Get Serious About Parks

We know how to build streets. Oh, brother, we've got the experience there. Wish we paid as much attention to building parks. You've got to wonder about a city's priorities when it has a specific five-year street-building plan, but parks are built catch-as-catch-can.

The new council needs to put our much-needed recreation space in the same league as those mundane streets. It needs to adopt at least a five-year park plan, with specific projects outlined for each year.

We're talking about close-to-home parks--you know, those areas for peace and play that actually should have grass. Little neighborhood swaths of lawn and trees and benches. Medium-sized areas with exercise courses and activity centers for kids and oldsters. Big regional acreage with basketball courts, tennis courts and pools.

The lack of a parks plan shows when you look at a map of the city. We do have some fine parks, and the Parks Board is always trying to develop new ones. But there are huge areas--like in the neighborhood of 32nd Street and Greenway--that are dense with housing and absolutely bereft of parkland.

There is no argument with the bitter truth that we are short of parkland. The city's own long-range parkland plan says Phoenix has 2.71 acres of close-to-home parks per 1,000 people. Sound great? The "low national standard," city officials say, is 6.25 acres per 1,000, and the "high national standard" is 10.5 acres. Our rapidly growing Deer Valley Village, from Greenway Road north to Jomax Road, stretching from 16th Street to 51st and 67th Avenues, has only 1.15 acres of close-to-home parks per 1,000 people. We have specific long-range plans for streets in that area, but not for parks.

Treating parkland development as a distant cousin instead of a close family member means funds are erratic and insufficient. For example, money to buy new land for parks will drop from $3.8 million in 1989-90 to $500,000 in 1992-93. That is not a long-range commitment.

Now is the time to get serious about parks. The new council should immediately set up committees and public hearings. It should give more clout to its city-chartered Parks Board. And the public must get off its duff and demand more parkland.

Quality of life? Go to your favorite park, take a stroll and think about it.

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Ward Harkavy
Contact: Ward Harkavy

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