Anza Trail Cultural History Park Grand Opening Report

The long awaited, momentous occasion has arrived. The original idea and promotion came from the Anza Society, Inc. It took 7 years and a cooperative effort among many organizations and individuals, but together, look what we have done!

The Anza Trail Cultural History Park was dedicated in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, January 28, 2023. The park is fully accessible for people of all abilities, including students and staff of the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind (ASDB), a next-door neighbor. The beautiful public park relates the history of the Anza National Historic Trail as well as the cultural and biological stories of the region. The Grand Entrance Archway, located on West Speedway Avenue, represents all of the people who have come through this area over the centuries.

Pictured from left to right: Kerry Hodgkinson, ASDB instructor; Kristine Hodgkinson, ASDB graduate; Naomi Torres, JUBA Superintendent; Casey Hopper, former ASDB instructor; Jasmine, ASDB student; Laura Bolyard, NPS Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program; Anne Rempe, ASDB instructor; Ronald Quinn, Anza Society, Inc.; Christopher Bentley, JUBA; Lane Santa Cruz, Tucson City Council Person; Dave Jeffries, Anza Society, Inc.

Approximately 250 visitors enjoyed food and music provided by the Tohono O’odham people, a game for children, and mariachi dancers. Guests included students and staff from ASDB, numerous National Park Service staff and volunteers, Naomi Torres, Superintendent of the NPS Anza National Historic Trail; Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, Arizona State Representative; Lane Santa Cruz, Tucson City Council Person; and Trisha Waddell, ASDB Principal.

The idea of this park, located adjacent to ASDB and the Anza National Historic Trail, first conceived by the Anza Society, was promoted, planned, designed, funded, and constructed through the efforts of numerous nonprofit and government organizations, generous donors and foundations, plus thousands of volunteer hours. The National Park Service co-hosted the dedication event with numerous community partners.

Note from the Web Administrator: Hats off to Anza Society Officers Ron Quinn and Dave Jeffries for their countless hours dedicated to see this project to fruition!

To see more about the Anza Trail Cultural History Park, go to:

SAVE THE DATE – Sat Jan 28, 2023 – 12 noon – 3:00 pm Grand opening of new park at 830 W Speedway Blvd, Tucson, Arizona

from Ron Quinn via Laura Bolyard

Hello – we have big news!

After hearing from as many of our contacts as we could to identify a good event date,our new community park Anza Trail Cultural History Park (830 W Speedway Blvd) grand opening celebration will be: Saturday January 28th between 12:00 noon – 3:00 pm. Please save this date on your calendars and share with your community groups as we hope all can join in the celebration of their new park and its amenities!  

This event will be open to the public and we expect congressional representatives.  We plan a local band and local food provided.  

Please also let us know how your community would be interested in participating.  Watch for a news release and more details

Image of new entrance to park north of Speedway Blvd, east of Arizona School for the Deaf and the Blind, and west of the Santa Cruz River.

Image of students from Arizona School for the Deaf and the Blind using the new park with it’s new exhibits as an Outdoor Classroom, October 2022.

Laura Bolyard, Project Manager

on behalf of the Anza Trail Cultural History Park/La Expedicion de Anza 1775 project planning committee

  • Arizona School for the Deaf and the Blind
  • Anza Society, Inc.
  • Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
  • National Park Service – Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program

Progress Report for La Expedición de Anza 1775 (LEA)

LEA has become a reality this year. This cultural education facility on the Anza Trail in Tucson, Arizona, opened to the public in March, 2020. The National Park Service will soon be fabricating a tactile map and a colorful wayside panel, allowing people with perceptual disabilities to understand the events and geography of the Anza Expedition. A series of interactive artworks are planned for the coming year.

An outdoor classroom, designed for use by classes from the neighboring Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind (ASDB), and other schools, is the only unfunded element of the LEA Master Plan. We need your help now.

As we enter the holiday giving season, please consider a donation. We are almost there! We have raised almost $32,000 for the outdoor classroom, and we need another $9000 to build.

All donations in any amount made this month will be doubled!

Thanks to the Federal Cares Act, taxpayers who file using the standard deduction are now eligible to deduct up to $300 for cash donations made to charitable organizations. This one-time allowance expires December 31, 2020.

You may donate now by going to our LEA web site:

Donations are managed by the Anza Society International (ASI), a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, Tax ID #06-1723695, incorporated under laws of the State of Arizona. ASI is an all-volunteer organization. 100 percent of all donations go directly to the completion of the LEA outdoor classroom.

