This website is designed to capture the history of the Rio Salado Project from its conception in the Arizona State University College of Architecture in the Fall of 1966 to the dedication of the completed Tempe Town Lake in 1999. It is intended to give credit to the many organizations and people who played a part in conceiving, designing and constructing the Lake and its associated amenities.
The progress of achieving the project, over 33 years, is broken into Four Eras identified by the major organization responsible for the work during that period of time:
Era I (1966–1969)
- ASU College of Architecture (1966–1969) conceptualized the Rio Salado Project in a student design studio and in two follow-ups studies.
- Results were published in a report to the community in November 1969.
- Valley Forward (now Arizona Forward) was nominated to assume responsibility for coordination and implementation of the Rio Salado Project.
Era II Valley Forward (1970–1980)
- Valley Forward was formed in 1969 to foster cooperative efforts to improve the region’s environmental quality and economic vitality. James Elmore, a founding member, was appointed chair of its Rio Salado Project Steering Committee. Valley Forward provided a master plan for the entire 40-mile length of the project. In 1977, the College of Architecture received $17K from the Corps of Engineers to study the recreational benefits that would be possible with flood control. It identified such things as a marina, stables, golf (Karsten), trails and water related activities. In 1979, Valley Forward prepared legislation to initiate Era III.
Era III Rio Salado Development District (1981–1987)
- In 1981, Timothy R. Bray was employed as the initial Executive Director of the Rio Salado Development District to implement Arizona’s Legislative action previously approved in 1980. The legislature authorized the appointment of a fifteen member Board of Directors representing the Cities of Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix, Maricopa County and the State of Arizona. The District’s mission was to prepare a master plan that would revitalize the Salt River channel from Mesa west through Phoenix. Additionally, the District was charged with the responsibility to recommend a funding mechanism for the entire project. A Rio Salado Master Plan was presented to the communities in 1982. The district was also charged with developing community wide support for the entire project environmentally as well as sustainability from an economic perspective.
Era IV (1987–1999)
- Development by the Riverside Cities Along the Salt River, 1987–1999 Of the riverside cities, the City of Tempe has implemented the most. Phoenix has created a remarkable habitat restoration project that is now home to the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, and Mesa has begun restoration of the Va Shly'Ay Akimel Salt River Ecosystem in partnership with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. (The wording of this Era will be expanded and coordinated with Harry Mitchell, Neil Giuliano, Steve Nielsen and the Phoenix and Mesa Planning Offices.)
- The mayors and city council have supported the Project
- 1975 – Established the Rio Salado Parkway
- 1979 – Established the Rio Salado Advisory Commission
- 1982 – The Rio Salado Overlay District
- 1988 – Appointed a Rio Salado Project Manager- Steve Nielsen
- 1989–92 – The river was channelized
- 1993 – Built the northbound Mill Ave bridge
- 1999 – Filled the lake
- Central Avenue developments. Audubon facility.