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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Voters Approve Tax Extension for City Parks

Last month, voters approved an extension to the 10-year-old Phoenix Parks and Preserve Initiative (3PI as it is also called), ensuring that preserves like South Mountain Park and city parks including those in the Laveen and South Mountain Villages will get much needed improvements, upgrades and even additional land for the next 30 years.

The tax, which amounts to one cent for every $10 spent, supports the acquisition of acreage for the city’s large preserves and community parks, and the maintenance and improvement of existing space.

According to Cynthia Peters, Phoenix Parks and Preserve Initiative Administrator, the extension means South Mountain will acquire 243 acres from the state land department more quickly. The acquisition, currently in the works, is planned to close within the next year or so. The land, located just west of 19th Avenue and north of Chandler Boulevard, will provide parking and an additional trailhead on the south side of the preserve.

While land acquisition accounts for 40 percent of the spending, 60 percent is spent on the development, maintenance and renovation of existing parks, their trails and structures.

For the South Mountain Park, the extension of the 3PI means ramadas like Las Lomitas, which was closed in 2007 because the roof was falling apart, can be repaired and re-opened to the public. It also means that existing trailheads can be maintained and managed more effectively.

In addition to the wear and tear that nature itself inflicts on the park’s 16,000 acres, the 3,000,000 visitors that traverse its 50+ miles of trail leave their mark, too. This is particularly troublesome for areas like Pima Canyon, on the park’s far east end, which sees as many as 2,000 visitors a day – some on foot, others on horseback or mountain bikes.

Efforts are made to maintain the integrity of existing trails on a regular basis. But in order to continually clear debris, fix washouts and close what Kim Keith, South Mountain Park supervisor, calls “spider” or “wildcat” trails (un-approved paths created by rogue trail users); the park needs trail crews and the money to pay for them. “Without the help of the Phoenix Parks and Preserve Initiative our progress would be a lot slower,” said Keith.

The 3PI also creates new opportunities to enhance community access. This is important especially in residential areas north and south of the park. Lack of parking forces visitors to park on side streets in order to access trailheads. The 3PI will mean more parking lots and more accessible trailheads, thus alleviating some of the disruption to area residents.

In addition, to the upgrades the 3PI will help make possible at South Mountain Park, the initiative will also aid improvements at city parks like Circle K, near 16th Street and Dobbins and El Prado, near 19th Avenue and Baseline Road, including better lighting, updated park equipment and regular maintenance.

According to Peters, the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department has conducted a needs assessment of the city’s parks and preserves. The department is currently working with city council members to schedule meetings with area residents in their districts. “We know what we think needs to be done,” Peters said, “but, we want to hear what residents have to say, too.”

Once those meetings are schedule, notices will go out to area residents.

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