Freeze Frame

Urban Sprawl in the Valley of the Sun

            I chose South Mountain Park and its tallest peak for my first freeze frame.  I began by focusing on the biggest or most predominant TV. tower on the peak and slowly broadened my point of view to include more and more towers.  I finally expanded far enough out to reveal the majority of the peak and the surrounding “untouched” natural environment of the park.  In particular, I think that this scene tells a lot about the geographical changes occurring in South Phoenix and in a broader sense the greater Phoenix area and the entire southwest.  The development and expansion of suburban sprawl is a main issue in many American cities today.  This brings about various questions to consider on a variety of related issues, starting with how far growth will be allowed to happen, even if it disrupts the balance of nature with the previously existing communities it surrounds.  Will these communities be better off or be further alienated from the new residential and commercial establishments?  What will the impact be not only on humans but on the native flora and fauna that called the area home?  By reading the 2000 publication of Hits and Misses: Fast Growth in Metropolitan Phoenix by the Morrison Institute for public policy, I found out that even though growth was slower in southern or central portions of the city of Phoenix, it increased by about 15,000 people between 1990 and 1995, the metropolitan area as a whole has increased by 31 percent or about 57,000 new residents a year during the same period.  The urban land area in the valley has doubled between 1975 and 1995.   The area lost was about 32 percent desert and 40 percent farm land.  Accompanying the population growth, new taxes installed since 1985 have tripled the amount of roadway in the valley from 290 miles to 870 miles in 1997.  Through further growth, the highway system will continue to consume more of the desert environment and further the expansion and sprawl of many valley communities.

Many of these issues have no easy solution and require a great amount of thought, insight and communication between state, local governments and the public.  If people set aside their differences and perceptions of one another and plan, research and act in a common consensus they could better deal with these changes.  For example, energy conservation as in the establishment and use of a city wide light rail system or driving smaller more fuel efficient cars, etc. can dramatically decrease human impact on the environment. 

 In South Phoenix, these changes are most prevalent as farm land in this area is converted into new housing developments, almost all the way up to the entrance to South Mountain Park.  The older communities, like South Phoenix, lie directly in the path of this urban growth which is transforming the general consensus in stereotypes, as well as affecting socio-economic makeup of the community in drastic ways never seen before.

Learning From South Phoenix   Tom  Haas