Mesa’s plan to replace the 25-acre softball complex at Riverview Park could mean that basketball and tennis courts, walking trails, picnic areas and open space could be lost in the west side parks, according to the city’s preliminary proposal.
On Tuesday, the city’s Park and Recreation Advisory Board caught a first glimpse of the parks proposal — spurred by momentum of the Waveyard water park resort, which could be built on 125 acres of city-owned land near Riverview Park.
The city doesn’t have any firm plans to purchase new parks to compensate for the loss at Riverview Park, according to city documents.
Instead, the proposal, which was unveiled for the first time Tuesday, shows four new softball fields being built on existing park land at Riverview Park and Kleinman Park, at Eighth Street and Extension Road.
Rhett Evans, Mesa’s parks and recreation director, said the proposal was to spark a brainstorming session among residents and the parks board. About 25 residents attended two meetings on the proposal.
“Bombard us with ideas so that we can take them back to the drawing board,” Evans said.
All of the proposals would displace basketball and tennis courts, volleyball courts and open space that’s used for family gatherings, pickup games of soccer and picnics at the two parks. Opponents immediately pushed back.
“Whose idea was it — and I call it a hare-brained idea — to move the Riverview ball fields into an existing park?” demanded Mesa resident Marilynn Wennerstrom.
The first map shows Riverview Park would be trimmed down to roughly 28 acres, city officials say. About 6 acres of it would become a “linear park” with a walking trail and fitness amenities along Eighth Street, both east and west of Evergreen Street.
Two of Riverview Park’s four ball fields would be built on the north side of an urban lake stocked with fish at Riverview Park, and on top of green space and shelters for picnics.
Mesa resident Robert Meyers said he’s used Riverview Park for family gatherings in the past. While he said he supports Waveyard, he saw the proposal as a loss of park land.
“You’re taking away amenities from the park as it exists,” he said.
Maps two, three and four show two to three more ball fields built at Kleinman Park. City officials said the park’s reconfiguration would be done with the construction of two ball fields at Riverview.
However, some Parks and Recreation Advisory Board members said at the meeting that they were unaware that the proposal was structured in that way.
The additional ball fields at Kleinman would be built on top of a large field used for soccer matches, playground equipment, tennis courts and a “wheels park” where skateboarders, rollerbladers and bikers ride. In one map, the city proposes relocating the playground and building an urban fishing lake.
But board member David Martinez complained that it was clear west Mesa would lose park land as part of the proposal.
“That’s a significant loss of open space,” he said. “It’s totally disproportionate. It’s not even close to being equal.”
Mesa resident Nate Caine said he was “livid” at the proposed redesign of Riverview Park, which he said was not part of the city’s original pitch. And squeezing park features into existing parks in an urbanized part of the city was short-sighted, he said.
“This may be your last opportunity to acquire something in west Mesa,” he said.