This day, The Explorer publishes 12 pages of news and advertising to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Town of Oro Valley. It’s an assemblage of pictures, stories and history capturing but a slice of a young, remarkable community. It's by no means complete. It's a snapshot.

A dig into Oro Valley's past reveals the very recent, real struggles of the town's infancy, dating to the formative talk of the late 1960s and through court and government battles in the early 1970s. Founders James Kriegh, Steve Engle and many others pushed through formal, legal and heartfelt resistance to form a government apart from Tucson, and from Pima County. They succeeded, though both big entities fought them. On April 15, 1974, the Pima County Board of Supervisors incorporated Oro Valley under the instruction of the Arizona Supreme Court, and two days later appointed the town's first council.

Think about what would be if the Town of Oro Valley had not been born.

This place would be governed from afar by Pima County, or the city of Tucson, both of which are overstretched to provide basic government services to their constituents. People complain about a lack of voice in Oro Valley government. Ponder the alternatives; not to slight the city of Tucson or Pima County and their leadership, but they have too many demands for time and resources. The government closest to the people works best.

An unincorporated Oro Valley would have fewer people, fewer homes and subdivisions, less police protection and infrastructure. Commercial development would be more random. Industrial development, like the technical park and its major employers? Hard to imagine. Never mind public art and historical preservation, public parks, hiking and biking trails, smaller scale mass transit, storm water management, organized recreation, emergency preparation, reclaimed water use … you get the idea.

The Town of Oro Valley is not perfect, nor shall it ever be. As an exercise in association, in collective decision-making and governance, it is a work in progress. But make no mistake — it works. This is a place, and a better place, because of the efforts by those before us.

The 35th anniversary Treasures of Oro Valley scavenger hunt idea, with a passport and stamps at each stop, is a really good idea that should be used … at the 40th, certainly, and beyond. Get around Oro Valley a little bit, and you realize what a unique, special, modern place it is.

Saturday's Community Heritage Day is a worthy stop, too. People can poke around Steam Pump, learn about ranching and history, take the kids by a petting zoo, and hear stories and cowboy poets.

The Oro Valley Historical Society is putting on a series of lectures and site tours into May. Beyond that, the community's dedicated historians are making plans for Steam Pump Ranch, to include demonstration gardens planted this year. Over time, Steam Pump will once again become an asset to the community.

Many people have helped to make the 35th anniversary celebration happen. We are grateful to them, to Mary Davis and Kathi Cuvilier of the town, to the Oro Valley Historical Society, and to all who have contributed.

Happy 35th birthday, Oro Valley.

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