Saguaro National Park and Sweetwater Preserve Now Permanently Connected
The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with the National Park Service, today announced the protection of an 84-acre scenic property in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains as an addition to Saguaro National Park, the third addition to the park completed by The Trust for Public Land and the National Park Service in the past four years.
In addition to protecting important Sonoran Desert habitat threatened with development, this project connects Sweetwater Preserve, an 880-acre open space property managed by Pima County Parks that is very popular for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, to the national park. Sweetwater Preserve was protected in 2004 by a partnership among The Trust for Public Land, Pima County, and Tucson Mountain Association.
When The Trust for Public Land purchased and protected Sweetwater Preserve in 2004, it was the largest undeveloped property in the Tucson Mountains and in an area facing considerable pressures for subdivision and residential development. In addition to protecting unique desert habitat, numerous wildlife species, and a critical link in a wildlife corridor connecting the Tucson Mountains with the Santa Cruz River, the preserve has become a popular recreational destination for hikers, equestrians, mountain bikers and trail runners. The open space park features a county trail system with 16 interconnected trails traversing 13 miles.
“Contributing to the enhancement of our national parks by acquiring critical lands is a very exciting way to further our mission of protecting land for people,” said Michael Patrick, project manager for The Trust for Public Land. “This project to connect Saguaro with Sweetwater Preserve is a vision that we have heard described by a number of community groups and Pima County for the past decade. We are incredibly grateful to our partners who have made this project possible and are proud to have been working to protect such special places across Arizona for the past 30 years.”
Saguaro National Park, located adjacent to the Tucson metroplex and its one million residents, has over a million visitors each year who come to enjoy the remarkable landscape and over 165 miles of trails. The newly protected 83 acres preserve wildlife corridors that link the mountainous terrain to the west with the property’s rolling hills and a number of large washes that continue on to the nearby Santa Cruz River. The property also provides an opportunity to create a trail linkage from Sweetwater Preserve across Saguaro National Park and to the county’s Tucson Mountain Park further to the south.
“Saguaro National Park appreciates the opportunity provided by the Trust for Public Lands, Martin Reiman and Oliver Schilke, and many other partners to ensure a bridge of protected land between the park the Sweetwater Preserve, says Saguaro National Park Superintendent, Leah McGinnis.” Connecting these two parcels of protected land provides an important ecological connection for the Park and the sky island region of southern Arizona.”
A portion of the property protected by The Trust for Public Land was donated by Martin Reimann and Oliver Schilke, whose help was instrumental in the success of this project. Additional financial support was provided by the National Park Foundation, which covered a significant component of The Trust for Public Land’s project costs, and donations from a number of neighbors living along Sweetwater Drive.
“Access to safe outdoor recreation is vital for all people,” said National Park Foundation President and CEO Will Shafroth. “The National Park Foundation is honored to partner with donors, The Trust for Public Land, the National Park Service, and other partners on this critical effort benefitting the local community and all park visitors.”
Funding for the National Park Service to acquire the property was provided by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF is funded through a portion of federal royalties from offshore oil and natural gas production revenues, does not use taxpayer dollars, and was permanently reauthorized by Congress in 2019. Congress is currently working on passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, which would expand funding for land protection and outdoor recreation projects while investing in critical national park and public land deferred maintenance needs.
The Trust for Public Land, National Park Service and other partners are looking at additional opportunities to protect more land for Saguaro National Park and expand the protected corridor along Sweetwater Drive linking the Park with Sweetwater Preserve. This project saw broad bipartisan Congressional support.
“Saguaro National Park and the Sweetwater Preserve are gems of the Greater Tucson Area,” said Representative Grijalva. “I thank the Trust for Public Land for their work to better connect these two important sites, enhancing visitor and recreational access and better connecting wildlife habitat. I have long supported expanding Saguaro National Park, and I appreciate the efforts of our partners and the important role of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in continuing to make that goal a reality for our community.”
“I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of the Saguaro National Park Boundary Expansion and Study Act of 2020. Not only will this new addition spur more recreation from millions of Arizonans and visitors, it will also protect our desert habitat, which includes thousands of unique species of plants and wildlife. Connecting Saguaro National Park with Sweetwater Preserve will have a lasting impact for generations to come,” said Representative Kirkpatrick. “Saguaro National Park is beloved for Southern Arizonans and this will enrich both the nature of the park, and benefit all the people that appreciate our unique ecosystem.”
“Connecting the Saguaro National Park to Sweetwater Preserve will improve public access to one of the Tucson areas most popular hiking destinations at no additional cost to taxpayers. This project is a huge win for Arizona and I look forward to hiking along the new trails to celebrate this success, said Arizona Senator Martha McSally
“Connecting the Saguaro National Park with the Pima County Sweetwater Preserve expands public access to recreational activities and boosts opportunities for Arizona’s outdoor recreation industry, creating good-paying jobs,” said Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema.
About the National Park Foundation
The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service. Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation raises private funds to help protect more than 84 million acres of national parks through critical conservation and preservation efforts and connect all Americans with their incomparable natural landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history. Find out more and become a part of the national park community at www.nationalparks.org.
About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.