After decades of struggle, west side residents may finally acquire a share of the park space they have been seeking from the city of Tucson.
As part of the city's plan to restructure its golf program if a private management group can't be found to run things, the El Rio Golf Course is tentatively slated to become a nine-hole course with the remaining land being allocated for a yet-to-be-determined use.
That's why Councilwoman Regina Romero decided to conduct a series of public meetings, beginning Wednesday.
"Since the community could potentially receive half of El Rio, we want to start having a big conversation on what to do with that area," Romero said. "We need to determine the needs and priorities of the community, and that is why we need this conversation."
The first meeting, titled "Complete the Dreams," will be held on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the El Rio Neighborhood Center multipurpose room, 1390 W. Speedway.
In addition to Romero, Parks and Recreation Director Fred Gray and other city staff members will give brief presentations and listen to residents.
Romero said with the history of El Rio, it's important that people have a voice in the process now.
It has been more than 40 years since a coalition of west side residents and Hispanic activists, including now-U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, marched to the golf course in a series of protests, several of which turned into rock-throwing clashes with police, demanding parks equity with other areas of town and challenging the exclusivity of a golf course in such a poor neighborhood.
West side residents have always yearned for a park comparable in quality to those in other parts of town, Romero said.
Beginning in the late 1960s, people in the neighborhoods surrounding El Rio began viewing the manicured greens and fairways of the course as a symbol of inequity and demanded changes from City Hall.
"Part of the history of El Rio is the fight over open spaces and parks for residents and their kids," Romero said. "There was a big fight between the residents and the city of Tucson ... and out of that tension, the city built Joaquin Murrieta Park."
Romero said Murrieta Park has never been "up to par" with other parks in the region, which is why it's also going to be discussed Wednesday.
"It has been just a patchwork over the years. I have soccer clubs and others tell me the fields on the west side are subpar compared to other parts of the city," Romero said. "So the community needs to come together to review all of these things and discuss where do we go from here. This is planning for the future."
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