Tortolita Mountain Public Access Blog


Court Dismisses All Criminal Charges in Marana/Saguaro Ranch Trespass Cases. Judge Declares Marana’s Actions an Improper use of Criminal Process.

by admin on Oct.15, 2009, under Uncategorized

Released: 10.15.09
All charges have been dismissed against Defendants Sharyl Cummings, Steve Blomquist and Tracy Chamberlain in the Marana/Saguaro Ranch Public Easement Trespass Cases.  The Town of Marana began criminally citing anyone carrying a protest sign while walking on the disputed public easement after the Town gave quitclaim deeds to various developers/landowners in Saguaro Ranch. The Defendants promptly filed a motion to dismiss. They argued that there is a legitimate ongoing controversy over the public’s right to use an easement through the scenic Tortolitas - an easement which Saguaro Ranch’s predecessors deeded in perpetuity to the public. The Defendants submitted a form of order asking the Court to dismiss the claims with prejudice.

The Oro Valley Prosecutor’s office took over the case after the Town of Marana declared it had a conflict due to the existence of the civil lawsuit regarding the public easement, in which Marana is a defendant. 

The Oro Valley Prosecutor’s office agreed with the Defendant’s position. 

The Court not only granted the order, but went one step further, handwriting onto the order that the dismissal was granted “Pursuant to Rule 16.6D as the interests of justice requires it because the charges were an improper use of criminal process”.    

For previous news coverage of this case, see Explorer Articles by, Al Petrillo: “Town Sued over abandonment of easement below Tortolitas“ & “Marana Trespass Case Transferred to Oro Valley Court“    

Court pleadings and ruling can be accessed at - Pleadings A copy of the complaint can be viewed at: Lawsuit 

-Tracy Chamberlain



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UPDATE - Tortolita Mountain Park (TMP)/ Public Access

by admin on Jul.31, 2009, under Uncategorized


Concerned Citizens:

As a fellow Pima County resident and taxpayer, I am writing to share with you how concerned I am to hear Pima County officials and/or elected representatives are involved or willingly cooperating with Marana officials to now give away the public’s existing full access into the TMP on the east side of the Saguaro Ranch development; owned by Pima County taxpayers, in the guise of an “exchange.” Moreover, that governmental officials should expect the public to pay for the opportunity of having our access given away. 

 In February, at the Marana Council Meeting for the proposed abandonment of a recorded public easement through the western portion of the Saguaro Ranch Development, the public was told by Marana and Saguaro Ranch officials that the County had no planned access through the west side of the development and that their abandonment’s would not affect access to the Tortolita Mountain Park, claiming that the only planned access by the County was on the east side of the development, via Como Road/Vulture Peak. On May 21 they unanimously voted to abandon the recorded public easement. - A decision that is being challenged in Pima County Superior Courts. 

Although Pima County’s Master Plan Trail System verify those claims are untrue, it appears those claims were used to distract the public’s attention from the next step the Town would take to provide the Saguaro Ranch developer with privacy and exclusivity.  

Recent documents indicate the Town of Marana has issued a letter to Pima County,  stating that Marana will use the $1Million of public funds intended for a Town Regional Recreational Facility - not to partner with Pima County to improve the County’s already existing full access easement which provides direct access intothe Tortolita Mountain Park - their letter indicates the town will instead be working to fulfill the responsibilities and financial obligations regarding the developer’s alternate trail proposal’s approval and construction. A proposal that requires the County to abandon public rights to the existing full access easement in exchange for a foot path.

The negotiations appear to indicate Marana, and Pima County taxpayers, will now cover the developer’s responsibilities in creating his “alternate trail access” as he proposed in his Pre Annexation Agreement with the Town, including, but not limited to: Construction of the alternate trail between the trail head staging area and the southern boundary of Tortolita Mountain Park; Fencing; Design and construction of the trail head facility; cost for acquiring any necessary easements, land use permits, or right of way from Arizona State land Department for any portions of the alternate trail between the trail head and the park that may need to be sited on Arizona state land Department property, along with any associated cost such as cultural resources surveys, etc .. The financial costs would be covered by using public funds and resources. 

