|By Doug Kreutz, The Arizona Daily Star,
TucsonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 13, 2009--TUCSON IS NOT -- big sigh of relief -- just like Phoenix.
But we have come a step closer in one way: Hikers in a once-wild mountain range northwest of Tucson now peer down at a new luxury resort from one trail and trek past golf course fairways on another.
The expansive Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain resort, which is scheduled to open next month, dominates the view from some parts of the Upper Javelina Trail in the Tortolita Mountains.
Lush fairways and greens stand out from the surrounding desert along the nearby Wild Burro Trail.
Such urban-wildland interfaces are common in the Phoenix area. There, resorts, golf courses and high-end residential areas serve as the scenic backdrop for hikers on Pinnacle Peak, Camelback Mountain and other urban preserves.
Now, as luxury developments expand into scenic mountain areas around Tucson, resort swimming pools and putting greens have become trail-side scenery.
"It was different out there before they built the Ritz-Carlton," said Jan Wilson, a guide with the SaddleBrooke Hiking Club.
"It's another kind of scenery now when you hike in some of those areas," Wilson said. "You might go right along a golf course. You might see the resort. To me, the fact that you don't see the resort the whole time you're hiking makes it OK. If you were going to be seeing it the whole time, I'd find another trail."
Tom Ellis, director of parks and recreation for Marana, said the view is "definitely different" in some parts of the Tortolita Mountains since construction of the resort.
But Ellis praised developers of the Ritz-Carlton for "blending it into the terrain" and for supporting construction of a network of trails in the area.
"The Ritz has even deeded two acres of property for a new trailhead" near the resort, said Ellis, noting that Marana, Pima County and developers cooperated in trail projects.
Jennifer Pelczarski, a spokeswoman for the Ritz-Carlton, said the terrain around the resort is "a special place and we want to share it with everyone."
"The Ritz-Carlton will welcome the public to continue to enjoy the hiking trails, and they'll actually be able to park on property" at the new trailhead, Pelczarski said.
Ellis said hikers on the Upper Javelina Trail will encounter a mix of views along its six-mile loop.
"You're above the resort. Then you go over a ridge and lose the resort for a while, with outstanding views across the Avra Valley and toward the Santa Rita Mountains," he said. "As you come back down, you run back into view of the resort and the golf course."
With some 20 miles of trails in the area, it's easy to avoid resort views, Ellis said.
"If your idea is that you don't want to have a view of civilization, just keep walking north," he said, "and don't look over your shoulder."
Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at email@example.com or at 573-4192.
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