes efforts to expand plant propagation areas and upgrade storage for permanent artifact collections along with conservation and preparation areas. Visitor-facing improvements encompass the Saguaro Discovery Trail, enhancements to the Desert View Trail, the addition of shade ramadas, and the opening of the Desert Palm Oasis. 

Whether it’s the new Gathering in the Garden Pavilion or the established natural landscapes, Tohono Chul is committed to maintaining an urban oasis for people to gather, to learn, and to connect with nature. Tohono Chul is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enrich people’s lives by connecting them with the wonders of nature, art, and culture in the Sonoran Desert region and inspiring wise stewardship of the natural world. For more information about the music schedule, upcoming events, art exhibits, and their museum shops please visit or call 520-742-6455.