Friday, June 17, 2011

Black Sphinx Dates, A Community Treasure!

The Mountgrove Neighborhood in Arcadia( 46th to 47th place near Lafayette) has verdantly, majestic treelined streets that have been recognized as an oasis in the desert for almost 95 years. The moment you enter the grove there is a sudden change in mood and ambience. Everyone feels it. Whether visitor stumbling upon us for the first time or permanent resident. There is a calm, a quiet, a peacefulness that envelops you and makes you feel at home. It is the trees. They are like none other. Planted as a twenty acre agricultural grove In 1917 these very distinct palms are called Black Sphinx Dates. They bear a tremendous crop of large, plump, moist, honeyed fruit with a swarthy thin skin ranging from copper to bronze to maroon to almost jet black in color. Their flavor is sweet and delicate. There is nothing in the world like a black sphinx date.

Mountgrove is a friendly neighborhood. All through the year you find neighbors and friends walking their dogs, taking quiet strolls and just gathering in front yards to share life. At night their way is illuminated by the lights shining up on the fronds of many of these tall trees to show them off. All the families that choose to live in Mountgrove have a deep pride in their area and take special interest in beautifying their homes.
This Sphinx date grove is a unique place because it is believed to be the only producing Sphinx date Palm grove in the world. These luscious fruit were so coveted that during his administration President Eisenhower would purchase these rare dates to give as gifts to his closest friends and family every Christmas. In 2005 The Arizona Tree Council recognized and awarded the area as a “Great Tree Grove of Arizona”. A very special honor.

At the time the Sphinx Date Ranch was established it was a long ten miles from town with only dusty roads and desert between them. As the southwest developed and more people moved west development eventually reached Arcadia. In 1953 building started in mountgrove. streets were carefully planned so that they wound around the trees and homes were plotted so that they might sprawl among them. Every care was taken not to disturb the natural setting. Utilities were brought in to serve these homes. The trees were almost 40 years old at this time.

SRP is the electric utility that services this area. Recently they have determined that a great number of these trees are out of compliance with their standard for foliage growth in and around the power lines. They have “informed” all the residents that 58 trees should be removed. For 50 years they have trimmed any fronds that they deemed unsafe but recently they have changed their trim schedule from annually to once every 3 years as an internal cost saving move. Now they are claiming that because of the growth of the trees “into their lines” there is a need to “move or remove” any offending tree. An option vehemently opposed to by homeowners in Arcadia and especially in Mountgrove.

They seem to have statutes and government backing their cause. We believe this problem, which has not been a problem for over 50 years, can be solved by SRP understanding that this is a unique agricultural and aesthetic grove and agree to compromise their newly adopted trim schedule to keep the trees of question in compliance with their requirement to keep the lines clear within 10 ft of the powerlines, instead of bullying this neighborhood with its powerful force and financial resourses to behead or chop down this Arcadia Treasure.
Meetings are taking place with homeowners but the outlook thus far looks grim. We wanted to inform residents in and around this area what is afoot and stay open to any suggestions to ward off this grave situation. For more information, please contact, Robbie Shaw at


Lylah Ledner said...

Oh dear.....I'll pass this along!

OrganicMama said...

Any chance the residents can pool their resources to pay for tree trimming in between SRP's scheduled trimming? It might be a chance to save the trees if other courses of action don't work.

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