What are the boundaries of the Rio Reimagined?
Initial boundaries for Rio Reimagined extend approximately 55+ east/west miles of the Salt and Gila River corridor in central Arizona and encompass 78,000+ acres extending from State Route-85 to Granite Reef Dam. At this time, the study area is defined as one mile from both banks of the river, which creates a substantive and diverse planning and programming scope for stakeholders. While this is a regional initiative with opportunity for leveraged outcomes, each river community maintains its jurisdiction, control, and self-determination in their respective reach of the river corridor.
What exists in the river today?
Over the past four decades, Valley communities, with many local, state, and federal government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, have engaged in efforts to revitalize the Rio Salado and its watershed. The cities of Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa have invested in parks, bike paths, bridges, river improvements, and other projects. Previous planning and revitalization efforts include six U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects focused on flood control, ecological restoration, and recreation: the El Rio Watercourse Master Plan, Tres Rios Habitat Restoration and Wetlands, Rio Salado Oeste, Rio Salado Phoenix, Rio Salado Tempe, and Rio Salado Mesa. Some of these projects have been successfully funded and implemented, while others are still in a planning phase.
The most notable of the projects implemented to date is the Tempe Town Lake which has contributed new or enhanced recreation and cultural amenities, public art, riparian habitat, economic development, tourism, employment, and housing to the Valley. Another significant environmental asset is the Tres Rios Environmental Habitat Restoration project which has rehabilitated nearly 700 acres in and around the Salt River, restoring 52 acres of vital wetlands. It is the fourth largest constructed wetland in the U.S. and has created significant riparian habitat that results in increased, ecotourism from global markets. The Tres Rios project created a unique mutually beneficial relationship between the wetlands and a nearby wastewater treatment plant supporting several growing cities in the metro region.
Check out the website MAP which includes links to several existing projects in the river corridor.
What are the primary objectives of a project plan for the river corridor?
There is no current master plan design for Rio Reimagined as we are still in a major discovery and collaboration phase. This phase requires significant community input and engagement. Other river revitalization plans from cities across the country have included and integrated multiple and diverse objectives such as public open space, environmental and water quality, housing, transportation, economic development, workforce development, community sustainability, and resilience as well as others. Revitalization must include a vibrant program determined through a strategic and comprehensive public outreach and stakeholder engagement process. The initiative is a landmark opportunity to coalesce a grand, comprehensive vision for the corridor that embodies the future economic, social and environmental vitality of our communities as well as cultivates a progressive identity for our River and its watershed.
The following principles are general working guidelines that will evolve with the initiative:
- Establish a multi-jurisdictional vision for the future
- Reconnect the community to the river and its origin
- Restore the value of the river and adjacent sites
- Feature impactful and instructive sustainable elements
- Build an unprecedented regional destination
- Be a catalyst for economic growth and inclusion
- Establish the highest design expectations
What are the primary challenges of a plan for the river corridor?
There are many challenges, some known and many unknown at this time. Challenges (and opportunities) are invested in four main areas of the initiative: Water, Funding, Community and Economic Development. The availability and role of water in corridor projects will be carefully evaluated by communities as a valuable and increasingly limited resource. The intent is for the initiative to contribute positively to long-term sustainable resource management principles that balance the Valley and State’s resources and growth. With respect to funding, it is safe to say that big government, sole-source project funding is unlikely. Funding sources (government, philanthropic, corporate, and institutional) will be varied and will require entrepreneurial approaches and strategic exploration. The planning process must also include an accurate representation of our diverse community. Participation of stakeholders from all communities affected by the revitalization of the river corridor is critical to the social equity and inclusivity that will ensure project success.