Park honored

Chuck Catino, the driver behind the park, accepted the award on Friday.

Green Valley’s first public park nabbed some big recognition Friday at the Pima County Parks and Recreation Commission meeting.

Chuck Catino, who has been the major push behind the 53-acre park, accepted the 2013 American Public Works Association Award as winner in the category of structures budgeted under $5 million.

The park hasn’t been officially named and is now called the Canoa Preserve Green Valley Community Park but often is referred to as the Baja Park, for the organization that has been a major driver.

APWA’s Arizona State Chapter and Southern Arizona Branch both selected the project for recognition.

“I don’t need to elaborate anymore,” Catino said as he picked up the honor. “This award tells it all.”

Nancy Cole, Southern Arizona APWA president, said the award “recognizes the hard work and dedication it took from the BAJA Sporting Club, Pima County Parks and Recreation staff, the design team at The WLB Group, Pima County Project Management Office, and the contractor M. Anderson Construction to install this park on time and within budget.”

She said the project created the first public recreational area in a “rural but growing area of Pima County,” using private and public funds.

To reduce costs, the park opened in January with just two softball fields. That’s years ahead of when it would have gone in had it waited for bond money. It was planned, coordinated, developed and put into use within a single calendar year, much of that effort coming from Catino.

Eventually, the park will include a dog park, walking trails, two more ball fields and other amenities.

What’s next

Catino said the idea for a park was hatched in 2003, and really got off the ground in 2006 when the Canoa Preserve LLC said it would donate land.

The next piece of the park will be a 1.75-mile walking and exercise path with four stations that Catino said should be completed by the end of the year. That path eventually will connect with the Anza Trail.

The park also has applied for a $184,000 Caterpillar grant for a softball field, Little League field and soccer field. He expects to find out if it will come through by year’s end.

They also have applied for a $250,000 Freeport McMoRan grant, which they’ll know about by Oct. 1.

“It’s only just begun,” Catino said of the park.

 In related news, the county Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Department is being led by interim director Chris Cawein. Former director Rafael Payan left July 26 to become general manager of the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District in California.

How to give

Tax-deductible donations for the park can be sent to Pima County Parklands Foundation, c/o Gregoria Tucker, Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Dept., 3500 W. River Road, Tucson, AZ 85741. Indicate that the donation is for BAJA Project #137.

To get to the park, take Continental Road to Whitehouse Canyon Road, south to Camino de la Canoa, go left and drive 2.4 miles to the park.