2019 Conference Registration is Live…

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Pikes Peak from Garden of Gods in the Fall – Colorado Springs, Colorado

Our 2019 Conference will be held in Colorado Springs, Colorado – home to America’s Mountain, Pikes Peak during September 12-15, 2019. On behalf of the Anza Society, we welcome you to attend our next conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado to be held September 12-15, 2019. Please note…even if you are unable to attend the entire conference, piecemeal options are available. While the full conference rate is very affordable at $185, you can purchase the Saturday Daytime option to include a full day of engaging historical presentations and lunch for only $30!

Conference details can be found on our conference page, along with registration & document links to download.

Special Anza Society Hotel Conference Rates are also available for booking. Don’t miss out as only a limited room block is reserved for our event!

Get ready for the 2019 Conference!

GofG - PP w Cool Text

Pikes Peak from Garden of Gods in the Fall – Colorado Springs, Colorado

Our 2019 Conference will be held in Colorado Springs, Colorado – home to America’s Mountain, Pikes Peak during September 12-15, 2019.

Special Anza Society Hotel Conference Rates are now available for booking. Don’t miss out as only a limited room block is reserved for our event!

Schedules, Outings, Presentations and Pricing are still in the works, but will be announced as soon as possible.

More Conference details can be found on our conference page, with updates posted as new information becomes available.

In Memorium to Phil Valdez, Jr

1 phil valdez close up On the morning of May 10, 2018 Phil Valdez, Jr. passed away after a hard fought battle with cancer. A founding member of the Anza Society, Phil contributed significantly to a better understanding of Anza and the historical context of his life.  Phil’s enthusiasm for sharing this knowledge was second to none.  This is best exemplified in depth and breadth by his published articles on this site.  Many members of the Anza Society remember him fondly, and some have contributed their memories.  We hope these memories will inspire you and other citizen historians to continue the study of Anza and Anza’s times with the foundation of knowledge shared by the passionate, committed scholar and friend, Phil Valdez, Jr.

Naomi Torres, Superintendent, Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

Since I never had occasion to meet Phil’s family, and since I know those of us who shared his interest in Anza were a second family to him, I would like to share with you some my thoughts on his passing. I think, those of us who knew him would agree that there aren’t many people in this world so absolutely devoted to a subject, or having the intensity which Phil had, to pursue anything and anyone who could enhance his already vast knowledge of everything Anza. His constant and never ending pursuit of the subject was motivated by the desire to help establish recognition and a fair place for Anza in American History, and then spread the word to the four corners of the nation. This explains both his total dedication to the acquisition of that knowledge and the generosity with which he so willingly shared it with all of us.

It is an understatement to say that I have lost a good friend and we have all lost a true apostle of Juan Bautista de Anza. May he rest in peace!

Vladimir Guerrero

Phil Valdez at ABA “giant” in the world of California colonial history, Phil Valdez, Jr., passed away in Ukiah, California, in May 2018 after a valiant fight with a long-term illness.

Phil Valdez was knowledgeable on most aspects of colonial California but focused his study and research on the life and times of Juan Bautista de Anza and the first overland colonizing expedition trail to California.

Valdez’s research on the Anza Expedition of 1775–76 has increased the public’s understanding of California’s Spanish colonial history. He holds a master’s and doctorate in Business Administration. He was a Marine veteran and worked for many years in the hotel business.

Valdez served as a historian advisor to the National Park Service. Thought to be a descendant of Juan Bautista de Anza’s courier, Juan Bautista Valdez, he was inspired by his personal connection and a deep respect for Juan Bautista de Anza. He has logged hundreds of hours and thousands of miles retracing the 1775–76 Anza Expedition, identifying historic campsite locations and increasing the public’s knowledge of the expedition to California. While concurrently serving as president of the Anza Society, Inc., a volunteer organization, Valdez organized conferences for citizen-historians to share research and invite others to learn about our country’s Spanish colonial heritage. His 2013 conference in Monterey, California, highlighted the Anza Trail in Fort Ord National Monument. His 2014 conference in the Mexican state of Sonora brought dozens of U.S.-based Anza enthusiasts together with Mexican historians and several state and local community officials.

