Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Phoenix, Scottsdale get grants to cover land for preserves

The Arizona State Parks Board has awarded more than $40 million in grants to help Scottsdale and Phoenix cover the costs of acquiring lands for their respective land preserves.

The cities have targeted more than 5,000 acres of rugged state trust land to acquire at separate auctions this year.

Phoenix is looking to purchase nearly 600 acres in November, while Scottsdale is gearing up to bid on more than 4,400 acres for its McDowell Sonoran Preserve in December.

The cities sought matching funds from the state's Growing Smarter conservation fund.

The Arizona State Parks Board approved the funding on Wednesday.

Scottsdale's grant funds total $36.2 million. The city plans to cover the remaining $50 million using proceeds from its voter-approved sales tax dedicated to preserve costs, said Kroy Ekblaw, Scottsdale preserve director.

The trust land the city has identified is divided into two parcels:

- 1,937 acres along 136th Street on both sides of Rio Verde Drive, appraised at $41 million.

- 2,482 acres northeast of Dixileta Drive and Pima Road, valued at $45 million.

The acquisition would expand the 17,000-acre McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale to more than 21,000 acres. The preserve, set amid the McDowell Mountains in northeast Scottsdale, is a major draw for Valley hikers and other recreational users.

Phoenix also is preparing to expand its land preserves with the state assistance.

The city will accept nearly $4.18 million to help pay for land parcels south of Carefree Highway north of Happy Valley Road for the city's Sonoran Preserve. The land, one parcel of 318 acres and another 271 acres, were appraised at $5.8 million and $4.1 million, respectively.

Phoenix voters reauthorized the Parks and Preserve Initiative in 2008, which authorized a sales tax over a 30-year period to purchase state trust land and fund park construction and improvements.

The state grants were made available from the Arizona's land-conservation fund, dedicated to conserving open spaces in growing urban areas.

Voters passed Proposition 303 in 1998, establishing a $20 million annual appropriation from the state's general fund into the land-conservation fund. A total of $80.9 million was available for grants in fiscal 2011. Of that, $40.5 million was available for Maricopa County entities.

by Beth Duckett and Peter Corbett The Arizona Republic Sept. 18, 2011 09:36 PM

Phoenix, Scottsdale get grants to cover land for preserves

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