In 1964, the City purchased the land from the Birchett family for the grand sum of $47,500. In 1967, the City hired the firm of Kemper and Michael Goodwin to design the park plan. The plan was approved and adopted by the Parks Board in February, 1968.
That spring, construction of the plan designed by the Goodwin’s for the improvements to the park was done and park equipment was purchased from Joe Selleh. Once all of the improvements were done, there was a need for landscaping. At that time Tempe had begun a “Trees for Tempe” program to plant trees throughout the community. Escalante Park was the recipient of 60 trees from many generous donors.
The Tempe Community Action Agency, has been a long-time tenet of the Escalante Center. Their staff in 1971 was George A. Leon, Lupe Esquer, Donna Valenzuela, Irene Lara and Irra Arietta (Lupe Esquer’s extended family was recently honored with the naming of Esquer Park).
While Tempe has grown considerably since Escalante Park was purchased and developed, the names of Tempe past continue to resonate in its future. Through visionary and caring individuals like the Birchett’s, Goodwin’s, Selleh’s, and Esquer’s Tempe has grown and prospered.
The park and center, however, is actually named for three individuals, 2 brothers and a cousin, who paid the ultimate price while fighting to defend their country and freedom during World War II. The brothers, PFC Cipriano R. Escalante and PFC George R. Escalante and their cousin PFC Gabriel V Escalante all fought and died in the Pacific Theater during the war. Cipriano died in March, 1945 during the battle on Iwo Jima while his brother George died in Luzon during the battle for the Philippine Islands in July, 1945. Their cousin, Gabriel, was the first Escalante who died in service to his country in late 1944.
The news of these three Tempeans being lost in service was not lost on the community. For years, many wondered how to appropriately recognize their sacrifice. In July, 1965 shortly after acquiring the park property from the Birchett family, Tempe received a resolution from the League of United Latin American Citizens that read in part:
Whereas, the work and sacrifices on many persons, both within and without of the City is required to complete a successful City and in appreciation of the sacrifices made by those that gave their lives in defense of their country in her hour of need,
Now, therefore be it resolved by the City of Tempe of the State of Arizona, this 8th day of July, 1965, that we acknowledge with grateful thanks the supreme sacrifices made by the three Escalante Boys on three different beaches in the Pacific Theater of Operations while serving in the United States Marine Corps, and be it further Resolved, that the New City Park adjacent to Flora Thew School be named Escalante Park in their Honor, and copies of this resolution be presented to the Mayor and members of the City Council of the City of Tempe, Arizona.
Shortly after receipt of the request from LULAC, the Tempe City Council passed a similar resolution which has forever memorialized the ultimate sacrifice paid by the Escalante family. Today, a memorial of the three Escalante men stands guard at the entrance to the Escalante Community Center. The bust of brothers Cipriano and George along with cousin Gabriel rise in tribute and recognition of their service to community.
Park size 10 acres.