The updated master plan for San Tan Mountains Regional Park will have to wait a few more months so wildlife officials can investigate whether proposed new trails and campgrounds could disrupt endangered species, a park planner said Friday.
Two protected animals, the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl and the lesser longnose bat, could hold up plans for park improvements if they are found in the area, said Rich Hanson of the Bureau of Land Management’s Phoenix Field Office.
"We have to do a systematic survey," he said, adding that preliminary studies have not revealed any signs of either creature. "They could be in there — who knows?"
Now that the proposed master plan has been finalized, it must pass muster with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a process that could take up to four months. If either animal is found in the park, the delay could be even longer.
"This is a complex situation because you have a county park on federal land and some county land," he said, which makes any changes to the park a federal matter.
BLM recently completed an environmental assessment of the proposed changes to the park, which include adding trails, campgrounds and a BMX bike track for casual and competitive use.
The assessment found that environmental impact on the area would be minimal, although some nearby residents disagree.
"It just makes me sick thinking about what they’re going to do to the mountainside here," San Tan foothills resident Verdene Glyshaw said, adding that her greatest concerns are dust and noise from mountain bikers who would drive, park and ride near her home.
Hanson said the deadline for public comment, originally set for Wednesday, would be extended because of the wildlife concerns and an e-mail shutdown at his office, the result of a ruling Monday in a federal lawsuit against the Interior Department.
Still, he welcomed the public to view the assessment report on the park’s Web site, www.santanpark.net, and comment by calling (623) 580-5500 or by mail to 21605 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85027.