Building on his relationship with Mexican Government officials from the state of Sonora, Valdez served as a symbolic representative of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail on several trips to Sonora in 2013 and 2014. During these visits, he developed strong relations with the Mayor of Arizpe, Sonora, and several government representatives from the state of Sonora, Mexico. He spent countless hours sharing his extensive knowledge of the Anza Expedition and more importantly catalyzing an interest in presenting the Anza Expedition story in Sonora, Mexico. As a result of his efforts, the Mexican agency Turismo Sonora developed La Ruta Turística de Anza, a counterpart to the Anza Trail in the U.S. Also, the town of Arizpe, Sonora, installed an interpretive wayside presenting Juan Bautista de Anza’s burial site.

Phil Valdez, Jr. received the U.S. Department of Interior Citizen’s Award for Exceptional Service at the National Park Service Pacific West Regional Office in San Francisco on July 15, 2015. The Citizen’s Award for Exceptional Service is given by the U.S. Department of the Interior in recognition of outstanding performance by a private citizen, organizational partner or volunteer. Valdez’s award recognizes his 12- plus years of service to the Anza Trail, including time spent as a goodwill ambassador for the trail in northern Mexico. The citation of Valdez’s award follows:

“For outstanding contributions to the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, Phil Valdez, Jr., is granted the Citizen’s Award for Exceptional Service of the Department of the Interior.”

Long discussions, phone calls, comparative research and friendship with Phil will be sorely missed with those left behind, but for sure, Phil Valdez, Jr. is having great discussions with Juan Bautista de Anza, Father Pedro Font and Don Garate.

With love from his Californio cousins, Greg Bernal-Mendoza Smestad, Ph.D., Martha Vallejo McGettigan and Edward Grijalva

Phil was a founding member and past president of the Anza Society International. He was a proud descendant “de los Californios”, the Spanish Colonial founders and settlers of early California.  Phil was a descendant of the Courier on Captain Juan Bautista de Anza’s journey from Sonora into Alta California, which helped establish the settlement of San Francisco.  Through the Anza Society, Phil, like myself, found we had a voice, an acknowledgement of our own identity and anthropology as “Espanoles-Mexicanos-Americanos. This voice could be expressed through the Anza Society and its foundation work that honored our ancestry.  Like many here, a history that happened to be our own unique American story, as with many heroes and heroines as well as some villains of the Spanish Colonial settlement periods. The Anza Society was founded due to the worthiness of the lives of both Anza senior and junior, held for further research, study, promotion and positive advocacy.  Phil and I spoke about what an honor it was to be among people, like you present her, having the quality of spirit and character who sought truth, scholarship and understanding of what has been contributed to our region and country all because of Spain.

S. Pauline Anaya, Psy.D.



I first me Phil on a horse/mule pack trip in Anza-Borego Springs Stat Park.  My college friend Bill Colvin, had been our packer when I worked for the Forest Service in California and had two riding and two pack horses on his ranch in Chico. Phil had arranged to ride into Coyote Canyon with the park ranger, on his two mules, on the same day.  Imagine our surprise learning about each others interest in Anza.  I had no ties to Anza, except for a general interest, but Phil’s 8th generation grandfather had ridden with Anza to California on his first trip in 1774, and then rode 1200 mile in 24 days back to Mexico City with the news.  Bolton called him an extraordinary courier, and I think Phil always tried to emulate his ancestor.

Phil thought nothing about getting in his car in northern California and meeting me in Colorado.  We drove and hiked the Anza trail, in his expedition against the Comanche in 1779 – at least twice, taking about a week each time.  We PhilCanyonthought we found a musket ball once and he drove all the way out to meet a state archaeologist in Colorado City, only to learn we had likely just found a round piece of slag from the iron mills in Pueblo.

With Vladimir, the three of us drove, hiked and camped on the Camino Diablo along the Arizona/Sonora boundary.  The last thing we shared was colon cancer, and a wicked chemo drug.  Phil was brave right up to the end.  He said he had lived a good life and we will sorely miss him.

Joe Myers



2017 Conference Registration Now Open


“Digging for Water”
NPS/David Rickman

Register today
to participate in the
22nd Annual International Conference
of the Anza Society.

In 1774, Anza was nearly defeated by the formidable desert that surrounds Calexico today.  Anza then returned in 1775 with 240 colonists and over 1000 livestock. Lack of water dictated a need to divide the expedition into three groups and send the cattle by another route.

Join us for a thought provoking and immersive experience in Calexico, March 9-12, 2017

Visit the 2017 Conference page for information and registration.