Tucson is lucky to be home to three very significant national-level trails; the 800-mile long Arizona National Scenic Trail, the 336-mile long Central Arizona Project National Recreation Trail and the 1,200-mile long Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.
These trails, along with the 55-mile Loop, bring many economic and wellness benefits to Pima County residents and visitors.
The Arizona National Scenic Trail is the only one fully completed, and it is in the midst of having reroutes and improvements planning done by the U.S. Forest Service.
The trails program at Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation is in the design phase for a new trailhead at Sahuarita Road and State Highway 83.
A partnership between Marana and the trails program at Pima County will complete a seven-mile section of the CAP National Recreation Trail, from the Pima-Pinal county line to Tangerine Road, this fiscal year.
The Pima County Office of Sustainability and Conservation has recently completed the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail through Green Valley and will soon make the trail and a new trailhead in Sahuarita.
Unfortunately, the Anza Trail is facing a significant obstacle that needs to be resolved.
The historic path goes through an eight-mile section of the Tohono O’odham Reservation on the San Xavier District west of the Santa Cruz River, but the district has not given permission for the trail to cross its jurisdiction.
The district has been petitioned to give permission, but representatives have said only that it’s “not in their interest.”
Since lots of other routes — Interstate 19, Mission Road (a county road), San Xavier Road, the Central Arizona Project Corridor, the El Paso Natural Gas line and an electric power line already go through the San Xavier District, there is no lack of precedent for public access to the district.
The Tohono O’odham people benefit a huge amount from their relationship with Tucson and Pima County. They request funding for projects from the locally controlled Regional Transportation Authority, from ADOT for their transportation enhancement projects, and Pima County bond programs.
The O’odham are not reclusive; they welcome locals and tourists to their two casinos, the San Xavier Mission and their smoke shop. So why not the Anza Trail?
We hope the district will consider the benefits of providing an easement for the Anza Trail where it was historically located more than 240 years ago.
The trail could provide interpretive signs displaying Tohono O’odham culture and history. In addition to interpretation opportunities, the Anza National Historic Trail, with its 10-foot natural surface path, could promote wellness for the people of the Tohono O’odham Nation and their neighbors.
It could be the backbone of special events and provide business opportunities for the district, including bicycle rentals and guide services.
The trail could have a link to the casino and the mission to provide an opportunity for marketing native arts and crafts.
Connections to the Tucson Loop and the vast network of paths and trails in the Tucson Metro region would make the Anza Trail very attractive to area residents and visitors.
We truly hope that the San Xavier District will partner with Pima County and give permission for the Anza Trail to be on its historic location and thus enjoy the economic and wellness benefits the rest of the county receives.
It would be an unfortunate loss of an opportunity for the district if it had to be bypassed when completing this trail.