'It was God's country'

 

Note: This is a sidebar to a feature story headlined 'Desert sprawl.'

Dee Dee Arnaud is once again a resident of the Catalina Foothills north of Tucson.

"My family moved here from the Chicago area in 1946. My sister had respiratory allergies, and the dry air in Tucson took care of it. We lived in the Catalina Foothills. There was nothing between us and the mountains but one house. As a child, walking through the foothills, I was in awe of the Catalina Mountains. I thought the area would always be pristine. We got in the wash west of my house, and we would ride (horseback) in the wash all the way south to the Rillito River. It was God's country. I left in 1961, at the age of 22. My husband and I moved to New Jersey. For the next 35 years, we came back only to visit my family, and I would just drive straight home from the airport and straight back.

"We moved back here in 1995, and I was in total shock. Now, I found that the Coronado National Forest didn't come to the base of the mountains, and below the mountain range, everything is private land. The wash where I used to ride is crisscrossed numerous times by roads. We would always hear coyotes at night before, but we don't hear them any more.

"I always thought the whole urban sprawl thing was Eastern, because I lived in New York City for a while, and we could drive forever and never get to the country. But it's starting to be like that here now. When you fly from Phoenix to Tucson, you see lights all the way."