When we heard there's a park in Tempe named for the current mayor's mother, we rolled our eyes. Nice gimme, Hugh! Then a friend corrected us. Turns out Evelyn Hallman is more than deserving of the honor.
Hallman, a seamstress, wife, mother of three, and, at one point, diesel mechanic, still managed to find the time to get involved in local politics. A Goldwater Girl who became a virtual pillar of her community, Hallman knew every corner of her north Tempe neighborhood — and she really knew Canal Park.
Back in the day, when Canal and Papago became pick-up spots, Hallman lobbied the city to clean up the parks and close down the bathrooms used for dalliances. She persuaded county officials to sponsor annual neighborhood park cleanups, which continue to this day.
Evelyn fought for open spaces where neighbors could gather together to enjoy fishing in the pond, a bike ride or a stroll. She worked tirelessly to apply for grant money for her neighborhood and attended countless city meetings to support good projects in the neighborhood and oppose bad ones. She celebrated when a good project won out and took it in graceful stride when a bad one did.
She fought developers who wanted to build on A Mountain, which today is still covered with vegetation and a hiking trail. She also made sure we could enjoy walking around Tempe Town Lake without bumping into commercial properties right at the lake's edge.
Evelyn created partnerships, made enemies and built a community of neighbors. Tall like her son and tan, she could be found every morning in Canal Park, jogging along the canal, well into her '80s. She died in 2005 and in 2006, Canal Park was re-dedicated as Evelyn Hallman Park. We can't think of a better tribute or reminder of the value of community activism. As Evelyn Hallman's life proves, you don't have to be the mayor of a town to get things done in it.