Unique Recreational Space Emerges from Former Milling Site

A ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opened the park to the public.

May 3, 2024 - A former Freeport-McMoRan site in southern Arizona has been transformed into recreational space accessible to the entire community.

Following four years of planning, the 87-acre Man in the Maze Trails Park officially opened to the public in March. Originally known as Parcel 30, the park incorporates numerous biodiversity, cultural and educational elements. These include trails with interpretive signage covering topics such as traditional food plants of the Tohono O’odham Nation, pollinator conservation and passive rainwater harvesting.

There also are areas sown with a pollinator mix to attract native wildlife and transplanted cultural vegetation, including agaves, which support bat habitat. Modern ramadas and traditional Tohono O’odham wooden shade structures were constructed near parking areas, providing visitors with shaded spots to rest and enjoy the surroundings.

The project already has been recognized externally as the Metropolitan Pima Alliance has selected the park to be honored at the Best in Wild West Common Ground Awards, which celebrate collaborative projects in the region. The Man in the Maze Trails Park is one of 10 projects that will be honored with the organization’s Award of Distinction at its annual event in May.

“This transformative project exemplifies the power of collaboration and innovation in repurposing land for the betterment of communities,” said Mike Steward, Manager Remediation Projects-Environmental/Sustainable Development. “Man in the Maze Trails Park not only revitalizes reclaimed space but also enriches our collective experience by providing a haven for recreation, education and conservation.”

Steward added that the company’s remediation team is looking for similar opportunities across the Freeport portfolio as land uses upon retirement are in greater demand than ever before.

Ambitious Project

In recent years, the Sahuarita, Ariz., property, which once held an old lead/zinc tailings impoundment in need of some reconditioning, and the entire area was fenced to prevent access. This prompted Freeport and Anaconda Arizona Inc. – the other owner of the property – to embark on a voluntary remediation project in 2018 with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
The partners envisioned creating a recreational space with a focus on conservation and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts. With the plan approved by the ADEQ in July 2022, the project team got to work consolidating tailings material, implementing an engineered cap/cover system, and establishing a deed end user restriction to designate the space for recreational use.

In addition to the Town of Sahuarita, the ADEQ and the Tohono O’odham Nation, Freeport collaborated with other organizations such as the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Discover Education – Dig Into Mining, Wildlife Habitat Council, Bat Conservation International, the Watershed Management Group and the Wildlife Habitat Council.

“The Man in the Maze Trails Park project has been an incredible project to be a part of, said Dylan Pruitt, Parks and Facilities Manager for the Town of Sahuarita. “It is a historically unique project, from conception through implementation with the sheer number of high-quality partners involved. It provides a much-needed amenity to the Town of Sahuarita’s parks inventory, and will be incredibly impactful to the Sahuarita Community, Sahuarita Unified School District, and all the surrounding areas, for years to come.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opened the park to the public; Area school children try out one of the walking trails at the Man in the Maze Trails Park.

Photos (left to right): A ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opened the park to the public; Area school children try out one of the walking trails at the Man in the Maze Trails Park.