Tortolita Mountain Park expansion approved by County Supervisors | Environment
An expansion plan for Tortolita Mountain Park was voted on and approved by the Pima County Board of Supervisors at the August 6 meeting.
Excess general funds from 2012-2013 will be used to purchase 800 acres of state trust land to expand the park. Voter approved bond funds helped establish the park, and with additional bond funds, plus a donation of land and a Growing Smarter grant in 2012, have expanded the park to its current 5,600 acres.
Tortolita Mountain Park is a principal natural open space park for the northwest Tucson Basin, including Catalina and the towns of Oro Valley and Marana.
According to Arizona State Parks, which administers the Growing Smarter grant program, this fiscal year will be the last grant award cycle, due to a lack of funding. Since 2001, of the $200 million in matching funds awarded, Pima County has received only $4.7 million. Maricopa County has received $188.9 million, split between Phoenix with $110.8 million and Scottsdale at $78.1 million.
Pima County's mountain parks – Tucson Mountain Park, Colossal Cave Mountain Park and Tortolita Mountain Park – are travel and tourism magnets that benefit the local economy. According to a Visit Tucson 2012 Visitor Survey, visitors cite the surrounding natural environment and outdoor/desert activities as Tucson's greatest attractions. The Arizona Office of Tourism estimates that direct travel spending generated $2.6 billion in revenue, 22,300 direct jobs, and $150.5 million in local and state tax revenues in 2012.
The Oro Valley Town Council passed a resolution on July 3, supporting the County's efforts to secure more matching grant funds for Tortolita Mountain Park's expansion.
The Arizona State Land Department has accepted the County’s proposal to acquire 800 acres of reclassified State Trust land. The land value is expected to range between $2 million and $2.5 million, of which Pima County’s share would be about $1.25 million ($1,500/acre), with the Growing Smarter matching grant covering 50 percent of the balance.
“We’re hopeful that the actual cost will be lower than that,” County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry stated in a recent news release on the proposal. He also reiterated that this will be the last chance the County will have to apply for a Growing Smarter grant that would pay half the cost.
The Board approved allocating $775,000 in development in lieu mitigation fees toward the purchase, with the remainder coming from unallocated excess 2012-13 general funds. That excess, which is estimated to be about $450,000, will be determined when the final audit of the 2012-2013 budget is completed in October.
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