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Pima County’s Love/Hate Relationship with Bicyclists

In January 2010 I wrote about a bicycle mini-park and trailhead to be built at the foot of Mount Lemon, a popular bicycling route in East Tucson, and how at the last minute—after ten years of planning, after land had been zoned and architectural plans approved, T’s crossed and I’s dotted—asshole NIMBYs and a chickenshit county commissioner scuttled the deal.

The bike trailhead, as planned in January 2010

My group rides up and down the Catalina Highway, the road to Mount Lemon alongside which the trailhead was to be built, nearly every week. Even though we don’t ride the mountain itself, wimps that we are, we live in the neighborhood and think of the bike routes that go through it as our own, so we contributed to the trailhead fund. Contributors were to be acknowledged with engraved paving stones set into the concrete pad where a covered ramada was to be built, and we looked forward to stopping by once in a while to admire our Old Spanish Trail Trash brick.

It’s getting on three years now. Last I heard, the county was trying to talk the organizers into turning over the money they’d raised so that it could make improvements to an existing bike memorial—miles away, far from any bicycling routes and in a slummy part of town—a sanctuary/church made of bicycle frames and stained glass, which I photoblogged a few months ago.

What I didn’t know was that the trailhead organizers have been busy suing the county for backing out of the original deal. Here’s the latest on that, from yesterday’s Arizona Star:

Court: County reneged on trailhead deal

Says couple may seek reimbursement of $30K

Becky Pallack, Arizona Daily Star

Pima County broke its promise to build a Catalina Highway bike trailhead and may have to pay back the family who helped fund it, the Arizona Court of Appeals has decided.

Jean and Jim Gorman envisioned a trailhead with parking spaces, bike racks, picnic tables and a drinking fountain to be named the Brad Gorman Memorial Bike Trailhead in memory of their son, who was killed while riding his bike on the road in 1999. They worked together with the county on the project beginning in 2000.

The county provided land and the Regional Transportation Authority and the Gorman family provided part of the money for the $215,000 project.

The county issued engineering contracts and asked the Gormans to pay them, signed a formal agreement with the RTA, issued a building permit and solicited bids from contractors.

But when neighboring residents complained about the location of the trailhead and said the county never told them about it, the county stopped the project.

The Gormans sued the county in Superior Court for breach of contract in 2010, saying they wanted their $30,000 back.

There is no question the county was going to proceed – and still probably will at a different site, said County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.

A Superior Court judge dismissed the Gormans’ claims, so they took their case to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

The appeals court issued an opinion last week affirming the lower court judgment in favor of the county on the breach of contract claim. But the opinion also said the county broke its promise to the Gormans and remanded the case back to trial court for damages. The damages won’t be more than $30,000, Huckelberry said.

He said he wants to get past the lawsuit quickly and find a trailhead site that’s acceptable to all, this time in a process that will include an extensive public review.

The reader comments below the Arizona Star article are interesting, so I’ll include them as well. Down toward the bottom of the comments is one from Jean Gorman, the trailhead organizer and the person suing the county, who was—surprise!—not even contacted by the reporter.

Donald L.
17 hours, 36 minutes ago

If it was County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s $30,000 that was contributed to the county, you can bet that he would have gotten it back quickly when the project didn’t go forward as promised . . . but common citizens like Jim and Jean Gorman are essentially peons in the grand scheme of things and you can’t fight big government . . . government cares little for the common citizen.

Paul H.
16 hours, 52 minutes ago

So time, energy and money is spent on the project and the County caves when the NIMBY crowd whines that their permission wasn’t given. How many times has this story played out at the expense of not getting things done in and around Tucson.

Barb B.
16 hours, 30 minutes ago

Who do we have to vote for to get rid of Huckelberry? He has to much power for the unelected tail that wags the dog.

Josephine S.
15 hours, 53 minutes ago


just goes to show with CONTRACT IN HAND

taxpayers get to foot the bill

Albert J.
14 hours, 31 minutes ago

Paul H. (paul47) wrote:

So time, energy and money is spent on the project and the County caves when the NIMBY crowd whines that their permission wasn’t given. How many times has this story played out at the expense of not getting things done in and around Tucson.

One does wonder what was so objectionable about a biking trailhead. Since the article doesn’t say exactly where it was to be built, hard to evaluate the NIMBY factor, but I sure can think of a lot of things much worse than a bike trailhead.

Jim M.
13 hours, 39 minutes ago

I agree Albert, it seems that those on the far east side seem to feel that their petty input is more important than anyone elses. They think that they own al of the outdoors in that area, and we “commoners” are not welcome, bunch of crybabies. LOL

suzy b.
12 hours, 50 minutes ago

You have to VOTE OUT ELIAS, VALADEZ and BRONSON to get rid of Huckelberry. And until that happens – we are in for more of the same. These 3 defer to Huck on everything!

Paul G.
12 hours, 41 minutes ago

Such a sad story that the county screws the Gorman family. Time to kick Huckleberry Finn, Elias, Valadez, and Bronson out of office. I hope the Gorman’s get the $30k back plus fees.

Jean G.
11 hours, 53 minutes ago

I was not contacted for this article so additional facts are inclded here for your information. The Trailhead was to be near the base of Mt. Lemmon. My goal was to stop illeagal parking along the roadside, give more cyclists a chance to ride the Mt. by parking closer, & be a reminder for BOTH riders & drivers to respect each other & “Share the Road”, NOT to honor my son but to SAVE LIVES. In Dec. 2009 another Star article which I did do, before the project work was completed, killed this project by a handful of neighbor’s complaints to Ray Carroll & he shut it down with no neighborhood meetings. The transportation dept. has been looking for another site, but none is as good as this perfect 1/4 acre of the 8 acre Flood Plain County owned peice. RTA money was extra from another bike lane/school project close by & costs for the Trailhead were a whole lot less than stated above.

A Memorial Park /Trailhead, where ever is a reminder that someone’s child lost their life and for you to enjoy that space. Go to a site called Bikecolli, it’s a twitter site that reports all bicycle/pedestrians hit/killed (1 bike /3 pedestrians), at least everyday! AGAIN my Goal, is for you to STOP the Attitude, change to Gratitude, pay attention to all around you, BOTH riders/drivers to prevent all these injuries that devastate lives. “SHARE”, & Stay safe & well always.

Jean Gorman

Stefan W.
10 hours, 43 minutes ago

Another limited news article from your friendly Death Star…I think these journalists google everything and copy/paste public releases for their stories. Honestly, would it hurt to make a few phone calls to get a quote from the Gorman’s or find out exactly which neighborhood association is the squeeky wheel? I don’t want to be critical, but that may clarify the lawsuit and Huckleberry’s comments. As an aside, I donated $50 as part of a fundraising effort many, many years ago…not sure who has my money now, but I’m hopeful that it’s still going towards this project, it’s a great idea.

All politics is local. All politics stink.

© 2012, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.