The grass is greener in Tonalea
As you approach the "Elephant’s Feet" on the way to Kayenta from Tuba City, you’ll see a sign for the Tonalea Veteran’s Memorial Park across the road. The park is the creation of Floyd Dawson, Tonalea resident and brother to a Vietnam Veteran slain in 1968. Inside the wire mesh fence you’ll find not only a protected stone monument, but also two picnic tables with shade arbors. barbecue pits, and a basketball hoop.
Dawson has slowly built his vision; a place to honor not only his brother, but other Vietnam veterans, to relax and visit with friends and family. Part of his dream was to successfully establish a carpet of thick, green grass for visitors to enjoy.
Recently Dawson seems to have a bit of the luck of the Irish. Michael Anthony and Dave McKenzie visited Dawson and his memorial twelve years ago, when Anthony worked for another company. The men vowed to return and plant grass as a pilot project. Two months later, the company folded, but the men did not forget their commitment. Now, through Grow Technologies, a company specializing in land reclamation based in Ireland Anthony, McKenzie and five associates have come to make good, and to demonstrate what their company is about.
Using formulas specifically designed for Northern Arizona high desert, the members of Grow Technologies plan to grow cash crops in some of the most arid parts of the world, this one included. The Tonalea Veteran’s Memorial Park will serve to prove their expertise. As with the grass planted at Tonalea, there is no need to import soil, and nitrates are unnecessary. With proper crop rotation, the natural fertilizer is resources only once.
Dr. Ronnie Russell, an environmental consultant and lecturer at Trinity College in Dublin, is a member of the team. He says the company is looking for solutions on a long-term basis concerning both land and water issues, such as waste water treatment, reclaiming the surface area land fills, etc. And while the company is a business, their mission includes philanthropy.
"There’s an Irish tradition of assisting hard-pressed nations. You can go all over the world and find Irish in areas hit by famine or war, working for nothing, just to help out," he said. With a smile he adds, "That’s why you’ve got people coming 7,000 miles bearing manure."
Altogether, Grow Technologies has spent $30,000 on this trip. Behind the memorial they hope to grow several acres of alfalfa to sell, and to demonstrate the economic viability in farming even in this desert region.
Planting at the Veteran’s Park began August 25th. On Saturday, September 16, after hardly three weeks to grow, the Park will open with a dedication ceremony over a carpet of thick, green grass. The public is welcome to attend.