Don't fence me in - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

Don't fence me in

Some residents unhappy that new park obstructs views

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Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2008 11:00 pm

Marana resident Steve Huff likes to gaze out his window and look at the Tucson Mountains, which stand just beyond his property.

But now, he has one more thing to look at in the morning — a four-foot-tall wire fence.

“This is the government splitting open space in half,” said Huff, who works as a photojournalist for KOLD-13 television.

Until last week, the residents of Thelon Court enjoyed unobstructed views of Safford Peak, a 3,533-foot-tall mountain that has appeared in many a magazine, poster and postcard. On Tuesday, May 5, however, Saguaro National Park officials erected a shiny, silver-colored fence, or “visual boundary,” as Huff called it.

Unlike many cul-de-sacs, no houses dot the end of Huff’s street. Instead, the road ends before an unobstructed view of the national park.

The community of Continental Reserve shares a border with Saguaro National Park-West. A new, 2-mile fencing project draws a line in the desert sand between the two areas.  

“It’s ugly, and it feels like I’m in jail,” said Huff’s wife, Lori.

Park officials, however, say the fences are necessary to limit entry points to the park and to reduce the amount of damage to flora and fauna caused by “social trails,” according to Bob Love, chief ranger at Saguaro National Park.

“A fence is a typical tool national parks use to control their borders,” Love explained.

A social trail is one blazed by hikers, but not approved or maintained by park rangers, Love said.

Neighbors mainly come to the Thelon Court cul-de-sac to enjoy the view, not to enter the park, Huff said. A line of trees 40 yards from the newly installed fence block easy access to the mountains.

“We’ve lived here for years. We’ve never seen an ATV,” Huff said, noting that farther down the line a opening in the fence should provide easy access for the four-wheel drive vehicles.

“If this doesn’t move, it will always be a reminder to me of how the federal government thinks of us,” Huff said, adding that park officials held no community meeting or input session before erecting the fence.

The particular plot of fenced off land — 237 acres — is at the park’s northeastern border and was added to the National Park Service’s holdings in 1999. A $28,793 project involves fencing off two miles of the park.

Huff said he is not completely against the fence, rather he hopes that some sort of compromise can be reached to move the fence to a place where it can’t be easily seen.

Chief Ranger Love said he will with Marana officials later this week to discuss the portion of the fence near the Continental Reserve.

“What we’ve been trying to do is get the two parties talking,” said Gilbert Davidson, deputy town manager.

Since the National Park Service is a federal agency, the town has no jurisdiction over what park officials do, Davidson said.

Most of the complaints Love heard were about the small section of fence at the end of the Thelon Court cul-de-sac.

Love said he would need to survey the area again before considering some sort of compromise to move the fence to a more out-of-the-way location.

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