Close to Downtown, drivers pass under the steel arches at the Five Points every day.

It took neighbors years of planning, coordinating with the City of Tucson and fund-raising to build these monuments to the historic Barrios. Right now, though, some neighbors are concerned these relatively new monuments will rust and decay soon, if there’s no solution to keep pigeons and other birds away.

KGUN 9 went back to the intersection of Stone, 6th and 18th to see the damage firsthand. There, we reconnected with two neighbors whose roots in the Barrios run deep: Luis Mena, the artist who designed the artistic monuments that were finished in 2021, and historian Pedro Gonzales.

Gonzales said the arches’ general condition is getting worse. He doesn’t want to see the hard work go to waste; Gonzales helped lead the committee that secured, build and helped finish the arches.

“We fought hard to have this at Five Points,” he said, “because it wasn’t recognized the way it should be recognized.”

Gonzales and Mena each pointed to the first problem spots: the tops of each arch.

That’s where pigeons, in particular, have been leaving their droppings for years. The result is there’s now a layer that is discoloring the original steel arches. The chemicals in this residue are trickling down, rusting the pillars that hold the arches, and the bronze plaques that adorn each pillar. Some of the bases have also been tagged with graffiti.

“When did you first see this (graffiti)?” we asked. “It’s been here for almost a month,” Gonzales said.

Both men then pointed to the damage on the plaques. Each one is an etching Mena brought to life. They’re cultural symbols for the historically Mexican and Native Peoples’ barrio.

Mena said that, thankfully, there are simple ways to clean the stains and prevent any further damage.

“Certain (chemical) solutions that clean the artwork,” he said. “(We can also) seal the arches, and maybe put some kind of rim around where the bolts are if any future bleeding continues.”

We also asked Mena what he would do to keep the birds off the arches. He doesn’t want spikes to ruin the message of the art, so he thought of a tool several stores already use.

“It’s a chrome rotating mirror that blinds them and keeps them from landing,” Mena said.

On the ground, Mena and Gonzales also hope City of Tucson crews can come soon to cover open electrical ports and remove growing weeds. “We already got the Five Points (memorial),” Gonzales said. “Now they have to maintain it, just like everything else.”

KGUN 9 talked to a senior staff member from the Tucson City Manager’s office on the phone Thursday. They said they plan on sending crews to look at and fix any electrical and weed problems.

They also said the bird droppings are a new issue on crews’ radar; they pointed out cleaning the roughly 60 ft. arches would take much more careful planning, which the City would have to balance with more urgent projects.

This led to a conversation where the senior staffer mentioned that any new work to preserve art, like the arches, could fall under the purview of the city’s new cultural heritage project called Somos Uno!

The city announced it was starting the program in October. Leaders want to draft guidelines that would not only manage existing cultural exhibits and resources, but also develop new projects.

The City of Tucson has said it hopes to get more community input, and finish the guidelines by Summer 2024.