With a full year of outdoor-friendly weather, it’s no wonder cyclists, joggers and other health conscience residents can be found taking advantage of the region’s many trails, parks and outdoor facilities. The towns of Marana and Oro Valley are taking advantage of the kind weather and beautiful views, and the respective parks and recreation departments from both municipalities have plenty of activities planned for the first half of the year.
With views of the nearby Santa Catalina Mountains, several parks full of amenities and a community and aquatic center within her catalogue, it’s no wonder Oro Valley Parks and Recreation Director Kristy Diaz-Trahan gets excited when she talks about staying active around town.
The way she sees it, staying active and enjoying nature are part of what makes Oro Valley the community it is today. Healthy activity not only improves the body, Diaz-Trahan said, but it helps create meaningful communities.
“From my perspective, the epidemic of loneliness is something that people don’t talk about,” Diaz-Trahan said. “Getting out in nature, there’s significant data to state that is of health benefit. And generally speaking, when you go out into nature to a park or even to a community center, you’re with someone else—so it creates a bond between people.”
Luckily for Oro Valley residents, or people just looking to stay active on Tucson’s north side, there’s plenty going on around town before the summer heat fully envelops the land.
While staying active is important, a healthy lifestyle starts with a strong diet, and nothing says a healthy heart like a glass of wine. Take part in the sixth annual Off the Vine Arizona Wine Festival on Saturday, Feb. 16 at the historic Steam Pump Ranch (10901 N. Oracle Road). Aside from a fair share of vino, the event includes live music, food and plenty of vendors. The ranch is also a launching point for 5K events throughout the year.
Just down the road from the ranch is the Oro Valley Aquatic Center (23 W. Calle Concordia), a competition-level facility complete with a water slide, splash pad, small pool for kids and plenty of fun activities scheduled throughout the year.
While families and swimmers of all skill levels take advantage of the aquatic center throughout the year, the facility is also home to a variety of both local and national competitions. Swimmers from the SaddleBrooke Masters Swim Team are hosting the Masters Relay Meet on Sunday, Feb. 17. Starting Saturday, March 16 and running through Sunday, March 17, the aquatic center will host the National Masters Distance Swim Meet. On Saturday, March 23, the aquatic center will host the swimming portion of the fifth annual Oro Valley Sprint Triathlon and Duathlon Festival. The Sprint triathlon consists of a 400-meter swim, 14.4-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run. The duathlon includes a 1.5-mile run, 14.4.-mile bike ride followed by another 3.1-mile run.
There will also be a Youth Splash-n-Dash for younger athletes. On Saturday, April 6 the aquatic center will host the Masters States Swim Meet, and the Synchro State Championships take place Friday, April 26.
While plenty tri- and duathletes will enjoy the Sprint, hikers should make note of the eighth annual MOVE Across 2 Ranges, set to take place Saturday, March 2. An all-day extravaganza, the event is the culmination of a partnership between the parks and recreation departments from both Oro Valley and Marana, with additional support from Summit Hut. Participating hikers will plot a course through Catalina State Park just outside of Oro Valley, and through the Tortolita Mountains in Marana while getting to know their fellow outdoor enthusiasts.
“It’s an opportunity to partner with our neighbor and showcase the outdoor experiences in the Tortolitas in Marana, and the Catalinas in Oro Valley,” Diaz-Trahan said. “At the end, everyone comes together to enjoy live music, food and drink and to celebrate their hiking accomplishment. It’s for elite hikers and beginner hikers, and everything in between.”
The event includes four different routes, named the “Mighty,” “Major,” “Mega,” and “Massive” hikes, which wind through the natural environment for 6, 10, 15 or 21.5 miles, respectively. Diaz-Trahan, who’s hiked MOVE for several years alongside her daughter, said participants are likely to see native animals and plenty of beautiful views along the way.
“When you get up to the top of the Tortalita Range, you can see all the way across Tucson,” she said. “When you get into Catalina State Park you’ll likely be able to play in some water as you’re crossing the nature paths—and the scenery is outstanding.”
