Tortolita park may expand

2013-08-08T00:00:00Z 2013-08-08T11:19:52Z Tortolita park may expandJoe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Tortolita Mountain Park could expand in the coming months, growing by another 800 acres if county officials are successful in securing more than $1.23 million in state funding.

A number of pieces in the complicated proposal to buy the land owned by the Arizona State Land Department recently have fallen into place.

• The Arizona State Land Department is supporting Pima County's bid to acquire 800 acres of reclassified state trust land.

• The commissioner of the Land Department is recommending the land sell for $2.45 million.

• The Pima County Board of Supervisors has approved spending roughly $1.23 million for the purchase.

• Staff with the Arizona State Parks Department supports giving a Growing Smarter Matching Grant to Pima County to purchase the land.

The latter, which still needs to be approved by the Parks Department, is essentially the linchpin in the whole plan to buy the additional 800 acres just west of the existing park boundaries.

The county received a Growing Smarter grant worth $1.89 million last year, helping to buy 1,415 acres of reclassified State Trust land to the west and south of the then-borders of the park.

The voter-approved Growing Smarter matching grants - which are in their last year - have largely gone to projects in Maricopa County.

Of the more than the $200 million in matching funds awarded since 2001, Maricopa County has received $188.9 million - $110.8 million went to the city of Phoenix and another $78.1 million went to the city of Scottsdale.

By comparison, $4.7 million has been awarded to Pima County in the last 12 years.

Things look good for the Pima County project, as well as a bid by the city of Flagstaff to purchase 2,250 acres on Observatory Mesa for $5.5 million.

A state law requires that no more than 50 percent of the money should go to any one county, effectively restricting the amount spent in Maricopa County, which is seeking another $8 million for another four proposed projects.

Doris Pulsifer, chief of Resources and Public Programs for the Arizona State Parks Department, estimates the state could eventually give the county more than $1.3 million for Tortolita Mountain Park if approved by the State Parks Board later this year.

The figure is based on a recommendation from the commissioner of the Land Department to sell the 800 acres for $2.45 million.

The Growing Smarter grant would pay for half the amount plus a portion of the costs associated with buying the rural land, Pulsifer said.

Pima County's share would be about the same, paying $1,500 an acre.

"We're hopeful that the actual cost will be lower than that," County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry told the board Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved setting aside $775,000 in development fees toward the acquisition, with the remainder coming from unallocated general funds from the last fiscal year.

Tortolita Mountain Park was established in 1986 with voter-approved bond funds. Additional bond funds, a donation of land and a Growing Smarter grant in 2012 have grown the park to 5,600 acres.

The proposal has the backing of the Oro Valley Town Council, which passed a resolution in July supporting the county's plans.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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