Trail network well on its way - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Trail network well on its way

Tom Ellis, town's park director, one of project's biggest boosters

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Posted: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 1:23 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

“The Wild Mustang and Wild Burro trails got their names because there were wild horses up here,” Ellis said, gazing out across a golf course that now graces the area. “I’ve heard reports that there still are some.”

As Ellis hiked, he talked about the history and the hoped-for future of the Tortolita Mountain system of trails.

Construction on the trails, which began in Dove Mountain in 2002, is set for completion in the summer of 2010, he said. Eventually, Ellis added, Marana’s trails should join others constructed by Oro Valley and Pima County to form a ring around the Tortolita Mountains.

Eventually, a hiker should be able to circle the mountain range by following trails in its foothills.

“If we can get the whole system in, it would just be a great regional draw,” Ellis said.

The estimated cost of the Marana portion of the project is $1 million, Ellis pointed out, but thanks to county bonds, the town’s bill is $0.

The $1 million bond provided $300,000 toward mapping and surveying the trail system, buying an easement through state land and paying for construction work that volunteers couldn’t do, Ellis said.

Much of the remainder, he said, will go toward building a two-acre trailhead near the Ritz-Carlton resort that will include restrooms, picnic tables and ramadas. Also, there are plans to build a primitive parking area at the Tortolita Preserve.

Most recently, Ellis said, the town finished the northern end of the Wild Mustang Trail.

“I think it’s the best trail in Southern Arizona,” he said. “You get a wonderful view of the Catalinas through the Tortolitas.”

Eventually, hikers will have access to the Tortolita Mountain trails through a trailhead on Tangerine Road near Interstate 10, Ellis said.

As Ellis and his fellow hikers headed back to their cars, the Parks and Recreation director sang the praises of trail volunteers. The work wouldn’t have progressed without them and their shovels, he said. Nor would it have progressed without the contributions of Cottonwood Properties – the developer of Dove Mountain – which did its part by taking care of construction on the property it owns.

The trails, themselves, are nothing new, Ellis pointed out. Many of them follow paths of old ranchers and probably have seen continuous use through time. But the surfaces are new. A substance made from yucca root makes them hard like concrete. And steep parts of the trails have newly planted rock steps.

People new to the area, as well as the old-timers, should see the town’s progress, Ellis said, which is why Marana Parks and Recreation is offering monthly guided hikes. Information is available by calling 382-1950.

“This is an opportunity for us to kind of show off the work we’ve been doing,” Ellis said.

TAKE A HIKE

The Marana Parks and Recreation Department offers monthly hikes to introduce Northwest residents to Tortolita Mountain trails. The hikes start at 8 a.m. at the Wild Burro Trail Head off Dove Mountain Boulevard in the Dove Mountain development. For more information, call 382-1950.

Upcoming hikes:

• Saturday, Feb. 21

• Saturday, March 28

• Saturday, April 18

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