Though MOVE is more than a month away, Diaz-Trahan said that roughly 60 of the 300 spots are already filled, and any interested hikers should make sure to sign up as soon as possible. Do so online at move2ranges.com.
For aspiring and master archers alike, Oro Valley is hosting an archery expo day on Saturday, March 30 at Naranja Park’s range (810 W. Naranja Drive). For beginners there’s plenty of opportunity to learn the basics thanks to free instruction and a 3D archery shoot with the Pusch Ridge Archers. Those more experienced with a bow can take advantage of the course, enjoy local food trucks and meet local vendors.
The fun in Oro Valley doesn’t slow down in April, the town is hosting its second annual Celebrate Oro Valley event at Steam Pump Ranch on Saturday, April 13 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. A free event, attendees will learn more about the region’s early history, its development and what the future may hold for the town. The event includes live music, an art show, vendors and horse demonstrations. Diaz-Trahan said Celebrate Oro Valley highlights the arts and culture, the science and technology, the nature and landscape of the town.
Just a week later, the town will host the Easter Eggstravaganza, which highlights each of those key pillars that make Oro Valley special and unique, Saturday, April 20 at Naranja Park. Not just a chance for kids to run around and find colorful eggs, the event includes a petting zoo and plenty of family fun.
To celebrate Arbor Day, the town will host a tree planting ceremony on either April 26 or 27 at an as-of-yet undetermined location.
To ring in the beginning of summer, and all of the various parks and recreation offerings that come with the hot season, Oro Valley will host a summer kickoff celebration in early May at the aquatic center and the neighboring James D. Kriegh Park complete with jumping castles, music, food, plenty of pool fun and opportunities to register for summer programming.
The town of Marana’s Parks and Recreation Department is offering a wholesome bounty of outdoor programs sure to suit everyone in the family, including Tots & Me Story Art Classes that run every Thursday through April 25 at the Marana Community Center (13250 N. Lon Adams Road). There’s also the Nature to You - Garden Education Series, teaching Marana’s youngest residents the different varieties of bugs and gardening tips that can serve them well down the road, on Feb. 9 and March 9 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Marana Heritage River Park (12375 N. Heritage Park Drive).
Marana Parks and Recreation Department Superintendent Cory Larriva said the town’s programming this spring offers something for everyone, with an eye on making sure residents get outside.
“A lot of the new programing this year has been kind of targeted for these gap areas that we weren’t really providing services or programs for in the past,” Larriva said. “So, we’ve done a really good job of expanding into those age groups, or those family types that maybe didn’t have services before from Marana Parks and Rec.”
Other department offerings this spring include Marana Police Kids Academy, held at the Marana Police Department (11555 W. Civic Center Drive) on Thursday, Feb. 21 and Saturday, April 13 from 9 to 11 a.m. The town is also offering a variety of teen-oriented programs this spring, including the Marana Police Teen Academy, which runs during the Marana Unified School District spring break, March 18 to 22.
Adults have a variety of options this spring, too, including Paint Nights in the Park, held at Marana Heritage River Park on Jan. 31, Feb. 28, March 28 and April 25 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Marana Parks and Recreation Director Jim Conroy said another key aspect of fitness in Marana revolves around the trails that link various sections of the sprawling town. A few of the trails Conroy highlighted included the walking paths built along Gladden Farms, Dove Mountain and along various parts of south Marana.
“We’re really trying to make it as much as we can a walkable community,” Conroy said. “We’re actively trying to connect our trail system as much as possible. We’re continuing to do that all the time.”
There are plenty of opportunities to stay active in town, including the Cape Chase Fun Run (March 9), the Marana Mother’s Day 5K & Fun Run (May 11) and the Marana Meltdown: Mountain Bike Time Trial (May 4).
Conroy said the town’s plethora of outdoor-related programs speaks to the department’s emphasis on health, and on giving residents the best amenities possible to accomplish their wellness goals.
“Recreation is one of the major initiatives to the Town of Marana,” Conroy said. “Under that area is also keeping a healthy community.”