Guest Column: Rillito Park should be for all, but flawed survey does not help

2013-08-02T00:00:00Z Guest Column: Rillito Park should be for all, but flawed survey does not helpJaye Wells Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Rillito Park and Race Track could be detrimentally impacted by two of the proposed projects among the options being considered for inclusion in a county bond election targeted for 2014.

They are $14 million for conversion of the racetrack to a 16-field soccer complex, and $6.5 million for construction of a new horse racing facility at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

As future voters on these proposals, we can "click" to support tearing down the existing track for more soccer fields and/or funding a new track at the fairgrounds. However, the survey does not allow us to object to either, or both, much less express an alternate vision.

The Rillito Park Foundation was formed to support the park by promoting improvements through public and private cooperation. We believe a new approach is required, as the ongoing soccer/horse racing feud has stymied progress, leaving Rillito Park's future in limbo.

To be clear, we strongly support both soccer and horse racing as major assets of the park. The soccer fields are ideally located for citywide usage and host premier soccer clubs year-round. The Rillito Race Track was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places and hosts thousands of race fans during the season.

We believe that Rillito Park should be improved to better support each activity - just not to the detriment of the other, nor boxing out many smaller groups that would use the park if it were more "neighbor friendly." We also believe that improvements should be partially funded by constituencies using the park, not solely funded by county taxpayers.

However, we have no bond proposal that you can "click."

Imagine Rillito Park when the number of soccer fields is expanded, Rillito Downs is renovated, bicyclists can divert from The Loop to ride through the park, a heritage museum thrives at the Jelks Stud Farm, and events from concerts to farmers markets to car shows are regular attractions.

We urge neighbors of Rillito Park and the wider community to express their desire to keep Rillito Park as a park for everyone in Pima County.

While we applaud the county's efforts to hear from the public, the inability to express objection through the survey illustrates a flaw in this approach to sorting through the many proposals seeking funding. The political weight of a few can "out-click" the voice of many smaller interests.

The voices of all should be the guide when deciding which proposals to include in the bond election - especially since we are all asked to fund them.

Jaye Wells is a director of the Rillito Park Foundation, stewards of the J. Rukin Jelks Stud Farm, located in the Rillito Race Track Historic District.

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

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