An image of proposed or existing low-stress bikeways. The green represents the Urban Loop. The blue represents existing low-stress bikeways including the Aviation Bike Path. The gold represents proposed urban greenways.

The City of Tucson parks department has developed a city-wide plan to create paved paths that officials say will serve multiple purposes including recreation and transportation.

The 12-foot asphalt paths will be located along major washes throughout the city.

Julie Parizek, a project manager for the parks department, said the plan developed because the city is always behind on a national requirement for the number of parks per 1,000 people.

She said midttown is particularly “underparked” and it is difficult to add parks because the area is so heavily developed.

“We started looking at developing trails along major washes and even some not very major washes,” Parizek said.

A linear park would count toward the national requirement for parks and open space, but gets around the lack of space for a traditional park.

Originally, she said, the idea was that the paths would connect several city parks to each other, but they soon realized they could create them in a way to provide connections to other facilities.

The photo on the left is an existing section along the proposed Arroyo Chico greenway. The image on the right is an illustration of the same section with a paved path.

What started out as a little linear park to connect smaller parks turned into more of an alternate modes, public space for pedestrians, bikes and people project,” She said. “They connect parks, schools, work sites, the urban loop, shopping areas, tourists destinations and hotels.”

The parks department began working with the transportation department to solidify the transportation aspect by figuring out where bike and pedestrian facilities are already built or will be in the future.

“It is a little recreation, it is a little transportation and a lot of livability,” Parizek said.

The parks department recently got word that the bond committee approved $15 million in funding to construct the four main paths in the plan. They will be along the Arroyo Chico, Atterbury, Arcadia and Alamo washes.

The El Paso and Southwestern greenway, a transportation project, was also included in the funding. (See the map for the wash locations. The map is based on limited information and the alignments may not be exact.)

View Proposed Urban Greenways in a larger map

“It isn’t enough to build them all completely, but it will take a while to spend $15 million,” She said. “Maybe by then we’ll have another bond issue and there will be more funding for these types of things.”

She said the four greenways included in the bond package will have the most impact on transportation and livability.

Parizek said funding is always a challenge, but these urban trails allow the department to find funding from several sources.

“These urban greenways have one foot in the recreation world and one foot in the transportation world, so we are trying to identify funding from both worlds,” Parizek said.

Even though the bond committee approved the inclusion of the urban greenways, the county also delayed the bond election until 2012. Parizek said if the election takes place in 2012, it would take until 2018 at the earliest to get them built.

Larry Robinson, chair of the Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee’s facilities subcommittee, said the projects would have to be looked at critically for safety issues because some of the paths cross intersections.

Tom Thivener, the city’s bike and pedestrian program manager, said the issue is if cyclists are riding on a shared use path in the opposite direction a cyclist riding on the street would be, it could cause crashes.

Thivener said there are a few locations where the urban path can’t follow the wash because developments were placed on the edge of the wash.

He said the department of transportation told the parks department to create upgraded sidewalks in areas where they have to utilize neighborhood streets and make it clear cyclists should ride in the street.

“We’ll have to make sure that the path that they are creating doesn’t give the illusion that it is a shared use path and that it explicitly¬† says that cyclists should ride in the roadway for their safety,” Thivener said.

According to Thivener, the urban greenway plan is an innovative way to get more people riding their bikes because the neighborhoods where the greenways will be placed, don’t have low-stress routes for cyclists.

The parks department is working on a website to download the plans and get more information, but it isn’t live yet.

In the meantime, check out some if the illustrations for the Arroyo Chico greenway. Click the images for larger versions.

7 thoughts on “Parks dept. creating citywide path system”
  1. This would be so great for Tucson! I always love using the urban trail system in Flagstaff when I am up there, and would love to use the same kind of system down here. I think it is especially good for kids. I would love to do a tag along or bike trailer with my daughter but I don’t trust Tucson drivers to do that on the regular roads. Also as my daughter gets older and can ride more it would be good to have paths where we don’t have to worry about cars.

  2. This would be excellent! I have strong doubts that this will ever happen, but we can certainly hope!

  3. This sounds like a great plan! Considering this town tries so hard to be bike-friendly, having an interconnected bikeway system running through the entire town would allow people to enjoy all of the major areas of Tucson as well as help many on their commute. It would certainly boost the bike-friendly image of this city.

  4. I have to say this is a great thing for connectivity in Tucson, but I can’t agree that this replaces a park.

    What kid is going to say, “oh man cool, a mixed use path”, and his parents would then let him explore it? I personally feel that every neighborhood needs a public space where kids can play and explore the world outside of their video game, house, and even back yard (if they have one).

    My ideal dream would be a set of paths that connect areas of the city for bike transportation as well as connect small neighborhood parks (even if some were desert areas), so maybe families and individuals could explore park to park as far as their adventure might take them.

    Bottom line – if this is a park, people should be able to participate in recreation but also have the opportunity to stop, relax, explore, and play. This opportunity should be given to people of all ages too.

    I’m for this project, but, just a thought I was having as I read this…

  5. Good point, James. How would a kid be able to throw a frisbee around or fly a kite on one of these multi-use trails? They wouldn’t. So you make a good observation, that this isn’t really a valid replacement for parks. The park-to-park idea would be really cool to have in this town.

  6. Michael,
    Thanks for the information.
    I like the plans and tip my hat to all the folks who worked on them. As time goes by, I hope the city and county put in many more of these.
    The economic problems we’re having right now makes spending like this a bit tough, but I think spending money on bike paths is a far better investment than many other things, especially the trolly.
    Something I have been concerned about for a long time is the lack of seperated bike routes connecting the southwest side of town to the northeast and southeast sides. Look at the bike route map and you’ll notice that most paths angle NW to SE. I understand the reasons, but I hope that SW to NE routes are being seriously considered by the folks who think about this stuff.

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