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The Town of Marana is asking residents to review the first draft of their recently released Parks and Recreation Master Plan 2020-2030 before the document is submitted to the Town Council for approval later in January. 

The 10-year plan outlines the town’s Parks and Recreation Department strategic vision by taking inventory of the current park system and how it could be improved over the next decade. 

Specifically, the plan addresses the needs of five elements that make up the town’s parks and recreation system: developed parks, community center and aquatic facilities, linear parks and trail, natural resource parks and preserves, and various recreational programs. 

The plan also takes the geographical and demographic diversity of Northwest Marana, Northeast Marana and Southern Marana into account by understanding and identifying specific recreational needs for each district.

Major initiatives for each of the five elements mentioned above include improvements to existing parks as well as development of two new district parks and a community sports complex near the Marana Airport. Other initiatives include completing the regional trail system, developing trails that link key community assets, improvements at Tortolita and El Rio preserves. 

The plan also calls for a new 55,000-square-foot multi-generational community center and a new aquatics facility at Ora Mae Harn Park, with heated pools that can be used year round. Both projects at the park are recommended to take place at the same time to reduce the center’s future operations and administration cost. 

In addition to the proposed community center and aquatics center, the plan calls for more recreation, fitness and wellness programs that could be utilized by local residents. 

Marana Parks and Recreation director Jim Conroy said the department started working on the master plan over a year ago by asking town citizens what they would like to see constructed over the next decade. The public response has been extremely helpful in crafting the document, Conroy said. 

“The first step in any master plan is the public engagement process and I’m pleased to say we did that very well,” Conroy said. “Fortunately we were able to get started on this before COVID really hit hard. We were able to get out and make contact with over 3,000 residents who took our 18-question

survey.”

Based on the community feedback, the master plan was developed, Conroy said. Residents overwhelmingly identified the need for high-quality interior recreation space through the survey, according to the director. 

“As a result of that feedback, the citizens had expressed an interest in seeing more indoor quality recreational facilities and a year-round aquatic facility,” Conroy said. “They also addressed a shortage of lighted soccer fields and baseball diamonds.”

Those surveyed also expressed a need for more larger community parks like the 40-acre Crossroads at Silverbell Park. However, it could be 10 to 15 years before planning and construction on the two proposed district parks would take place, Conroy said. 

“The essence of the master plan is that it’s a blueprint and these facilities have to be put on the radar now,” Conroy said. “The timeframe would have to be determined when funding is available. However, I think job one of a good master plan is to develop the blueprint and put the roadmap in place for the department to follow, whether it’s five or 15 years down the line.”

Mark Johnson and Jim Tripp with the Tortolita Alliance, a group dedicated to protecting the Tortolita Preserve, caution against the town increasing sales tax—as suggested by Council Member Roxanne Ziegler during a Town Council study session in December— to pay for the proposed infrastructure like the community center and aquatic facility, which has an estimated $36 million price tag. 

“We are in the midst of a pandemic and the associated adverse economic conditions are impacting all Marana residents. We have to question the timing of this tax proposal,” wrote Johnson and Tripp. 

The alliance suggests delaying any sales tax increases until the town’s other 11 master planning efforts are completed and presented to voters in the upcoming Make Marana 2040 General Plan. They also suggest the town develop a long-term financial plan to support the operation and maintenance costs for the proposed facilities. Lastly, the group suggests high cost projects like the community and aquatics center be funded by developer impact fees, grants, zero-interest loans and private gifts before a community sales tax is implemented. 

“Comprehensive master planning and financial planning is essential for Marana to instill public confidence and avoid financial distress, which has plagued local, state and the federal government for years,” wrote Johnson and Tripp. 

To review the Town of Marana’s Parks and Recreation Plan 2020-2030 check out www.maranaaz.gov/parksrecmasterplan and submit your questions and comments by Thursday, Jan. 14. 

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