Some clouds this evening will give way to mainly clear skies overnight. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 84F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph..
Some clouds this evening will give way to mainly clear skies overnight. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 84F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: August 11, 2023 @ 4:38 pm
Queen Creek is in the final stages of infusing nearly 150 acres of new green space into its parks and recreation system for the town’s booming population.
The town’s existing parks are currently strained by double-digit population growth and a constant demand for sports fields.
Crews just broke ground on Phase II of Mansel Carter Oasis Park near the corner of Sossaman and Ocotillo roads.
Once complete, the 62-acre $13.5 million facility will host a big, existing shipwreck-themed splash pad and other water attractions, a 5-acre fishing lake and skate plaza, six new sand volleyball courts, four pickleball courts, an outdoor fitness zone, open green space, new restrooms, and half a dozen new tennis courts.
“What’s special about it is putting more tennis courts together in one location instead of spreading them around to enable the tennis community to build in Queen Creek,” said Adam Robinson, town community services deputy director.
“Whenever they go to play tennis, they are playing together, they are connecting with other tennis players and that just helps to grow the sport,” he said. “And so, we’re kind of excited about that tennis community starting to grow there.”
Queen Creek opened the first phase of Mansel Carter Oasis Park in 2018 and has had an eye on expanding it ever since.
“We are thrilled to be expanding the park, as promised when it opened,” Vice Mayor Jeff Brown said in a press release. “As a Council, we continue to prioritize public safety and critical infrastructure like roads and utilities. And, with much of that under construction or in design, we can continue to enhance the high quality of life that we enjoy here in Queen Creek.”
Mansel Carter Oasis is part of a double-barreled plan to increase Queen Creek’s park space in one fell swoop.
It is being completed at the same time that crews are constructing the brand new, $67-million, 86-acre, Frontier Family Park, which will feature six full-sized baseball and softball fields, three multipurpose fields, typically used for soccer, a pair of basketball courts and two sand volleyball courts.
It will have a large playground for kids like the one at Mansel Carter Oasis Park, a fishing lake,and a walking track encircling it. There will be no shortage of things to do for all age groups.
To some degree, Queen Creek is playing catch up with its park space.
As part of its Master Plan, the town was focusing on creating the police department and expanding its fire department and increasing roads and other infrastructure elements. Park expansion took a bit of a back seat.
Then there were economic elements beyond anyone’s control that slowed progress still further, but turned out only to be a bump in the road.
“The town has been growing non-stop since the early 2000’s with only a slowdown during the Great Recession and after the Great Recession. the town continued to grow and we weren’t able at that time to add park spaces to match the population figures,” Robinson said.
A lot of the focus in Queen Creek has been on schools, roadway infrastructure, the affordability and availability of housing in and around town, job creation, water security and other critical needs for any community.
Robinson said with those priorities now either met or being addressed, parks have come front and center.
“We’ve been in a hypergrowth mode. We are a very young community with lots of families,” Robinson said. “And providing these outdoor spaces is really what creates the quality of life that makes people want to live here.”
Design, planning and construction
of a park can seem staggering. There is far more to it than turning a piece of empty land into a place where people can gather for recreation or organized sporting events.
There is a massive amount of infrastructure involved.
At Frontier Park for example, crews are even having to work with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on irrigation issues, with utility companies on underground electrical wiring and lighting, and with contractors, engineers, and environmentalists on several issues.
Same goes for something seemingly as simple as naming a park. The bureaucracy is surprising.
“We do have a park-naming policy,” Robinson said, “which we followed through.”
When a park project is initially conceived by officials, it must endure scrutiny and several steps first.
“Ultimately, you get feedback from the community,” he said. “It goes through the Parks and Rec Advisory Committee, which makes a recommendation to council and Town Council makes final determination on a park’s name.”
Oasis was added to the Mansel Carter Park’s existing name because of the addition of the fishing lake, Robinson said. “Because water in the middle of the desert is what people consider an oasis.”
Demands on the Parks and Recreation Department have grown to the point that Queen Creek has just hired a new recreation supervisor to oversee people and programs associated with it.
Nia Fanaika will be in charge of things that run the age spectrum, from programs for preschoolers and seniors to managing staff, operations, and special events. Fanaika said her life experiences made her well-suited for the role.
“I was brought up in sports,” she said. “Recreation was always an avenue and direction I wanted to take. With the huge growth we are sustaining, I am excited and passionate about this career.”
According to a 2021 Citizen Survey, Fanaika will stay busy.
The survey said, “81% of Queen Creek residents reported visiting a Town Park in the past year with 33% visiting a park more than 10 times. In a separate survey also conducted in 2021, 75% of residents reported wanting a town aquatic center and/or recreational center.”
Parks were originally designed to encourage active lifestyles and reduce health costs, according to the City Parks Alliance. “Parks encourage active lifestyles and reduce health costs,” its website reads.
The Alliance calls itself the “only
independent, nationwide membership organization solely dedicated to
Queen Creek’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan Vision mirrors that mission.
“A sustainable, balanced recreation system that offers a wide variety of activities serving people of all ages and reflecting the heritage and culture of Queen Creek,” it reads.
While there are certainly more
amenities in today’s parks than there used to be, park use in Queen Creek has remained consistent over the last few decades, Robinson said. And the role that parks play has stayed almost the same, too.
“There is still the need for those public gathering spaces,” Robinson said. “The parks become that core of what a community is built around. They create the opportunity for the community to connect, to get to know each other. And the more a community is connected, the higher quality of life that the community and the residents have.”
Frontier Family Park and Mansel Carter Oasis Park are scheduled to open together by the end of next year.
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