Marana's newest park — Silverbell-Cortaro District Park — is progressing smoothly and is on schedule to open for use in January 2010, according to a town official overseeing the project.

Tom Ellis, director of Marana's Parks and Recreation Department, said the town also anticipates having a new name for the park by the time it opens, and allowing the public input on the name chosen. The park lies to the east of Silverbell Road, south of the junction with Cortaro Road.

Ellis said the town's parks commission would develop three or four proposed names, submit them for approval to the town council, and after approval there, post them on the town's website so the public can vote for its favorite choice.

"We intend to name the park after something historically or geographically significant because the area has been so important from pre-history to today," Ellis said.

The town has done extensive archeological excavations in the area of the park and along the rebuilt Silverbell Road, uncovering approximately two dozen adobe pit houses that were part of an 80-acre Hohokam Indian village that dates between 1100 and 1400.

Ellis said Desert Archeology did a major amount of work on the site, while Old Pueblo Archeology did some of the early investigative work.

Construction of the $6 million park proceeded in two phases. The first was handled by Granite Construction when that company widened Silverbell Road to four lanes between Cortaro and Ina roads. The second phase, currently under way, is being done by D.L. Withers Construction Inc.

"The rough grading, parking lots curbs and gutters were done by Granite," Ellis said. "Now D.L. Withers is putting in all the park's amenities — the restrooms, sidewalks, trails, tennis courts, basketball courts, ball fields and backstops, lighting, fencing and landscaping."

The park will have two soccer fields, two baseball/softball fields, an adult slow-pitch softball field, two basketball courts, a tennis court and two sand volleyball courts.

"All the ball fields will be lit by state-of-the-art lighting that doesn't have any bleed-off," Ellis said. "They will appear to glow, rather than being big flashbulbs in the sky. We wanted to take into consideration the neighborhoods to the west of the park and didn't want to ruin their views of the Santa Catalina Mountains."

The park also will have a festival and outdoor performance area, as well as a group use area, both situated close to Pima County's Wheeler Taft Abbett Sr. Branch Library.

"Those areas can be used for special events, craft shows, concerts and other events," Ellis noted. "We also have plans to partner with the library on concerts, plays and reading programs."

The southern-most area of the park, between two branches of the Yuma Wash that drains from the Tucson Mountains into the Santa Cruz River, will remain native desert with some walking paths in it, according to Ellis.

"We'll also work with non-profit groups to do interpretations of the Hohokam pit houses and shade structures like those that would have been used," Ellis said. "The area also was the site of the Bojorquez-Aguirre Ranch in the 1830s, and we have remnants of the ranch house, cistern and some other structures near the playgrounds. We plan to fence and preserve them, and do interpretations there too."

The entire area of the park, lying west of the Santa Cruz, historically was a center of activity because of the water and good farmland there, Ellis pointed out.

"We have to come up with a name that honors and describes what went on during those times," he said.

New park features

A new park at Silverbell and Cortaro will have restrooms, sidewalks, a tennis court, two basketball courts, two soccer fields, two baseball/softball fields, an adult slow-pitch softball field, backstops, lighting, fencing, two sand volleyball courts and landscaping.

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