What does Oro Valley's motto "caring for our heritage, our community and our future" mean to you?
One aspect involves public use of public places — for recreation, learning, and enhancement of our quality of life.
The historic Steam Pump Ranch is part of our heritage. It is recognized nationally through listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Perhaps more importantly, it is recognized locally in that Pima County voters approved expenditure of $5 million for its acquisition for historic preservation and public use. The 15-acre property was transferred to Oro Valley ownership in 2007.
"Caring for our community" often manifests itself in providing special places and services. Parks are among such places. James D. Kriegh Park and Riverfront Park are wonderful grassy locales whose facilities are well-used and well-maintained. There are other town places where special events occur or are planned parks for "the future." They contain few, if any, amenities.
One is Naranja Townsite Park, a 200-plus acre property, also acquired by the town with Pima County bond funds. The former gravel pit contains a perimeter trail, several benches and a porta-potty. It is available to the public. Special events include dispose-a-med and Christmas tree recycling, valuable town endeavors, but not sufficient for land in public ownership acquired for recreation use.
Another public site is the 13-acre Honey Bee Village Archaeological Preserve. The property was donated to Pima County (again part of the 2004 bond) with the intent it be transferred to the town when agreements on management are reached. The Tohono O'odham Nation and Oro Valley funded construction of a protective wall around the Preserve. The area remains inaccessible and unused for quiet walking, education, and contemplation of past cultural traditions.
Returning to Steam Pump Ranch, the property is not available to the public. People walk and ride their bikes along the adjacent CDO Linear Park, and all they see of the future historic park is "no trespassing" signs. The only access has been during two town-sponsored events and by the Oro Valley Historical Society, which has an agreement with the Town to cultivate heritage gardens and conduct tours.
There are promising partnership opportunities for our future parks. Steam Pump Ranch is located next to Home Depot and Target. Both are nationally recognized sponsors of historic preservation and community endeavors. Nearby restaurants can provide for picnics under an old mesquite tree. Basis Charter School students and University of Arizona researchers soon will be within walking distance. An emphasis on partnerships and community awareness can make the 2008 Steam Pump Master Plan a reality.
Now is the time for Oro Valley, its residents, and businesses to figure out ways to improve access to our public places; places that provide exceptional opportunities to learn about our cultural and natural diversity. Millions of dollars are proposed to accomplish long-term goals for their development. In the meantime, these parks and preserves should be visited, enjoyed and studied so they become part of our collective ownership and responsibility — for our heritage, for our future, and for now.
Pat Spoerl is president of the Oro Valley Historical Society. She recently completed an appointed term on the Oro Valley Town Council.