January 25, 2006 - Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis and councilman Terry Parish are taking action to start work on the Naranja Town Site and drum up public support for the site's master plan.
At the Feb. 1 town council meeting, the two council members will propose funding to build an improved trail system throughout the site featuring elaborate signs illustrating Loomis' and Parish's ambitions of a town recreation complex.
If approved, walkers and runners using the new trails would come upon a sign showing how the land before them could be home to, say, a new baseball diamond. Moving along, a sign will tell them what the future dog park would look like. They will see where the performing arts center might one day be found. Other signs will show playgrounds, basketball courts, tennis courts, swimming pools, soccer fields, a BMX park and a fitness center, among other possible amenities.
Parish estimates the signs will cost about $25,000. Another $25,000 will be needed for the trails and other improvements, Parish said, although he and the mayor said they have been actively pursuing sponsorship for the project from local businesses and corporations. Parish said some part of the initial $50,000 will be funded by the town, although he describes complete town funding as a worst-case scenario.
"We're trying to create excitement. Civic groups will be trying to help if we can show them that now we're doing something," Parish said.
The Naranja Town Site consists of 213-acres of hills and flatlands north of Naranja Drive and east of the Copper Creek subdivision. Formerly the location of an asphalt plant and rock quarry, the site was purchased by the town in 2000.
Although $200,000 in bed taxes from local hotels has been put toward planning a town park on the site, the new trails and signs would be the first major work to be done on the land since it was bought. Loomis said the estimated $50 million needed to complete the park means that it will have to be built in "fundable chunks."
"We need to improve awareness for what will go into this site. We need to make (people) aware that this is a town facility so that more people will know the trail is there and will take advantage of the site," Loomis said.
Parish said this proposal was partially inspired by feedback from a recent survey he conducted to test town support of a recreation complex this enormous and expensive. From what he has seen, the results indicate that residents would offer more support for the plan if they knew what they stood to gain, he said.
"What we know is that people are aware the site exists but don't know the details of the actual plan," Parish said, adding that he believes the proposed signs and trails will get the public informed and excited about the park.
Despite currently being closed to the public, Oro Valley residents have not hesitated to make use of the undeveloped land. Tracks in the dirt look like they've been made by go-carts and other small vehicles, and on any given weekend, residents can be seen walking their dogs and riding bikes through the site.
"I sat in my truck and saw 50 people enter the park, and that's when it's closed," Parish said.
If the town council approves the proposal, Parish said he expects the signs and trails to be completed by summer.
"We have three miles of trail planned where people can run with great views and no traffic," Parish said.
Loomis and Parish believe the completed park will be a tremendous asset to the town's residents. They plan to one day host soccer tournaments and the town parade on the site, and they think it would be the perfect venue to watch a July 4th fireworks display cast against the backdrop of the Catalina Mountains.
"We've outgrown all our venues, but we won't be able to outgrow this one. We won't have to limit the size of any of our events," Loomis said.
Greg Holt covers Oro Valley and the Amphitheater School District. He can be reached at 797-4384 ext. 116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.