Marana residents will see an extension of The Loop trail from the Canyon Del Oro Wash to the west side of Interstate-10, thanks to a routine bank protection project.
The Marana Town Council unanimously approved a development agreement last Wednesday between the Pima County Flood Control District and a private developer to build bank protection along the north side of the CDO Wash between Thornydale Road and I-10. This area cannot be developed without securing infrastructure that prevents flooding and erosion.
Because the CDO Wash is a regional water course, the county's Flood Control District is involved in establishing bank protection. And because the land in question is privately owned by Alta Vista Communities, they are splitting the cost with the county.
Marana is not involved in the financial aspects of the deal, but the permitting and approval of any development will go through the town's jurisdiction.
So how does the Loop extension factor into all of this? Connecting trails is something that Marana and the county are always trying to do, according to Marana Parks and Recreation Director Jim Conroy.
"When a development is being built, we're always emphasizing that a trail be connected to that development," Conroy said. "We're always looking for how once a development goes in, how can we get the residents who live there on a trail system?"
Marana already has about 54 miles of trails throughout its boundaries. This project would just extend the network and provide another access point to current and future commercial developments.
County and local municipalities often work together to create more paths for pedestrians and cyclists. The Loop winds its way through three major washes, connecting the Rillito, Santa Cruz and Pantano river parks.
"Any time there is a development adjacent to a regional water course where we can include river park amenities inclusive of The Loop we try to do that," said Any Dinauer, a Deputy Director with the Flood Control District. "With this project we're also going to get The Loop to tie into the west side of Thornydale, underneath the interstate and connect to The Loop on the west side of town."
The county first started incorporating shared use paths into routine bank protection projects in the '80s when the service roads of a completed section along the Rillito River between Campbell Avenue and Oracle Road started seeing significant recreational activity. Since then more than 120 miles of paths have been completed, according to Pima County's website. With its constantly expanding network, planning for the Loop is a significant part of many municipal projects.
"That 3,000 feet, that's how things get done," Conroy said. "It can't always be a big long stretch, we keep chipping away at these sections of trails trying to connect them."
First soil cement bank protection will be constructed along the northern edge of the CDO Wash, then an underpass will be established for water to pass underneath the Union Pacific Railroad which runs adjacent to I-10, according to a county press release. After that work is done, a paved maintenance road will be put in and the county's Native Plant Nursery will provide landscaping for the river park. "Most times we do improvement we try to incorporate river parks, you see a lot of that in Marana up near the Santa Cruz River," Dinauer said. "In Marana, the Rillito and the CDO and the Santa Cruz, all that land around Calportland is being soil cemented around the Orange Grove pit and we're going to do Loop improvements as well."
Conroy said Parks and Recreation is always trying to capitalize on new opportunities for a Loop connection. If they can connect it to the major loop system in the Santa Cruz, even better.
"It's a world-class recreational amenity these trail systems and the fact that were connected to the entire regional loop system is pretty extraordinary," Conroy said. "As a community, quality outdoor recreation is major focus of the town."
While the developer, the county and Marana are all ready to work together on this project, it can't get started until the Union Pacific Railroad signs off on the plans, and that could take a while. "The plans are at a point where we could go out to bid with the exception of the approvals that are needed from the railroad," Dinauer said. "And the railroad is an entity that kind of has their own timeline and it could be six months, maybe a year before we have an affirmative response."