Gilbert officials are working to build a park in a part of town that currently lacks town-owned recreation options.
The town’s Parks, Recreation, and Library Advisory Board approved unanimously a plan that would lead to the construction of a new park in the southern part of town. Parks and Recreation Director Rod Buchanan said the two locations include a plot of land at Chandler Heights Basin encompassing 309 acres and a second parcel covering 80 acres total near the intersection of Greenfield and Chandler Heights roads. The caveat with the Chandler Heights location stems from the fact the town owns only 47 acres of it, meaning it would have to reach an agreement with Maricopa County to acquire or use the rest of the land.
The decision to build a new park is one of the 200 action items that are part of the town’s parks and recreation master plan, and its placement on that list is tied to the lack of options in the southern part of town. Discovery Park is the public park that sits farthest south in town, and Buchanan pointed out that park is almost 8 miles away from Gilbert’s southernmost point.
“If you’re going to do a park, the logical place would be the south side of town,” he said.
Mayor John Lewis added building a community park in that part of Gilbert is one of the Gilbert Town Council’s top priorities.
The reason for the heavy emphasis is the anticipated growth for that section of Gilbert, which Lewis said is undergoing high growth along with the rest of town — the most recent U.S. Census figures have Gilbert ranked as the 12th-fastest-growing municipality in the country. Adding a park to the region might provide an uptick to that growth, as Lewis said his family moved to its current location due in part to a park near his neighborhood.
The general idea for developing a new park, Buchanan said, is add to the value of what Gilbert already has without repeating what other nearby parks already have. In other words, the town wouldn’t want to have two versions of a place like the Riparian Preserve.
But the far-out location does provide Gilbert an opportunity to incorporate amenities from a few of its other parks considering the distance the potential new place would be from the others.
Lewis said the next step is for the council to review the proposal at its upcoming retreat in August, making it an early step in a multi-step process for Gilbert that could take more than three years.
“There’s so much that goes into the public process to build a park,” Buchanan said.
Some of those additional steps include figuring out how to pay for the construction of it — the town, for example, could opt to go after bond funding to cover it — selecting the aforementioned amenities to place in it and even picking which site to build the location on.
The lattermost depends in part on if the town wants to go through the process of acquiring the 262 acres needed for the Chandler Heights location or using the parcel it already owns. The first option does provide its own unique opportunities for Gilbert, as Buchanan said the Chandler Heights site is large enough for the town to host events like a park-contained 5K run.
“It would be a unique feature for Gilbert,” he said.
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