Pima County, Ariz. – More than 1,000 people of all ages turned out to Launch The Loop on Oct. 22 and walk, skate or bike on the Santa Cruz and Rillito river park paths that were officially joined in the celebration Saturday.
Officials who spoke at the Dedication Celebration all agreed with Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson, who said The Loop is a great example of “what happens when you have regional cooperation.”
Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath praised Pima County for leading the effort that includes the cities of Tucson and South Tucson, the towns of Marana and Oro Valley, the Regional Transportation Authority and the Arizona Department of Transportation.
“It’s a new beginning for this entire region,” Hiremath said.
The connection of the Santa Cruz and Rillito river park paths creates 23 miles of car-free pedestrian and bicycle paths from West Silverlake Road on the south to North Craycroft Road on the east. When completed, The Loop will be 55 miles of paths connecting the Rillito, Santa Cruz and Pantano river parks with greenways along the Julian Wash and Harrison Road, along with links to Marana and Oro Valley.
Jim Glock, director of the Tucson Department of Transportation, said The Loop would launch the area’s status from the League of American Bicyclists from gold, which it’s held since 2006, to platinum.
Marana Mayor Ed Honea set aside the town’s legal dispute with the county over ownership of a county-built wastewater treatment plant in Marana and addressed Pima County Administrator C.H. Huckelberry.
“Chuck, this is one issue we do agree on,” Honea said, adding that regional biking and hiking trails are good for the community and “for the business community as well.”
More than 850 adults and children registered at Flowing Wells District Park along the Rillito, at Christopher Columbus Park along the Santa Cruz and in Marana to get free Loop T-shirts, water bottles and backpacks. Registration dropped off after the supply of more than 440 T-shirts was exhausted, but people continued to turn out to walk, ride or skate.
An estimated 200 cyclists rode the 22-mile route from Flowing Wells District Park to the University of Arizona campus and back along the Santa Cruz and Rillito river park paths.
Hundreds of kids attending Launch The Loop or the grand opening of the Kory Laos Memorial Freestyle BMX Park at Flowing Wells District Park got free helmets. More than 900 backpacks and water bottles were given away.
Hundreds of Loop bike jerseys were sold and were so popular that more are expected to be produced.
Huckelberry said that The Loop was a great opportunity to show “what taxpayers’ money goes for” and that it was rewarding to “put improvements in the ground and see people use them.”
Federal and state disaster assistance funding for bank stabilization, federal grants, Pima County bond funds and contributions from the other jurisdictions have financed the work on The Loop.
Huckelberry said that paths along the Julian Wash would be built from the Santa Cruz River Park to the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park, northeast of South Kolb Road and Interstate 10, within the next year. Plans also include extending the Santa Cruz paths south to San Xavier Mission and north through Marana to Sanders Road (the paved path now ends a little north of Twin Peaks Road) and connecting the paths along the Cañada del Oro to reach from the Santa Cruz to Catalina State Park.
Huckelberry estimated that 90 percent of The Loop paths would be connected in the next 19 months.
“We’ll get them done together and with the cooperation of everybody in the region,” he said.
Event partners included Pima County, Tucson, Marana, Oro Valley, the Northwest YMCA, the Regional Transportation Authority and the Pima County Health Department’s Healthy Pima program.
Go to www.pima.gov/TheLoop for more information and the latest Loop news, maps and events.