Waterman Restoration Site

Waterman Restoration Site is home to an amazing story of what volunteers can accomplish.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Trench

In the 1980’s a man lived and illegally graded an airstrip on this area of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management — an area which would become part of Ironwood Forest National Monument when it was created in 2000. 

After the man and his family were forced to leave, the highly disturbed land became a waist-high monoculture of invasive buffelgrass. In 2005, AZ Sierra Club held “Buffelgrass Pull” events once a year, but the buffelgrass came back aggressively each year. BLM paid contractors to spray the site in the summers of 2008 and 2009. The spraying helped, but did little to abate buffelgrass regrowth and germination each year.

Starting in 2010, the Tucson Chapter of the Arizona Native Plant Society (AZNPS) began a decades-long process of consistent restoration activities. Numerous volunteers from Arizona Native Plant Society, Dove Mountain Hiking Club, Boy Scouts of America, the University of Arizona, and Friends of Ironwood Forest have supported many types of restoration activities including weed abatement, planting seeds, and water harvesting.

A more in-depth explanation of the restoration process can be found here.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Trench

Visitors can access the site via a 2-mile paved road off Avra Valley Road. There is a parking area where the former airstrip is very visible. AZNPS has created an interpretive area where visitors can learn to identify the Sonoran desert plants that are taking hold in the restoration area. Visitors are asked to NOT walk in the restoration area as there are many young cacti, trees, and bushes that volunteers have painstakingly planted and tended to that can be easily killed by an errant footstep. After many years of destructive disturbance, the site is now tended by volunteers whose dedication is leading to a new era of regrowth of native plants.

To learn more about Arizona Native Plant Society’s work here or volunteer with them for this or other projects, check out their Waterman Restoration Project page.


Take a virtual tour of the Waterman restoration site.