Natural Scenery

Rec programs highlight natural resources | News

Spending time outdoors can improve mental health, reduce stress and increase overall well-being. 

The Marana Parks and Recreation Department offers many inclusive, accessible activities for residents of all ages to showcase all there is to do in town. 

The town gives residents the chance to socialize while it promotes conservation efforts and environmental awareness. Among the programs are the Nature Trek at El Rio Reserve, Sonoran Desert educational and guided hikes in the Tortolitas, guided horseback rides, and the Tortolita Preserve Nature Trek.

Nature Treks at the El Rio Reserve allows guests to wander along trails as they explore the Sonoran Desert’s animals and plants with a naturalist. 

“I would love to see more participation in our El Rio Preserve Nature Treks,” said Jason Grodman, natural resources supervisor.

“I feel that El Rio Preserve is a hidden gem in our community. The preserve is a rich riparian habitat for nesting and migratory birds with over 240 species of birds identified. It’s one of the links in the chain of preserved riparian habitats along the Lower Santa Cruz River and identified as a regionally important wildlife linkage.” 

Visitors can walk the entirety of the 9-acre lake which is also adjacent to a stretch of the Chuck Huckelberry Loop path.  

Sonoran Desert educational hikes are dedicated to extended exercise, with 2- to 3-mile hikes lasting up to two hours. Meanwhile, guides teach residents about the Sonoran Desert.

Discussion topics include Sonoran cactus, rainy seasons, drought-adapted trees and the cause and effect of consistent warm weather that results in the region’s biotic diversity.

Guided hikes in the Tortolitas are free, educational hikes with Marana’s tour crew and Arizona master naturalists.

The hikes provide a masterclass on the Sonoran Desert fauna, flora and the area’s history, featuring petroglyphs of the Hohokam classic period. 

El Rio Nature Trek.jpg

Hikers gather along a lake’s walking path during the El Rio Nature Trek.

“This is a real standout program for me,” Grodman said.

“The hikes take place in the stunning Tortolita Mountain Park and are usually around three to four hours and 3 and 6 miles in length. However, the real treat is the educational aspect of the hikes.”

The public can also enjoy the Sonoran Desert during horseback rides led by guides from Tucson Mountain Stables in partnership with the town of Marana. All rides take place at the Tortolita Preserve Trail, and cost about $85 per person. 

Tortolita Preserve Nature Trek offers vistas and distinct plant and animal communities of the Sonoran Desert. Marana and Pima County offer treks led by an    environmental educator and county volunteer Vicky Ettleman. 

Watch for birds and other wildlife that make their homes in native desert vegetation on guided explorations in the morning. 

The parks and recreation departments offer these programs to promote the protection, long-term sustainability and conservation of Marana’s natural environment. 

“My primary role is planning, promotion and coordinating these programs,” Grodman said.

“I also participate in leading some of our hiking programs and the maintenance of our trail system. My favorite part is exposing program participants to our wonderful natural resource parks and the magical Sonoran Desert. I am so fortunate to be part of the team that provides opportunities for people to get outdoors and experience the physical, mental and emotional retreat of the natural world. Whether you’re an experienced outdoor enthusiast or new to outdoor recreation, Marana Parks and Recreation has a program for you.” 


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