In 2010, an estimated 3.8 million people called Maricopa County home. According to the United States Census Bureau, this number rose to more than 4.5 million last year with data trends projected to increase to 6.7 million according to the Maricopa Association of Governments.
“As the county’s growth continues to trend upward, it’s important to the Board that our departments are equipped to handle the increase and provide the public with an exceptional park system. Our departments are constantly looking towards the future to determine how they can better serve the community and preserve the natural heritage that has attracted people to this region for centuries,” stated Chairman Jack Sellers, Maricopa County Board of Supervisor, District 1.
What does this continued growth mean for the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department? “As the manager of one of the largest and most unique county park systems in the country, our team needs to keep a watchful eye on recreational trends so we can alter our business models to accommodate for increased services. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, our regional parks were flooded with individuals seeking outdoor recreation opportunities. Our parks quickly adapted their service models to accommodate the influx of park visitors,” said R.J. Cardin, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Director.
“In 2009, the Parks Department rolled out its new Strategic System Master Plan. While the 2009 plan paved the path for systemwide capital improvement projects, an online campground reservation system, and increased park programming to enhance park visitor experiences, it’s time to reassess the community’s needs and determine how we can best support the demand for recreation opportunities both now and in the future,” said Supervisor Bill Gates, District 3.
Last year, the department began working on its Strategic System Master Plan: Parks Vision 2030. This plan will build on the 2009 plan and incorporate the legacy of the original 1965 system master plan by focusing on the impact of growth on natural resources and enhancing the quality of life by providing access to nature. The plan will also focus on looking outside of existing park boundaries and expanding the lens to include park and open space opportunities across Maricopa County to best serve the needs of current and future generations of county residents and park visitors.
“Over the past year, our team has been gathering data, researching trends, and building the framework of Parks Vision 2030. We’ve worked hard to ensure that our plan aligns with the County’s Vision 2030 Comprehensive Plan and takes into consideration existing local and federal plans. We are also dedicated to working with these agencies to strengthen our partnerships so we can provide exemplary services and while protecting the natural resources across the region,” added Cardin. “I’m convinced we can continue to grow our economy and protect special places!”
Outreach efforts on goals and priorities for the updated plan began earlier this year with virtual focus groups that included participation from over sixty non-profit organizations, local, state, and federal partners, as well as park staff and other County officials.
In early November, the department will hold two virtual public meetings to collect feedback from community members on the future of the regional park system. “To successfully plan for the future of the regional park system, it is important that the department hears from the community,” stated Supervisor Clint Hickman, District 4.
The sessions are designed to provide attendees with an overview of the park system and master planning process while collecting feedback and answering questions. The first portion of the forum will focus on topics such as Parks history, evolution, and future planning efforts. Immediately following, the focus will turn to sharing feedback received already and collecting information from attendees on overall perceptions of facilities, services, programming, and demand for future opportunities.
“We strongly encourage the community to attend these forums to provide feedback. Their comments can and will help shape the future of Maricopa County’s regional park system,” added Supervisor Steve Gallardo, District 5. For a complete listing of upcoming forum dates and locations, visit maricopacountyparks.net/about-us/project-overview and join the contact list to stay notified about project updates.