The biggest project underway for the Town of Marana Parks and Recreation Department is the new Tangerine Sky Community Park, the popularity of which may even surpass that of the deer sculptures already anointing the entrance. The 17-acre property, which will be the largest park in northeast Marana, will have a small and large dog park, a large turf area, ramadas with barbeques, a basketball court, a walking path and two playgrounds—complete with a 30-foot zipline. (Note to parents: Please give the kids a turn.)
“We can serve our population in northeast Marana that we couldn’t before,” said parks and recreation director Jim Conroy. “There’s a little bit of something for everybody.
With the popularity of dog parks steadily growing, parks and rec officials expect dozens of dog owners to visit daily. One of the playgrounds is for school-age kids, and the other is for preschool age. The open turf area is perfect for a picnic or informal sports activities.
“The open turf area is for people to throw out a blanket and throw a frisbee,” said recreation superintendent Corey Larriva.
The 2,400-foot walking path, part of the new Tangerine Road corridor that also loops through the park, is built to accommodate walkers, runners, wheelchairs and strollers. There’s also a short trail from the Skyranch housing complex into the park.
Skyranch is the closest neighborhood, but thousands live within the service radius of the park, about a mile-and-a-half in all directions.
Set to open in late spring, the project’s cost is just under $4 million. The parks and rec team is keeping the park, previously open desert, as natural as possible, which they hope will lead to some good bird watching opportunities. The benefit of building a park from scratch is that the parks and rec team was able to assess the property for possible drawbacks. In doing so, they changed the natural slope of the playground’s floor so monsoon water won’t pool and waterlog the fire-resistant wood chips.
And to boot, the park (located at 4411 W. Tangerine Road) is surrounded by views of the Catalina and Tortilla mountain ranges.
Another addition to Marana’s outdoor fun is the upcoming Crossroads splash pad, also set to open in late spring.
Marana officials estimate the town’s existing splash pad, at Heritage River Park near the Gladden Farms housing complex, has over 17,000 visitors yearly. They expect thousands of new visitors to frequent the upcoming Crossroads addition. The town’s conservative prediction is 30,000 yearly visitors to the new splash pad, at the park where the town holds its popular Fourth of July celebrations. The park is located at 7548 N. Silverbell Road.
The new pad will also have colorful shade sails and seating integrated within the pad but out of the water’s reach for parents to park themselves and keep an eye on their kids.
The $750,000 project will also be near existing ramadas and playgrounds, for ease of use during parties. The park already enjoys fields for soccer and baseball and maintenance staff available until 10 p.m. The goal is to “maximize usage of this facility for the most diversified audience,” Conroy said.
Parks and rec is also going to use the splash pad to host exclusive-use time, which they’re calling “sensory splash,” for the special needs community, such as children with autism or social anxieties. It will be offered at both Marana’s splash pads as well as the Ora Mae Harn District Park pool.
Sensory splash will be a time to let those individuals “experience the facility without all the distractions and sensory overload,” said recreation coordinator Kevin Goodrich, who conceived of the program, adding it will include activities and games that will “give them an outlet for sensory time and socialization.”
Last but not at all least is the new, one-acre Honea Heights Pocket Park. This $250,000 renovation of a neighborhood park on the corner of North Whitney Lane and West Swanson Street will include a renovated basketball court, playground, ramada, barbeque, turf area and parking.
With a dense population to the north and south, “the basketball court is gonna be rockin’,” Conroy said. “Even though it’s only an acre neighborhood park, it’s gonna serve that area well.”
Honea Heights Park is at 12103 W. Moore Road, next to St. Christopher Church.
The three projects are spread out around the town, with Sky Park in the northeast, Crossroads in the south and Honea Heights in the northwest. Parks and rec planned it that way, to get parks close to all Marana residents.
“We’re trying to cover our town more efficiently,” Conroy said. “That’s part of our psyche, of how we’re wired.”