USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River Wins APRA ‘Best of the Best Award’

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The USS Arizona Memorial Gardens receive an Arizona Parks and Recreation ‘Best of the Best Award’ for Outstanding Facility Award for Populations Under 10,000.

The Arizona Parks and Recreation Association (APRA) held its annual conference August 11-13 virtually on YouTube, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, August 11, winning landscape design projects were recognized in the annual APRA Awards ceremony. One of the award winners was J2 Engineering and Environmental Design in Phoenix, which received “Outstanding Facility Award for Populations Under 10,000” for their work on the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River. 

The virtual awards ceremony was hosted by APRA Assistant Director Miranda Gomez and Manager Steve Richardson. Both went back and forth reading information about the winning design projects. Gomez presented the award for J2 Engineering and Environmental Design: 

“The USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River honors the brave individuals that served aboard the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941, during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The monument and gardens span the exact length and width of the USS Arizona, with over 1,500 commemorative columns outlining the actual perimeter of the USS Arizona, whose hull extends across the entry drive of Salt River Fields to the north and juts into the lake on the south. Each column is representative of a life aboard the ship that day. In addition, there are gaps within the column outline representing individuals who survived the attack. As the day ends, each column will subtly glow with light, transforming the memorial at night and representing each individual as a light [that] will continue to go on and stand the test of time.

“Prominently displayed at the center of the Gardens, adjacent to the lake’s edge, is the “Boat House” relic of the USS Arizona. The position of the relic gives visitors the ability to look across the water and see the relic in its relationship to how it once stood on Pearl Harbor.

“The contemplative Memorial Gardens sit to the north of the Memorial Building with a layout based off a ship’s vertical mast to commemorate the highly decorated USS Arizona. Additional commemorative columns line pathways in the garden, with each path ending at a flagpole representing each branch of the United States military. Along the pathways are benches engraved with quotations from individuals who experienced firsthand the events of December 7, 1941, and the days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.”

“We’re excited that the project is getting the recognition that it is. We’re in a strange time right now, so not a lot of people are utilizing the space as we originally thought, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But hopefully this recognition will give people an insight and they will want to go out and visit [the Gardens] and gain the information and history of the events at Pearl Harbor,” said Aaron Allan, RLA, ASLA, vice president/principal landscape architect of J2 Engineering and Environmental Design. 

Early on in the design phase of the project, Allan shared his original concept for the facility in Discover Salt River’s Arizona Memorial Gardens podcast series.

“I had this idea in my head of creating the bow of the ship that went out into the water, creating a dam where you can walk into the lake, where the lake will have a negative edge over this wall. I thought how cool it would be to walk into the lake and have all this water kind of falling around you and this relic piece suspended up above you, where you can kind of get a different perspective of it and almost transport you away from the rest of the surroundings,” said Allan. 

Although his original concept was originally chosen, it was combined and further developed with a couple of other concepts, one of which was approved by the SRPMIC Council. 

“The more we went through design and development, I feel that the concept that the Council picked really was the strongest concept out of the three,” said Allan in the podcast. “It tells the best story and gives the most opportunity for [people to connect to] this memorial.” 

For more information on the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River, visit www.discoversaltriver.com/uss-arizona-memorial-gardens-at-salt-river. Or, visit in person and reflect on and pay respects to those who bravely gave their lives that day at Pearl Harbor. The memorial garden is located at 7455 N. Pima Road in Scottsdale and is open dawn to dusk.