By Shelley Ridenour
The boundaries of Casa Grande Ruins National Monument could be expanded if Congress adopts legislation introduced Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz.
The Casa Grande Ruins is one of the finest examples of 13th century Hohokam culture in the American Southwest, Kirkpatrick said. Known to Spanish explorers as the Great House, it was proclaimed the first archaeological preserve in the United States in 1892, then called the Casa Grande Ruin Reservation. In 1918, it was redesignated as Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.
Kirkpatrick's bill would expand the boundaries around the ruins and village "to protect and enhance the archaeological experience for future generations to explore," she said in a press release.
The proposal calls for adding about 10 acres. It stems from a 2003 National Park Service resource study. The bill would allow the park service to acquire more of the original pre-Hispanic Hohokam village, a segment of the south-side prehistoric canal and a large portion of Adamsville, a second large Hohokam village area upstream of the Casa Grande Ruins site. The Adamsville area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Although not a lot of acreage, the key sites "will add a great deal to the Park Service's ability to interpret to monument visitors what life was like for those who built the Great House," said Kevin Dahl, Arizona program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.
"These treasures will get the recognition and protection they need and deserve," Dahl said.
Joining Dahl in praising the proposal was Bill Doelle, president and chief executive officer of Archaeology Southwest.
"There are at least four good reasons to move forward with this expansion bill," Doelle said. "Improved public interpretation of the ancient Hohokam, improved protection of these unique places of the past, the economic benefits of heritage tourism and the strong local community support."
"I've been listening to community leaders and residents across Pinal County," Kirkpatrick said. "And, they want to ensure these ruins are protected for their historic significance as well as their economic impact."
Friends of the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument President Doug Craig praised the legislation.
"This legislation will protect some of the most significant Hohokam ruins remaining in the middle Gila River area," Craig said.
According to Coolidge Mayor Tom Shope, the ruins attract about 70,000 visitors every year.
"We are confident this legislation will enhance their experience and strengthen this national monument's position as a state and national treasure," Shope said.
"The people of Casa Grande not only appreciate the heritage of our region, we understand that preserving this history can be a job creator and an economic engine," Casa Grande Mayor Bob Jackson said. "We are very pleased this legislation has been introduced and we hope to see it signed into law."
Joining Kirkpatrick as co-sponsors of the bill are fellow Arizona U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar, Ed Pastor and Raul Grijalva.