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The George Mehl Story


Along about the mid 1980s, a local developer decided to build a world-class resort in the foothills. That resort became La Paloma, but the developers George Mehl and his brother David, ran into some stout opposition. For one thing, the Mehls proposed to build a Jack Nichlaus 27-hole golf course with lots of grass and ponds, pretty as you please and needing a ton of water.

In those days, Tucson was a serious tree-hugging community. The outrage swelled not only over the amount of water to be spilled for this play land of the rich, but for all the beautiful flora that would be destroyed as well. But then some very smart people suggested Mehl could irrigate his golf course with reclaimed water. He need only build a pipeline from the city’s resources to the La Paloma site. Mehl quickly agreed and paid for it. There wasn’t much argument.

The Mehls also agreed to hire an outfit to map and preserve all the flora on the development site (not in the golf course area). After the development was in place, the flora was put back.

The La Paloma course was the first private course to use reclaimed water. Today about half the courses in the county use reclaimed water.

George Mehl did the right thing for his community. And the community reciprocated, sort of. The county changed the name of the Foothills Park off River Road just east of the Tucson Jewish Community Center to the George Mehl Family park. It was to honor Mehl and the four other members of his family. All five died in 1991 when the private plane he was piloting crashed near Cortez, Colorado. Mehl was 41. I don’t have an age for his wife, Deborah. His daughters were Natalie, 12, Laura, 8 and Jenna,3.

While the park is named for the George Mehl family, there’s no plaque or other explanation saying who he was,what he did or how he died. Sooner or later, I’m sure, that will change. He did far more than build a beautiful resort.