This * letter contains links to documents from both the Town of Marana and Pima County indicating that both entities are currently in discussions to take the public’s property and rights away from the entire public , to give them to a bankrupt developer.  A decision which will also result in Pima County taxpayers being required to pass another open space bond tax to buy full access into the park somewhere else.

Please join us in contacting the Pima County Board of Supervisors. - IF, there are public funds to build the developer’s “alternate trail access,” those funds should instead be used to develop and protect the existing full public access, which will guarantee that all citizens and visitors will be able to access and enjoy our public lands, not just able-bodied hikers. After all, we’re talking about access to the park, not driving through the park.

-Tracy Chamberlain

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[WHY] Are Marana Council Members above law enforcement?

by admin on Jul.23, 2009, under Uncategorized

Patti Comerford

Patti Comerford

We have all heard that Marana asked their police officers to take pay cut/pay freezes and/or hiring freezes, as well as asking that town employees make charitable contributions to the town so the town can meet it’s budget crisis - followed by Council Members voting in their own pay raises. So in an effort to create additional revenues it was not inconceivable that Marana would begin with increasing traffic citations. To that end, I’ve heard Marana wants DPS officers who write tickets issued on I-10 to appoint Marana as the court of appearance rather than Pima County Consolidated Courts so that they can generate more revenue. And, I have also read citizens in rural outlaying areas of Pima County have voiced concerns about Marana Police officers sudden focus on issuing tickets in communities outside the town’s limits.

However, it appears that while town employees and the public at large are helping to pay down Marana’s financial spending, recent documents indicate that at least one Marana Council Member appears to feel she is immune to personal accountability or the same level of law enforcement by the Marana Police Dept..

On, or about, April 10, Marana Councilwoman Patti Comerford, was stopped by a Marana Police Officer while traveling 50 in a 35 mph speed zone, and only received a “verbal warning,” with a courtesy email from the police chief to the town manager.

Wow, the only one who seems to be making out like bandits in Marana are the elected few, while the rest of us poor schmucks pay their way.

Not only is it wrong that elected policy makers appear to hold them self above the citizens they govern, but wasn’t Ms. Comerford’s campaign platform to “improve public safety?” And wasn’t she part a recent “ethical” grandstand dispute regarding Tim Escobedo’s reappointment to a board because of his 2007 DUI?

What hypocrisy! Ms. Comerford was not slightly over the speed limit, this was gross disregard for public safety as well as a waste of Marana’s public and financial resources. Speeding as she was, is the type of reckless disregard that often results in senseless deaths, and equates with same level of dangers which result from DUI’s.

So much for Marana’s new ethics policy for elected and public officials. What we need are elected officials with real character and personal accountability.

-Tracy Chamberlain

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Explorer News - Tortolita Loses Its Caring Marshal

by admin on Jun.24, 2009, under Uncategorized

Tortolita Loses Its Caring Marshal

Lou Benson ~ October 16, 1949 - June 13, 2009

Lou Benson ~ October 16, 1949 - June 13, 2009

By Emil Franzi, Special to The Explorer 

You can’t write about the late Lou Benson without telling the story of Tortolita. Louie would want it that way.    

A dozen years ago, a rare burst of local self-determination occurred east and west of Tangerine Road roughly between La Canada and Shannon. The legislature had repealed the requirement that new incorporations secure the permission of other incorporated towns within six miles of its proposed border. Several groups attempted it, the most serious were Tortolita and the much larger Casas Adobes area.

Tortolita chose incorporation by petition, gathering 72 percent of the close to 2,000 registered voters living there. Lou and Robyn Benson personally gathered the most signatures.

