From swimmers to cyclists to youth sports leagues, there is a little something for everyone under a proposed plan to spend $225 million on Tucson parks and recreational areas.
The funds would be earmarked for new splash pads, spruced-up swimming pools, playgrounds, walking and bike paths, field lighting and golf course improvements, according to details released by the city Monday.
Such amenities have long taken a back seat in fights over city budget allocations since the recession, with the last voter-backed bond and a separate sales tax initiative focusing on roads and public safety.
Faced with ever-increasing maintenance budgets, the city has closed some parks — including city pools — rather than spend the funds to maintain them.
But on Tuesday, June 19, the Tucson City Council will decide on whether to send the $225 million bond package to voters for approval.
The proposal for the parks bond, if approved by voters in November, won’t raise the city’s property tax rate, as it is being proposed at a time when the city’s debt-service payments are scheduled to decline as old bonds are paid off.
What could be a poster child for the proposed bond might be Robert Price Park in Ward 4. For the foreseeable future, it is nothing more than a dirt lot owned by the city. The city has ambitious plans for the park but has always come up short on the millions it would need to transform it.
Close to where Julian Wash crosses under Wilmot Road, north of Interstate 10, the city wants to build restrooms, ramadas, soccer and baseball/softball fields on the land donated by the park’s namesake, Robert Price.
But the city has not disclosed how much bond money would be spent on that particular project, or any other specific project for that matter.
Generally, the proposal calls for:
- $57.4 million for city parks and recreation centers.
- $48.5 million for planned improvement at specific parks.
- $12.7 million for aquatic facilities.
- $9.6 million for new sports field lighting.
- $24.6 million for greenways.
- $67.1 million safety improvements designed to protect pedestrians and cyclists.
- $5.1 million for improvements at El Rio and Randolph golf courses.
The money proposed for golf course improvements comes as the city has considered closing various sites due to declining usage.
It is not clear whether the $5.1 million for improvements at El Rio and Randolph Golf Courses could work in concert with an unsolicited proposal by the Tucson Conquistadores earlier this year.
The group offered to renovate the two 18-hole golf courses at Reid Park into a venue that could persuade the Professional Golfers’ Association to hold an annual golf tournament in Tucson.
The council signaled several weeks ago that it would be interested in moving forward with the proposal, contingent on securing some private funding.
Several City Council members have offered support for the parks plan ahead of the vote .
Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said the park bond, if approved, would make Tucson more attractive.
“The most livable cities are cities with vibrant parks and extensive pathways and greenways, where everyone can walk or bike safely to a park, playground, school, or library,” he said. “This bond would address long-delayed capital needs and would move us toward a greener, more connected city.”
Councilman Paul Durham said the bonds could make some city streets safer with tens of millions of dollars earmarked for pedestrian and cyclist safety improvements.
“Tucson deserves great parks,” said Durham. “The connectivity portion of the bond addresses one of our city’s chief concerns: pedestrian and bicycle safety. We’ve had too many tragic deaths on our roads. This bond invests in the safety of our kids and everyone who needs to get around Tucson.”