The attempt to pull South Phoenix out of its run-down barrio condition has been an ongoing process over the last decade or so. Within the last few years this transformation has taken off and made headway. One major contributor to the success of this goal is the Rio Salado-Beyond the Banks Project.
In order to provide a large water supply to the Phoenix Valley dams were placed along the Salt River at the turn of the century. As a result there has since been a dry, barren riverbed running through Phoenix. Over the years this has turned into a collection site for unwanted items: waste, gravel pits and etc., making for a not so beautiful site. The Rio Salado Project is an attempt to transform a 582 acre, 5 mile stretch of river-bed running from 24th Street to 19th Avenue and “to provide a variety of amenities including recreation opportunities, improved flood management, riparian vegetation and wildlife habitat.” The planners of this project see great potential for the area in and surrounding the Rio Salado. They have envisioned that the restoration of the Rio Salado will be a great contributor to the revitalization of South Phoenix. By resurrecting the barren are, planners believe that people will be drawn to it. The hope is to create attractive natural vegetation scenery alone with “a variety of recreations, environmental and commercial activities.”
Our class had the opportunity to meet with the planners of this intense project. They talked to us about their goals and vision and how they would accomplish them. In order for this vision to be a success the developers have established six goals. The first goal is to provide a better balance of land use. This will include the increase of surrounding areas’ property value, protecting residents from the impacts of incompatible land use as well as the fazing out of incompatible land such as junk yards. Second, it will create places for community recreation and environment education. Hiking trails, bike paths, equestrian paths and public parks will allow people to enjoy this natural setting. Third, it will provide opportunities for economic development and area investment. The Rio Salado project will promote opportunities for growth, create jobs and provide sites for new commercial development. The fourth goal of the planners is to encourage and protect healthy neighborhoods. The hope is to encourage home improvement and upkeep, protecting the area from industrial uses and provide a range of housing types as well as a transition from surrounding industrial and airport noises. Fifth, this project will offer convenient access to nearby urban amenities. Areas of the city will be connected to Rio Salado by public transit and will provide bypass parkways to major streets and freeways. Finally, Rio Salado will ensure an environment that is safe from crime and industrial hazards. It will reduce environmental contamination, reclaim landfills, protect from hazardous industrial operations as well as decrease crime, allowing for a safe, enjoyable family environment.
Once this project is complete visitors will be able to enjoy an environment full of mesquite bosque, cottonwood willows, quail bush, burro bush, various fish and wildlife species as well. With the conquering of these goals on way it will not be long until the project is complete. Rio Salado is projected to open late 2004.
FYI: Despite the benefits and assets that many see will come as a result of the Rio Salado project, there are numerous people and organizations with opposing opinions and concerns of the effect is will have on the environment. These issues can be read about by visiting the web site of Steve Brittle, an Environmental Activist, as well as the web pages of other classmates.
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