The Loop Expansion In Marana

The highly anticipated expansion of the Chuck Huckelberry Loop into North Marana has begun. This new segment of southern Arizona’s multi-use, non-mechanized trail system will connect the existing Loop trail north of Avra Valley Road into the Gladden Farms area. Borderland Construction Company, entrusted with this significant undertaking, began construction in February. 

Ed Seith said “I’ve lived in Gladden Farms for almost 11 years.  When I want to use The LOOP, which is often, it’s always a binary choice: Do I want to ride surface streets, including that horrible surface down the 1-10 Frontage Road to Avra Valley, where I can pick up the LOOP, or do I want to mount the hitch and load the bike and all my gear into my car and figure out where I’m going to park for four hours? Completing that last stage of the LOOP’s connection to Marana and Gladden Farms takes the guesswork out.  I can ride out of my driveway and have safe access to the entire city.”

Many do not realize that all loop-related projects are part of the Pima County Flood Control District, which aims to protect the community from flooding and ensure easier access for first responders in case of an emergency. Since 1978, the flood control district has installed more than 100 miles of bank protection and other infrastructure in Pima County, removing thousands of acres and tens of millions of dollars of property from federal and local floodplains. This essential work may not often make the news, but it plays a crucial role in safeguarding our community. Chuck Huckleberry once said, “You don’t hear much about the regional flood control district. If you did, it would be bad. Flood control is one of the government programs that rarely make the news, except when something goes wrong.”

According to Jim Conroy, the Town of Marana Parks & Recreation Director, the realization of this project is the culmination of years of dedicated efforts by the Town of Marana and Pima County staff. Their unwavering commitment to creating this crucial flood protection measure and the resulting regional trail connection paved the way for this momentous development. The collaboration between local government agencies involved in this project exemplifies their shared vision for the betterment of the entire community.

The significance of this effort cannot be overstated. It is a major stride forward in expanding recreational opportunities, promoting a healthier lifestyle, and ensuring the safety of residents and visitors alike. This significant project has been made possible through funding from the Town of Marana Capital Improvement Program (CIP) with the support of the Pima County Flood Control District (PCFCD).

Personally, I use my bike for work on a daily basis.  My goal this year is to drive less miles than I ride and the only reason I’ll get in the car is if I have to pick someone up I can’t fit on my bike.   As a realtor, anytime I’m servicing one of my listings or meeting a buyer, I typically get there by bike.  Even though I am comfortable riding on the road, getting up to Marana and dealing with all of the semis, heavy equipment, and cement trucks north of Avra Valley Road has not been ideal.  It really is incredible how connected the city is for bikes as I can get from my house near Sabino Canyon to Marana and only deal with one stop light”. 

The construction is scheduled for completion in early Fall 2024. When the new section is opened there will be 33 miles of contiguous trail along the Santa Cruz River, from Irvington Road to Sanders Road Northwest of Gladden Farms in Marana. 

Kevin Craig commented “For some friends of ours, completion of the LOOP connection was THE deciding factor for buying a second home in Gladden Farms.”

To access the new section, riders will exit the Loop on the west bank of the Santa Cruz on Avra Valley Road. They will then cross the Avra Valley Bridge, which features a dedicated bike lane on the south side to accommodate two-way bike traffic. The bridge has a concrete wall to ensure the safety of riders in the bike lane, protecting them from vehicles. After crossing the bridge, riders will then loop under, and proceed northwest on the east bank of the Santa Cruz, passing the CalPortland Cement Plant into North Marana.

Reed Burns said “I ride from Saguaro Bloom to Picacho Peak and BLM camping area for bikepacking.  This will make my routes a lot safer! It looks like it will also make it easier to ride to the CAP trail instead of having to drive my bike to the trailhead.”

The Chuck Huckelberry Loop has long been cherished by outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers in southern Arizona. Its existing trail system, renowned for its scenic beauty and accessibility, has attracted countless individuals seeking to engage in various recreational activities such as walking, running, cycling, and rollerblading. This additional new segment will provide the 30,000 residents of North Marana with direct access to the extensive trail network, enabling them to explore the diverse landscapes and natural wonders of the region.

The economic and social impact of this expansion cannot be underestimated. By connecting the Gladden Farms area to the Chuck Huckelberry Loop, local businesses and services in North Marana should experience increased patronage from trail users, further boosting the area’s economic vitality. Additionally, the expansion offers opportunities for community engagement, fostering a sense of belonging and pride among the residents.

Wendi Lucas remarked  “Living on the south east side of Tucson, in Vail, the LOOP provides me with a safe, care-free route to my clients in the Foothills and Downtown.  It will be exciting to be able to go even further to Gladden Farms.  I will be able to do a century through our amazing landscape without needing to worry constantly about cars.  The LOOP is a true gem for recreational cyclists, commuters, and visitors to our region.”

The Chuck Huckelberry Loop expansion aligns with the broader vision of promoting sustainable transportation and active lifestyles. By providing safe and accessible trails, this project encourages alternative modes of transportation and reduces reliance on motor vehicles, thereby contributing to the reduction of carbon. With something for everyone, I encourage you to find the time to explore the expansion when it opens and everything already in place!

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