Photo of the Rincon Mountain District Visitor Center and parking lot at Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona.

Improve Rincon Mountain District Visitor Center Parking Area

Saguaro National Park » Improve Rincon Mountain District Visitor Center Parking Area » Document List

Introduction
The National Park Service (NPS) proposes to conduct repairs and improvements to the Rincon Mountain Visitor Center at Saguaro National Park (SAGU). The project would significantly expand existing parking and create new parking areas, install a comfort station, replace a shade ramada, shift the location of the fee kiosk, construct additional traffic lanes at the kiosk, construct associated pathways and utilities, remove large portions of the existing roads and parking, and rebuild the roads. The work would occur between South Old Spanish Trail and the beginning of the Cactus Forest Loop on both sides of the Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center and associated entrance sign, rock wall, roads, parking areas, and buildings were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s as part of the Mission 66 era that included various improvements and associated construction style and aesthetic throughout the NPS. However, the design of the original infrastructure has been strained by significant increases in visitation to the park and includes components that have presented safety concerns for potential vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian use of the area. The two-lane entrance road intersects Old Spanish Trail at an acute angle that creates a safety issue for visitors leaving the park because of the heavy vehicle traffic on South Old Spanish Trail. The current visitor parking lot dates to 1953 and is the only visitor parking at the visitor center / headquarters area at the Rincon Mountain District. This original parking lot holds only 40 family-sized vehicles with no capacity for larger trucks or recreation vehicles, which are growing in popularity, or even enough space for larger vehicles to turn around safely. Near pedestrian-vehicular accidents happen frequently and congestion from the fee kiosk interrupts pedestrians and vehicles. This undertaking has been prioritized by the NPS in this region as the visitor center area is one of the premier attractions in the state.

Mitigations to Protect Natural Resources and Wildlife
- Invasive plants within the project area will be treated before and after the project to
reduce their increase or establishment from ground disturbance.
- Project footprint will be kept to the minimum necessary to meet the project goals.
- Prior to ground disturbance, wildlife surveys and relocations will occur.
- All saguaros and cactus will be transplanted.
- Healthy smaller trees and shrubs will be salvaged and transplanted. Larger or unhealthy
trees and shrubs will be chipped onsite and used for mulch.
- During construction, any open trenches will have escape ramps for wildlife and will be -
surveyed by park biologists prior to filling to avoid accidental burial of wildlife.
- All equipment entering the project will be free of organic material to avoid the
introduction of weed seeds.

Compliance with National Historic Preservation Act
The NPS is required under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (1966, as amended) to assess potential effects of undertaking on historic properties, such as objects, sites, buildings, districts, and landscapes that are historically significant. To inform this effort, NPS personnel conducted field surveys and records search studies and conducted consultation with the Arizona State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and the 14 tribes that are traditionally associated with the park. Associated documentation included review of park master plan drawings, architectural plans, archival documents, regional history, national history documents related to significant development periods particularly Mission 66, records available through Arizona SHPO and tribal partners. These efforts identified one historic property in the project area, which is the Rincon Mountain Mission 66 Headquarters Historic District. Information on this district is detailed in a determination of eligibility report with associated maps, photos, architectural plans, and relevant citations.

The district was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criteria A and C, obtaining significance during the period of 1952-1968 and retaining sufficient integrity to convey its significance. Under Criterion A, the district is historically significant for its associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history. This includes the theme of entertainment/recreation, conservation, and education during the Mission 66 era of development throughout NPS units across the country. Under Criterion C, the district is significant as it embodies the distinctive characteristics of pre-Mission 66 and Mission 66 modernist architectural design. The elements of the district that contribute to its significance include the entrance road, stone park entrance sign and mortared stone wall, utility building and screened utility yard, service road, employee residences and Superintendent's Quarters, water tank and attached pumphouse, parking lot, Visitor Center, wildlife pond, and the designed spatial arrangement of the associated roads, parking areas, buildings, and landscaped areas. Various modern structures in the same area, or structures that were constructed in the historic period but have been modified to such a great extent as to no longer retain integrity to convey their significance) do not contribute to the significance of the district. Structures added in the 1980s-2010s include the modular NPS administrative building and associated parking lot, fee kiosk, bicycle ramada, interpretive pavilion, storage building, and various utilities, and structures from the historic period that do not have integrity to convey their significance include the sewage disposal system and five fire hydrants.

The proposed undertaking involves proposed modifications to multiple historically significant components of the district, in addition to adding various modern features. Direct effects involving physical destruction or damage to all or part of contributing element of the district include removal of part of the entrance station rock wall to allow for the adjusted intersection with South Old Spanish Trail, realignment and partial destruction of the entrance road and associated Visitor Center parking area, and effects to the integrity of design, setting, and feeling of the Mission 66 spatial arrangement of contributing features, particularly circulation patterns designed in the historic period that would be significantly altered by the undertaking.

In July 2022, with concurrence from SHPO, the NPS determined that the project would have an adverse effect to the historic district. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) was notified in September 2022. Comments received from tribal partners were limited to phone call from the Tohono O'odham Nation and a letter from the Ak-Chin Indian Community that both indicated that there would be no effects to historic properties of traditional significance and that the Tohono O'odham Nation's Tribal Historic Preservation Office be notified if any cultural resources were discovered during construction.

To resolve adverse effects to the historic district the NPS has drafted a memorandum of agreement to include the following stipulations:

- Avoid and minimize disturbance where possible, retain and reuse historic fabric (i.e.,
original construction materials like rock and stone), follow historic preservation
guidelines.
- Update documentation for the district.
- Include an interpretive component to the construction project to share the significant
history of the area with the public.
-Conduct monitoring during construction including a plan to address any inadvertent
(post-review of the undertaking by consulting parties) discoveries that may be uncovered
during construction and continue consultation with consulting parties and public, as
necessary.

Request for Review and Comment
Public involvement is a key component of planning for NPS projects, particularly those with potential for adverse effects to historic properties. Per the implementing regulations of the NHPA in 36 CFR§800.2(d), 800.6(4), and 800.11(c)(e-f) the NPS needs your help in this process. We are requesting public comment on the proposed undertaking, particularly any relevant information on the history of area that warrants further understanding or protection. The NPS requests that comments focus on events, stories, construction, and experiences that date to 1972 or earlier and are related to physical components of the project area. This timing is a crucial distinction as the NPS generally considers objects, sites, buildings, district, and landscapes of potential historical significance if those materials are at least 50 years old. The NPS will consider comments to fulfill their NHPA Section 106 requirements and to implement a project that addresses significant aspects of the history of this important area and increases understanding of that history.

To help with your review multiple supporting documents are provided through links below:
- Project area map and proposed construction
- Photos of the project area
- District determination of eligibility report
- Draft memorandum of agreement to resolve adverse effects to historic properties

Comments can be submitted either online through this portal or sent directly to the Saguaro National Park Superintendent's office at:
Superintendent
Saguaro National Park
3693 South Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, Arizona 85730

Contact Information

Richard Goepfrich
(520) 733-5140