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“It’s a win-win”: Save the Heart of Reid Park pushes for a northern expansion of the zoo

Updated: Apr. 26, 2021 at 10:59 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -The Reid Park Zoo expansion saga is one step closer to reaching a resolution.

On Tuesday, April 27, Tucson City Manager, Michael Ortega, is set to release his recommendation on the project, which will go before Mayor and Council for a final vote next week.

Michael McCrory is a member of “Save the Heart of Reid Park.” He also sat on the stakeholder committee (made up of park advocates, neighborhood associations, city and zoo leaders), bringing a fresh view to the previously-approved zoo expansion project.

“The most important part of the stakeholder’s group is what we did reach consensus on,” said McCrory. “And that was looking at, ‘How do you look at this issue?’ There was consensus. You look at open space, you look at protecting against the heat island effect, you look at protecting the environment, you look at the conservation efforts of the zoo.”

After considering the eight options (A-H), McCrory believes concept G is the only one that meets the criteria.

Concept G
Concept G(City of Tucson)

Concept G would mean:

  • A northern expansion into existing parking spaces and the Therapeutic Recreation building
  • Relocating two communication towers
  • Either constructing a parking garage to replace the lost parking spaces or extending the Aquatic Center’s parking lot into the industrial lot on Randolph Way
  • Relocating Therapeutic Recreation programming (possibly to a vacant TUSD school)
  • A 2-3 year delay requiring a new Zoo Master Plan

Concept D is also being considered. It was found to be the most “net neutral” in the most highly participated city survey to date.

Concept D
Concept D(City of Tucson)

Concept D would mean:

  • A northwest expansion into Reid Park
  • A slight impact to parking spaces
  • Reducing the available green space from 4.5 acres to 2 acres
  • A year delay

“If the zoo is going to expand, it has to take something from other park users,” said McCrory. “That’s either going to be people who use the park or it’s going to be the maintenance, storage and parking lot.”

McCrory says concept G supports the zoo’s expansion, while also keeping precious green space.

“It’s a win-win!” he said.

However, concept G it comes at an estimated $15 to $25 million additional cost compared to concept D’s $3.6 million additional price tag.

“Part of what has come from the City Manager’s office has been to slant the discussion to how much money this is going to cost. First of all, that ignores the fact that there is a zoo tax already approved by the voters that’s going to have - even with maintenance and even with current construction - someplace around $40 million. Let the zoo tax be used for what it was supposed to be used for,” said McCrory. “Secondly, all of the cost assumption gives no value to open space. If you really want to compare it with option D, what you should have said was, ‘How much would it cost to purchase in central Tucson 3.5 to 5 acres, demolish every building on there, recreate open space and build a park on it?’”

KOLD News 13 reached out to Reid Park Zoo and received the following statement:

“We look forward to hearing the City Manager’s recommendation tomorrow and will be happy to comment then. We think it’s premature to speculate until we know what those will be. Our goal continues to be to create the best Zoo experience for our community.”

-Nancy Kluge, President & CEO of Reid Park Zoo

Members of Save the Heart of Reid Park will meet at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27, at the north duck pond to rally behind concept G.

The Tucson City Council is set to take up the issue on Tuesday, May 4.

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.