Congresswoman Martha McSally

Representing the 2nd District of Arizona

House Passes Rep. McSally Bill to Grant City of Tucson Full Ownership of Udall Park

October 2, 2017
Press Release
Resolves 28 Year Old Land Exchange, Allows City of Tucson to Expand and Improve Cherished Urban Park

WASHINGTON, DC–The U.S. House of Representatives today passed Congresswoman Martha McSally’s bill to finally allow the City of Tucson to take full ownership of Udall Park. Her bill, The Udall Park Land Exchange Completion Act of 2017, resolves a 28- year old land exchange between the City of Tucson and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), permitting the City of Tucson to fully utilize Udall Parks’ 172.8-acre parcel of land and implement planned expansion and improvements.

“When I'm out and about in my district and people come to me with issues like this I ask, ‘does it literally take an act of Congress to fix?’ In this case, the answer is yes,” said Rep. McSally on the House Floor. “Udall Park is a cherished urban park in the heart of Tucson. However, unresolved disputes over this land have directly impeded the City from taking advantage of opportunities to supplement park funding, approve certain community events or look to other commercial ventures like local farmers markets on small portions of the park that would benefit the city. Federal red tape should not stand in the way of communities developing local parks. It is common-sense.”

Click below to watch Rep. McSally speak in support of her bill on the House Floor.|

This July, Tucson City Manager Michael Ortega traveled to Washington, DC to testify before the House Committee on Natural Resources on the City of Tucson’s support for this legislation, at Congresswoman McSally’s invitation. In his testimony, he explained how a reversion clause in the 1989 agreement with BLM has prevented the City of Tucson from having full autonomy and ownership for Udall Park to the City of Tucson—and how Rep. McSally’s legislation, the Udall Park Land Exchange Completion Act, will address the problem.

“I want to thank Representative McSally and the entire Arizona Congressional delegation for working with the City to complete this land transfer nearly 28 years in the making,” said Tucson City Manager Michael Ortega. “The existence of the reverter has directly impeded the City from taking advantage of commercial opportunities to supplement park funding, approve certain community events or look to other commercial ventures on small portions of the park that would benefit the city in general,” he said while testifying before the committee.  “This is a unique situation, unlike any other reverter elimination being proposed anywhere on BLM administered lands. H.R. 1547 is needed to complete what should have been completed almost 28 years ago, and to provide an enhanced recreational and economic future for the citizens of Tucson and its environs.”

"Passage of this bill allows the city to plan for enhanced amenities at Udall Park, a popular destination for families on the east side of town," said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. "My thanks to the bill's authors, Senator Flake, Senator McCain and Representative McSally, and the rest of the Arizona Congressional delegation for their bipartisan support of the bill."

Background
In 1989 the City of Tucson and BLM entered into an agreement to exchange 297 acres of land adjacent to Saguaro National Park for 173 acres of BLM owned land in northeast Tucson known as Udall Park. The agreement specifically outlined that the terms and conditions of this land conveyance would include a legislative “fix” to remove any and all encumbrances on Udall Park. Unfortunately, this legislation never came to fruition due to staff changes at BLM, key individuals in the office of the City, and the Senate. Consequently, the City has been prevented from utilizing Udall Park to its fullest extent.

Rep. McSally goes LIVE outside the Capitol after the Udall Park Completion Act unanimously passes the House. Click below to watch.

Transcript of Rep. McSally’s Full Remarks on the House Floor 

Thank you Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of my bill, H.R. 1547, the Udall Park Land Exchange Completion Act of 2017.

Udall Park is a cherished urban park in the heart of Tucson. The City has invested millions of dollars in park facilities, including construction of very large community recreation and senior centers, a large swimming pool, a walking track and multiple athletic fields and picnic areas. In 2011, the Mayor and Council approved a Master Plan Update that calls for plans to invest even more money into the park by way of additional athletic fields and expanded recreational programming. However, unresolved disputes over this land have directly impeded the City from taking advantage of opportunities to supplement park funding, approve certain community events or look to other commercial ventures like local farmers markets on small portions of the park that would benefit the city in general.

The Udall Park Land Exchange Completion Act resolves this historic land exchange agreement between the City of Tucson and the Bureau of Land Management at Udall Park.

In 1989 the City of Tucson and BLM entered into an agreement to exchange 297 acres of land adjacent to Saguaro National Park for 173 acres of BLM owned land in northeast Tucson known as Udall Park.

This agreement specifically outlined that the terms and conditions of this land conveyance would include a legislative “fix” to remove any and all encumbrances on Udall Park.

Unfortunately, this legislation never came to fruition due to staff changes at BLM, key individuals in the office of the City, and the Senate. And as a result, the City has been prevented from utilizing Udall Park to its fullest extent. Recently this issue came to a head over disputes on a small commercial lease located at Udall Park.

Federal red tape should not stand in the way of communities developing local parks. It is common-sense.

Udall Park is a beautiful place for our Southern Arizona community to gather, but this long-standing land dispute has prevented the City of Tucson from improving the park and growing it to its full potential for too long.

When I'm out and about in my district and people come to me with issues like this I say, “does it literally take an act of Congress to fix?” let me say this again, “does it literally take an act of Congress to fix?” In this case, the answer is yes. I appreciate as we testified before the House Natural Resources Federal Lands Subcommittee, Ranking Member Hanabusa stated, no kidding, during a hearing in July, “if it takes an act of Congress to get this done.... then that’s what we’ve got to do.” I’m with the Ranking Member. It is time to finally take action and get this thing finished. 

My legislation would formally complete a long overdue agreement on land that has already been exchanged at fair market value. The Act directs conveyance of the Federal reversionary interest in Udall Park to the City, as the parties intended when the exchange was made. This bill will allow Tucson to finally take ownership of Udall Park. In closing, I want to thank Chairman Bishop, Chairman McClintock and the members of the Natural Resources Committee for working with me to move this legislation forward. I look forward to seeing this issue through and ensuring that this land transfer is completed. I encourage all members to support this legislation and yield back the balance of my time.