Park in progress
Randy Metcalf/The Explorer, Wesly Carbonneau (left) and Noah Fernandez race down the slides at the Marana Heritage Park. While exhibit and activity space have yet to be built, residents can take advantage of a playground area and ball fields.

Next to a pair of small playgrounds in Marana, the town’s most ambitious park construction project soon will begin.

To commemorate its planned Marana Heritage Park, town officials will hold a May 30 groundbreaking ceremony. The 300-acre plot eventually will include an amphitheater and a museum, highlighting the town’s past.

For now, however, the park space at Tangerine Farms and Gladden Farms Drive is little more than barren patch of earth surrounding some children’s play equipment and a baseball diamond.

Kati Carbonneau takes her three boys to the playground there about once a week.

A resident of nearby Gladden Farms, Carbonneau said the small parks in her neighborhood don’t have enough equipment to interest her kids. The new Heritage Park should offer more, she said.

“I know there’s a train, we’re excited about that,” she said of the planned 1.5-mile train loop around the park.

Heritage Park is but a piece of the comprehensive plan for the region’s outdoor activity areas, according to Marana Parks Director Tom Ellis.

The previous parks master plan was drawn up in 2000, Ellis said.

Since then, Marana has added thousands of rooftops and seen its population more than double in size.  

“Generally you want to take a master plan like that and update it every five years,” Ellis said.

Marana currently has seven public parks, with another seven in the works. Pima County maintains four other parks in the area, but the town lists them on the recreation maps it issues to the public.

The goal of the town’s new parks master plan is twofold — to assess existing facilities and to coordinate efforts with other groups, like the YMCA and the county’s library system, to create a plan for future expansion.

The next park-planning step involves an early June meeting between town officials and the Phoenix-based development firm EDAW, which will build much of Heritage Park.

A draft of the parks master plan goes before the town council in November. It will identify trail and bike systems in Marana, current and future park sites, park amenities and open space maintained by the parks department, historic and cultural preservation locations, and a public brochure detailing all of those determinations. A final version of the plan will be approved by March 2009.

Money for Heritage Park came from a combination of sources, including the town, Pima County bonds, developer contributions and impact fees, according to Marana Community Development Director T. VanHook.

The town received about $175,000 in community development block grant money for a new park at nearby Honea Heights, VanHook said. The Honea Heights park will consist of activity areas connected by a biking/walking path.

Some aspects of the Heritage Park plan will include regional activity centers, including the possible relocation of a major Tucson museum.

When the Tucson Museum of Art’s board of trustees met earlier this month, it floated the idea of moving the museum from its downtown Tucson location. The site there lacks adequate parking and signage, museum officials say.

“There were a number of options, one of which happened to be a move to Marana,” said Meredith Hayes, director of public relations for the museum.

Depending on how the museum resolves its parking problems, it could open the door to a satellite location in Marana.

“We showed them the Heritage Park because it has exhibit space for its mission,” Ellis said.

Part of that exhibition space will come in the form of a reconstructed cotton gin, which in the 1930s stood near where Marana Road intersects Interstate 10 today.

Town officials expect the renovated cotton gin to focus residents’ attention on the farming, ranching, mining and railroad industries that once formed the economic backbone for the region.

Ellis expects the project to go out for bids in July or August.

Future plans for Heritage Park include expanding the railroad track surrounding it and restoring a historic house in the area.

Other plans call for park officials from Marana, Oro Valley and Tucson to connect the various trails along the Santa Cruz and Rillito rivers and the Canyon del Oro Wash for a regional bike/walking path system, Ellis said.

The future of Heritage Park is similar to the futures of all parks in Marana.

“The 300 acres — our intent is, it’s never finished,” Ellis said.


What:     Marana Heritage Park groundbreaking and cultural celebration

When:     4 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 30

Where:     Corner of Tangerine Farms Road and Gladden Farms Drive in Marana

Cost:     Free and open to the public

Contact:     382-1999

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