San Tan Mountain Regional Park has come a long way. Five years ago this month, San Tan Mountain Regional Park celebrated its official grand opening with the completion of a master plan funded by Maricopa County, Queen Creek, Gilbert, Mesa and Chandler.
But that event celebrated a 10,100-acre park with no official walking or biking trails, no park rangers, no restrooms, no picnic tables and no camp sites or other amenities — all it had was the picturesque mountain of its namesake.
Even though the parkland had been preserved since the 1980s, area residents said that before the opening five years ago, people didn’t know if the area was an official park, its operating hours, or where the entrance was.
“This used to be just a dirt road back here,” said David Jordan, park supervisor.
But since the opening, Maricopa County, which owns the park located in Pinal County, has added a visitors center, meeting rooms, restrooms, picnic tables, trails, signs and programming.
The park is also home to a desert tortoise habitat and the Nathan Martens Arizona Memorial, honoring Arizona’s war dead from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“We’re working on things around the visitors center and there are things slated for future development,” Jordan said.
“Our big thing we’ve been implementing are programs and events.”
Future additions include benches, ramadas, camping and more park activities.
Maricopa County Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Dawna Taylor said along with growing facilities, park use has grown steadily — by 3,500 to 4,000 users a year.
“We’re seeing small leaps and bounds,” Taylor said.
According to attendance numbers from 2003-04, the earliest Taylor could provide, the park saw 5,730 visitors.
In fiscal year 2006-07, that number had grown to 20,192.
Park neighbor and San Tan Mountain PRIDE Association member Alden “Ros” Rosbrook said he’s glad to see the park better preserved.
“I think it’s going in the right direction now,” Rosbrook said. “We’ve seen a lot — many animals, illegal dumping, weapon fire, parties — because the park is right behind us. It’s quite a bit different than it was originally. I think we’ve got a good park, a good park supervisor and we’re offering a lot of services and citizen involvement.”
Jordan said park officials are working to get more residents involved in the park.
He said new activities added this year are drawing more participants.
“We’re offering a wide variety for people to choose from, and we’re trying to target all different types of users to get people out here to enjoy the park.”