Sixteen-year-old Sarah Love used to frequent Park of the Canals near her west Mesa home until “it just got a little creepy.” That may change very soon, thanks to the dogged efforts of a group of residents who banded together two years ago, determined to reinstall playground equipment and once again make the park an attraction for kids and families.
Sixteen-year-old Sarah Love used to frequent Park of the Canals near her west Mesa home until “it just got a little creepy.”
“I miss hanging out there,” said Love, saying she stopped after the park started “going downhill” about four years ago.
That may change very soon, thanks to the dogged efforts of a group of residents who banded together two years ago, determined to reinstall playground equipment and once again make the park an attraction for kids and families, instead of, as described by one resident, “being a magnet for drug dealers, transients and those looking for sexual liaisons.”
In fact, with a $230,000 donation from the Home Depot Foundation and the nonprofit group KaBOOM!, this historic park, known for its ancient Indian canals, and another unused land parcel called Beverly Park, also owned by the city, are both getting a shot at revitalization. On May 28 and June 3, hundreds of volunteers from the foundation, local organizations and the community will get together to help build playgrounds at both sites.
Local residents played a major role in both efforts, and with support from the city and local nonprofits, they’re coming to fruition.
Councilman Dave Richins, who represents the district where Park of the Canals is located, credits 31-year-old Mesa resident Bert Millett for galvanizing support.
Millett said when he moved to the neighborhood, near Horne and McKellips Road, about three years ago, he noticed the lack of playground equipment in the park.
“There’s quite a few young families in the area and this was the only park within walking distance,” he said. “I just had to do something.”
So he got together some neighbors, and applied for a grant to KaBoom! The national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., helps build children’s playgrounds across the country. A matching $10,000 grant, which was needed to be eligible for the money, was raised with the help of the Foundation for Mesa Parks and Recreation, Salt River Project and Mesa West Rotary Club.
The park opened in 1980. But in 2005, after the equipment on the 5,000-square-foot playground was worn out, the city had it removed, save for a couple of swing sets. Because of a lack of funding, the equipment was not replaced.
While the park is still open, the city had to close the restrooms because of crime incidents and transients.
Desert vegetation marks much of the 30-acre area, which features an ancient Indian canals system, a botanical garden with rare cactuses and picnic ramadas.
Now, restrooms and a bridge will be painted. Handprinted tiles will be placed on two winglike structures outside the restrooms. Mesa police will have a neighborhood office at the park. The botanical garden also will get a face-lift.
The other beneficiary, Beverly Park, is located near Main Street, east of Alma School Road.
Jo Ellen McNamara, executive director of the West Mesa Community Development Corporation, said there is “overwhelming concern” in west Mesa of not having enough green spaces, especially for kids to play.
Mesa had bought the 2.8-acre piece of land in 2003 for nearly $275,000 using a federal grant. The city spent an additional $40,000 or so to do park design. But because of the shaky economy, Mesa had no money to build it. In the last two years, the vacant piece of property became a problem, generating police calls and driving up maintenance issues, especially because of graffiti.
Last year, city officials considered selling the land, but the Mesa Grande Community Alliance, an active neighborhood group, with McNamara’s help, sought time to get more community input. KaBoom! happened to approach West Mesa Community Development Corporation around this time, and McNamara helped connect the two. Now, the city is preparing the ground for a 5,000-square-foot play area to be set up shortly.
Carolyn Crandell, a 44-year Mesa resident who is on Mesa Grande’s steering committee, said building this park helps improve west Mesa.
“It’s the older part of town and we want to keep it in the right direction,” she said.
Those interested in volunteering or donating for Beverly Park can call McNamara at (480) 964-3751 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.