The House of Representatives this week passed Congresswoman Martha McSally’s bill to finally allow the City of Tucson to take full ownership of Udall Park. Her bill, The Udall Park Land Exchange Completion Act of 2017, resolves a 28- year old land exchange between the City of Tucson and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), permitting the City of Tucson to fully utilize Udall Parks’ 172.8-acre parcel of land and implement planned expansion and improvements.
“When I’m out and about in my district and people come to me with issues like this I ask, ‘does it literally take an act of Congress to fix?’ In this case, the answer is yes,” said McSally on the House Floor. “Udall Park is a cherished urban park in the heart of Tucson. However, unresolved disputes over this land have directly impeded the City from taking advantage of opportunities to supplement park funding, approve certain community events or look to other commercial ventures like local farmers markets on small portions of the park that would benefit the city. Federal red tape should not stand in the way of communities developing local parks. It is common-sense.”
This July, Tucson City Manager Michael Ortega traveled to Washington, DC to testify before the House Committee on Natural Resources on the City of Tucson’s support for this legislation, at McSally’s invitation. In his testimony, he explained how a reversion clause in the 1989 agreement with BLM has prevented the City of Tucson from having full autonomy and ownership for Udall Park to the City of Tucson—and how McSally’s legislation, the Udall Park Land Exchange Completion Act, will address the problem.
“I want to thank Representative McSally and the entire Arizona Congressional delegation for working with the City to complete this land transfer nearly 28 years in the making,” said Tucson City Manager Michael Ortega. “The existence of the reverter has directly impeded the City from taking advantage of commercial opportunities to supplement park funding, approve certain community events or look to other commercial ventures on small portions of the park that would benefit the city in general,” he said while testifying before the committee. “This is a unique situation, unlike any other reverter elimination being proposed anywhere on BLM administered lands. H.R. 1547 is needed to complete what should have been completed almost 28 years ago, and to provide an enhanced recreational and economic future for the citizens of Tucson and its environs.”
“Passage of this bill allows the city to plan for enhanced amenities at Udall Park, a popular destination for families on the east side of town,” said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. “My thanks to the bill’s authors, Senator Flake, Senator McCain and Representative McSally, and the rest of the Arizona Congressional delegation for their bipartisan support of the bill.”
In 1989 the City of Tucson and BLM entered into an agreement to exchange 297 acres of land adjacent to Saguaro National Park for 173 acres of BLM owned land in northeast Tucson known as Udall Park. The agreement specifically outlined that the terms and conditions of this land conveyance would include a legislative “fix” to remove any and all encumbrances on Udall Park. Unfortunately, this legislation never came to fruition due to staff changes at BLM, key individuals in the office of the City, and the Senate. Consequently, the City has been prevented from utilizing Udall Park to its fullest extent.
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