By Cyndi Ruehl
I would like to address the recent survey and follow-up article, from the May 13, 2022 inMaricopa article “Poll: Readers mostly split on support for the Palo Verde park.” Let’s set the record straight before more misinformation and slanted surveys spin out of control.
1. TAXES DO NOT PAY FOR PINAL COUNTY REGIONAL PARKS. One-time Impact Fees required of new construction and grants pay for county regional parks. There has never been discussion in the county to ever raise taxes to pay for parks. As an example, Peralta Regional Park in the Superstitions, is currently under construction and our county taxes have actually decreased.
2. THE LAND IS FREE! Federal land is leased to the county for the purpose of providing a park with amenities, through the Recreation and Public Purposes Act. Imagine the federal government handing us 23,000 acres of beautiful, scarce Sonoran Desert FOR FREE. Considering the going price of raw land around Maricopa these days, I’d say that is quite the gift!
3. OPERATING EXPENSES ARE COVERED BY VOLUNTEERS AND/OR ENTRANCE FEES. Nominal entrance fees keep the trash hauled out, roads and trails maintained, and restrooms running. We all know what happens to unmanaged desert: illegal dumping, irresponsible shooting and trigger trash, and out-of-control wildcat off-highway vehicle (OHV) destruction.
4. REGIONAL PARKS INCREASE PROPERTY VALUES (desecrated land does not). According to the study conducted by the nationally recognized Trust for Public Lands, open space and trails in Pinal County contributed $36.5 million to local economies and generated $675,000 in county sales taxes (2008). The study also highlights that maintaining open spaces:
• Protects water supplies by allowing for natural recharge and drainage
• Counters urban heat island effects, which are on the rise with increased development in surrounding areas, and
• Attracts high quality economic development
5. REGIONAL PARKS PROTECT OPEN SPACES FROM DEVELOPMENT. According to a recent financial study conducted by SmartAsset, Pinal County currently leads the state in new building permits and ranked 49th in the nation. Remember, BLM is the current land manager of the Palo Verde area and is not mandated to designate that land as open space. The agency can decide, for whatever reason, to sell it off to developers. Thankfully, in 2007, Pinal County listened to their concerned residents’ fear of losing their open spaces during rapid growth and created the Open Space & Trails Master Plan, which had the foresight to conserve and maintain the open spaces around us.
The Palo Verde Mountains can be one of the last large pieces of Sonoran Desert left for our community and future generations to enjoy. So, let’s not destroy this golden opportunity by spreading misleading ideas, taxation fears and false beliefs that it will always remain a wonderful open space without management and organization.
When most of our unique desert is paved over, you and future generations will be proud that you were a part of keeping a piece of it wild and natural for all to enjoy.
Cyndi Ruehl is a long-time Pinal County resident and inaugural chairwoman of the Pinal County Open Space and Trails Commission.