A new segment of The Loop trail system will serve up an unusual scenic gem in this arid desert region: a verdant, tree-lined stretch of the Santa Cruz River that has water flowing through it year-round.

The mile-long segment, on the east bank of the river south of Sunset Road, features flowing water thanks to a nearby water-treatment facility, said Andy Dinauer, division manager with the Pima County Regional Flood Control District. The county oversees The Loop, with more than 100 miles of trails for nonmotorized use around the Tucson valley.

Dinauer said the new segment will be open “informally” beginning Saturday, April 29. But he noted that some barricades will be in place “and users should exercise caution as construction may stretch into early May.”

TRAIL REALIGNMENT

“This new segment will eventually replace a segment that runs along (nearby) Interstate 10,” Dinauer said.

“It started out as a trash cleanup project,” he said. “The area had been used as a wildcat dump. It was cleaned up and the route started to take shape. It evolved into a good trail alignment, and we’re bringing it online as a section of The Loop” in place of the segment running along the interstate highway.

Dinauer said the new segment — 16 feet wide and surfaced with asphalt — begins where West Diamond Street dead-ends near the Santa Cruz River.

“It takes off from there and goes right along the edge of the river to the new Sunset Road bridge” to the north, he said.

“The amount of mature vegetation in the stream bed is incredible,” Dinauer said. “It’s absolutely beautiful, with huge willow trees. We still need to clean up parts of the watercourse.”

FUTURE LOOP ADDITIONS

Existing segments of The Loop system total “probably in the 150-mile range, but it’s hard to count it exactly,” Dinauer said.

He estimated that another 25 miles or more of trails will eventually be added to the system.

“The areas of expansion are probably going to be off of Tanque Verde Creek and areas further south along the Santa Cruz River,” he said. “And there may be some new connectivity (of routes) in the Marana area.”

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at dkreutz@tucson.com or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz