El Rio Open Space Preserve Earns Water Infrastructure Financing Authority (WIFA) Grant

The Town has been awarded a grant for $35,000 from the Water Infrastructure Financing Authority (WIFA) for technical assistance to develop detailed landscape and engineering plans for the El Rio Preserve, adjacent to the Santa Cruz River. The Marana Town Council voted formally to accept this grant during last night’s meeting.

A concept plan for the site, presented to Council on August 2, 2016, shows a trail, wildlife-watching blinds, a ramada, and picnic tables. Native vegetation will be seeded and planted and some invasive species removed. More information is available at www.maranaaz.gov/elrio.

Preparations for this project include a cultural resources survey and jurisdictional delineation for compliance with the Clean Water Act. The project is supported by AZ Game and Fish Department, Tucson Audubon Society, and the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. The Town is also developing plans for disc golf at a nearby site that floods less frequently.

El Rio Preserve provides rich riparian habitat for nesting and migratory birds –over 220 species of birds have been observed, and it is identified as a regionally important wildlife linkage. It also acts as a stormwater retention basin that prevents flooding of nearby neighborhoods. Local educators have expressed interest in using the site for outdoor education and will be providing input for the plans. 

With the help of this technical assistance grant, the Town will hire a firm experienced in designing a riparian restoration project with aesthetically pleasing water harvesting features and low impact recreation amenities. These plans are intended to reduce mosquitos, improve the Town’s ability to maintain the area, reduce flooding concerns, and create an urban oasis for wildlife and residents.