County's to-do list: Catalina park

Supporters of the regional facility want Pima to spend bond money to develop amenities there
2013-06-20T00:00:00Z 2013-06-20T11:33:58Z County's to-do list: Catalina parkPhil Villarreal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Although it was funded and established in a 2004 bond vote, Catalina Regional Park is stuck in limbo.

Pima County is still holding on to about about $680,000 in bond money meant to build the 260-acre facility into an equestrian center with birding and hiking trails, a dog park, sports fields, a community garden and a native plant rehabilitation area.

Volunteer KathyAnne Whittemore said she's frustrated that the county has not moved forward.

"What is disappointing is that we've shown in very good faith what we were willing to do out there," she said. We aren't getting answers from the county."

The county closed the park - which it never officially opened - at 4135 E. Trotter Place, in 2009, leaving only its trails and parking lot open while running the facility with a skeleton staff. Since then, volunteers have handled the park's maintenance and upkeep. Volunteers regularly pull weeds, trim plants and paint and repair structures.

A squad of nearly 60 volunteers, known as Friends of Catalina Regional Park, regularly cleans the park and takes on projects, including painting and facility restorations.

The park, a project of Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation and the Pima County Regional Flood Control District, is on two miles on the Cañada del Oro Wash near the Pinal County line.

Kerry Baldwin, the county's natural resources division manager, said the delays are due to the county's economic struggles.

"A number of projects at the county level went into a suspended state for a while because of the turnaround in the economy," Baldwin said.

"The money allocated for the park is still there, and the hope at some point is that we put money down on the ground for the park elements the community supported."

Projects will include ramadas and a basketball court, turf grass and a restroom complex.

Baldwin said the county will not spend the bond funds until it finds between $160,000 and $170,000 in the annual budget to operate and maintain the park.

Baldwin said he expects the county to start building the park by 2019, and to possibly begin the work as early as next year.

"I would expect it to be completed before that time," Baldwin said, noting that bond projects can take as long as 15 years to get started.

"A lot of the work for it is ready to go," Baldwin said. "Once they approve the money it could be built pretty fast."

One of the unofficial leaders of the volunteer group is Martha Anderson, 66, who said the group works hard to show the county they are committed to the park.

"We're trying to get attention called to the park," she said. "Having seen the temporary (fiscal 2013-14) budget and that nothing was planned for us at all was incredibly discouraging. We're doing projects and trying to take care of the park with no financial help."

Anderson said the group feels as though the county has left it out to dry.

"No one cares," she said. "They've done nothing to the park. It's never had any funding whatsoever. The place has gotten more and more blighted because nothing was done to it."

She added, "It was a fire hazard, with weeds of every kind down here."

Baldwin said the county has worked to explain the park's slow development to residents.

"It would be nice if they had real concerns that they would bring them to us," Baldwin said. "I think we're really talking about a smaller group of individuals. We're constrained based on what capabilities we have, and we've tried to explain that to them. Some of them just don't accept that we do the best we can."

On Facebook

Visit the Friends of Catalina Regional Park at facebook.com/friendsofcatalinaregionalpark

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com

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

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