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  • Survey findings could spur development along The Loop

    Wouldn’t you love to take a bike ride along The Chuck Huckelberry Loop knowing you’d have easy access to that new bakery or brew pub that just opened?

    Pima County’s Development Services Office is looking to make that happen, thanks to the survey findings of a University of Arizona graduate student.

    The department has begun to examine policy ideas that would spur development to serve commuters as well as recreational cyclists and pedestrians along The Loop in the unincorporated areas, about 18 miles of pathway.

    The Loop is a system of paved, shared-use paths and short segments of bike lanes connecting the Rillito, Santa Cruz, and Pantano River Parks with the Julian Wash and Harrison Road Greenways. It transcends political jurisdictions of the region with more than 130 miles of paved pathways.

    The wheels were put in motion when student Christina Baum conducted the survey as part of a project she was completing for a master’s degree in public health. The survey, which sought to better identify any issues people have with The Loop and determine ways to improve the public’s experiences, garnered 1,338 responses using online survey tools and in-person data collection. 

    Baum found that both users and non-users of the Loop favored more parks, restaurants, bars, cafés, special events, food trucks and mobile vendors along the path.

    “While some sections of The Loop are well-served with places to rest, eat, drink, and meet up with friends, encouraging bike-friendly retail or restaurant development could greatly enhance other portions of The Loop, draw users to less-trafficked areas, and attract more diverse types of Loop users,” said Baum. 

    Mark Holden, principal planner with Pima County Development Services, oversaw Baum’s project and is eager to put some of her suggestions to use.

    “This is a good opportunity to begin a conversation about development that provides the greatest benefit to the public,” Holden said.
    Rillito section of The Loop  
    Specifically, Development Services is looking to develop incentives designed to promote retail and commercial services, businesses and residential development along The Loop and other county-managed trails, a newer concept known as trail-oriented development. By incentivizing certain types of development within appropriate zones and reducing regulations, destinations that support trail users could follow. 

    Such policies also could expand economic opportunities in general by adding value to development projects and improving financial returns, attracting new businesses to the region, and improving community health.

    The survey also sought to better identify any issues people have with The Loop and determine ways to improve the public’s experiences. Baum IDed ways that access to The Loop from neighborhoods, schools and other places of interest could be improved. Some are expensive, such as building more bike lanes; others, like removing a barrier to increase neighborhood access, could be done fairly easily, Holden said.

    Development Services recommended changes to the zoning code that would streamline permitting, particularly in rural areas, such as along the Julian Wash. Those changes were approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission on June 24. The Board of Supervisors will address the changes at their Aug. 17 meeting. 

    “The Loop is one of the most appreciated and used recreational amenities in the community,” Holden said. “If there’s a chance to make it more accessible to more people and provide economic opportunity, it makes sense to explore the options.” 
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