Participants at the first-ever Arizona Forward Sustainability Summit helped establish a set of recommendations for the Rio Reimagined project that is set to redefine metro Phoenix in the coming decades. Approximately 250 experts in disciplines ranging from architecture to engineering to hydrology contributed their expertise to get Rio Reimagined off to the right start.

“This was an important first step in a major multi-generational project,” said Lori Singleton, president and CEO of Arizona Forward. “Our members stand ready to support Rio Reimagined throughout the years because we recognize it as an incredible opportunity to leave a meaningful legacy for future generations.”

The ultimate takeaway from the Statewide Sustainability Summit is that large-scale urban waterways projects have succeeded in other metro areas throughout the nation. Projects along the San Antonio River and Los Angeles River provide not only inspiration, but proof of concept that the time, energy and resources required to bring Rio Reimagined to fruition will benefit Central Arizona. The Valley also has its own “precedent project,” said Dave Skinner, Arizona Forward board chair.

“Look back in time to those who drafted the legislation to create Tempe Town Lake,” Skinner said. “They faced opposition and were still able to unify enough voices to create a project that surpassed every expectation. We need that sort of vision and perseverance to ensure that Rio Reimagined becomes a point of pride for metro Phoenix.”

The following are recommendations from the summits

• Involve communities in decisions affecting their segment of Rio Salado before taking action

• Gain inspiration and knowledge from the success of the Lower Los Angeles River redevelopment

• Create guidelines and standards that protect access to the river and, promote responsible development

• Careful consider all impacts on the homeless and low-income populations

• Develop an overall shared vision and the authority implement it

• Recruit political champions to maintain momentum

• Establish an aesthetic vision and ensure all communities agree on the desired outcome

• Be a pioneer just like those who imagined and built the Tempe Town Lake

• Establish policies and facilities that connect the community to native wildlife

• Ensure connection between the projects so they complement each other

These conclusions will be sent to the Rio Reimagined Working Groups, which are composed of officials and staff from the six cities and two native communities bordering the Salt River.

Keynote Speakers

Melissa McCann: Director, University City Exchange – ASU

Jeff Biggs: Administrator, Tucson Water

Suzanne Scott: General Manager, San Antonio River Authority (SARA)

Mark Stanley: Executive Officer, Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, L.A.

Mia Lehrer:  President – Studio-MLA, L.A. River

Breakout Session Moderators and Panelists

Healthy Communities

Moderator:  Jon Ford, Vitalyst Health Foundation

Panelists:  Don Bessler, City of Tempe; Dede Devine, Native Connections; Karen Peters, City of Phoenix; Mark Stanley, Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (Los Angeles)

River Restoration and Urban Ecology

Moderator: Jay Hicks, Dig Studio

Panelists:  Megan Mosby, Liberty Wildlife; Doug Williams, Flood Control District of Maricopa County; Mia Lehrer, Studio-MLA (South LA River); Tim Thomure, Tucson Water; Suzanne Scott, San Antonio River Authority

Arizona Forward has the unique distinction of having influenced quality of life decisions in the state since 1969 by mobilizing business leaders and policymakers. The organization’s goal is to leverage its collective power to influence how we best grow our communities, stimulate our economy and enhance our environment. For more, visit