Park activist Alden Rosbrook said he used to think Maricopa County officials were crazy for allowing input from every possible interest group while updating the master plan for San Tan Mountains Regional Park.
"One person said that hang gliders should have the opportunity to fly off one of the mountains in the park," said Rosbrook, head of preservationist group San Tan Mountains Pride.
But now that the long and contentious planning process has drawn to a close, Rosbrook and others said the final product is a better plan that reflects a variety of interests and shows the county seriously considered all input.
The Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department released its fifth and final newsletter last week to inform outdoor enthusiasts about changes to the regional park, along with a summary of the planning process that included six "open house" meetings and a special Web site to provide updates and gather feedback.
Rosbrook said Maricopa County, which manages San Tan park despite its Pinal County location, came a long way from its original plans to sell off one-fourth of the land to developers, close a heavily traveled dirt road and restrict park access to one entry.
In the end, county officials kept the park’s two protruding "fingers," created a conservation area on the southernmost portion, allowed Brenner Pass Road on the east side to remain open and designated four visitor entry points.
"There was a lot of giveand-take and compromise in this thing, which in the beginning we didn’t think was possible," Rosbrook said.
Most setbacks in the process centered on the park’s south finger, including failed negotiations with the Gila River Indian Community to sell or lease the land for conservation in exchange for gaming revenue.
Gilbert officials gave strong support to a proposed mountain biking trail that would have been suitable for competitive races, but nearby residents objected to the possible noise and traffic. Park planners have said the track still could be added to another area of the park.