The Gilbert Town Council and a legislator from Chandler hope to put the brakes on Maricopa County’s effort to fast-track the sale of 1,200 acres of park land in the south East Valley.
Gilbert passed a resolution Tuesday urging county officials to gather more public input and confer with local leaders before moving forward with plans to sell San Tan Mountains Regional Park’s "south finger" to the Gila River Indian Community. Councilman Dave Petersen said he is hoping Mesa, Chandler and Queen Creek will sign the resolution.
In addition, state Sen. Jay Tibschraeny, R-Chandler, released a statement Wednesday condemning the proposed sale, which was negotiated in secret despite a two-year public process that resulted in plans for a mountain bike track on the property.
Tibschraeny called the process "a total sham undertaken to placate the impacted communities while Maricopa brokered another deal."
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the matter Aug. 18.
The county’s Parks and Recreation Commission already has recommended approval of the $8 million deal, which would pay for improvements designated in the park’s updated master plan.
The agreement would require the tribe to preserve the undeveloped land, which Gila River community leaders say would be used as a wild horse preserve and as a buffer zone between the reservation and nearby development.
Pinal County residents near the park, which is managed by Maricopa County, are staunch supporters of the proposed sale, regardless of how the negotiations were conducted.
Park activist Gordon Brown said the deal would resolve debate over the land that has raged for about 15 years. It would also fund the implementation of a park master plan that has "sat on a shelf" for more than a decade, he said.