The Board of Supervisors approved Tortolita on a 3-2 vote, exemplifying the multiple attitudes and political schizophrenia the town’s creation caused. Republican Ray Carroll and Democrats Sharon Bronson, who then represented the area, and Dan Eckstrom, a former mayor of South Tucson sympathetic to small towns, voted aye. Republican Mike Boyd, siding with developers concerned about potential loss of re-zonings, and Democrat Raul Grijalva, siding with fellow central control freak Tucson Mayor George Miller, voted no.

Court fights ensued, the repeal statute was ruled unconstitutional, the legislature failed to alter it, and the town was eventually dis-incorporated, but it was a textbook lesson for those who participated that all politics are local. Tortolitans held a town meeting attended by close to 400 citizens, to choose its first council. For those in surrounding communities who claimed we were “illegitimate,” that’s a higher turnout than you get in a general election.

Fourteen people ran for seven seats and the winners just happened to be four Republicans, two Democrats and a Libertarian. We also filled the statutory position of town marshal and unanimously picked Louis Edward Benson II. My family is very proud that the nomination came from Councilwoman Kathleen Franzi.

Louie was born in upstate New York in 1949 and was but 60 when liver cancer took him. Moving to Florida at age 10, he went off to Viet Nam in 1969 and was a combat veteran of the Fourth Infantry Division in tank and vehicle recovery. Honorably discharged in 1971, he was a proud member of VFW Catalina Post 4903 and Veterans for Peace. He served his community in a variety of capacities and was a superb example of a good citizen. He and Robyn ran, and she and son Jonas will continue, Lou Benson Construction and built a number of custom homes and additions, including the porch on the front and side of ours. Thanks, Louie, for recommending that long ramp in place of the stairs.

Obviously, the Bensons and the Franzis often cancelled each others’ vote. What is less evident is our sharing not only a deep love for the area we lived in for years, but the belief that the most important of all political decisions, something more relevant than taxes or schools or crime, is the fundamental question of who shall govern. On that one, we were on the same page. We were also aware that many others, from left to right, aren’t.

We’ve heard the grumbles that “you were never a real town.” By that logic, Bobby Lee and Stonewall Jackson were never real generals.

We were proud to call Lou Benson our friend. We are even prouder that he called us his.

A celebration of Lou’s life will begin at 6 p.m. at the Audubon Society Mason Center, Thornydale and Hardy, Saturday, June 27th.

Published: June-24-2009
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Protest at Saguaro Ranch, Marana, AZ

by admin on Jun.13, 2009, under Uncategorized

Here are a few pictures of the peaceful protest that was held to demonstrate public opposition to Marana’s recent vote to abandon the public easement to the Saguaro Ranch developer/development.

Much thanks to everyone who joined us, and to those who stopped to share words of encouragement and/or a thumbs up!

Marana Is Trying To Take From The Public & Give To The Bankrupt Rich

Marana Is Trying To Take From The Public & Give To The Bankrupt Rich

Town of Marana tries to take from the public & give to the bankrupt rich.

Protest at Saguaro Ranch.

Town of Marana tries to take from the public & give to the bankrupt rich.

Town of Marana tries to take from the public & give to the bankrupt rich.

Marana is trying to take from the public & give to the bankrupt rich

Marana tries to give away public access. WHY?

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Peaceful Protest - TODAY - June 11, 2009

by admin on Jun.11, 2009, under Uncategorized


WE wanted to let everyone know a peaceful protest will be held today to demonstrate the public’s opposition to Marana’s recent vote to abandon the public’s Tortolita access in favor of the Saguaro Ranch developer/development.

This peaceful demonstration will be conducted near the corner of Moore Road and Thornydale Road intersection, in front of the Saguaro Ranch Sales Office.

Efforts will get underway at 4 o’clock and will continue until dusk.

Please tell your friends and neighbors, and plan on joining us! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call.

Be well,
Tracy Chamberlain

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