Credit Curtis Clark - Coming Soon To A Park Near You
As the fate of state and city parks continue to dominate headlines, the vitality of Maricopa County’s park system has gone seemingly unnoticed. While Arizona State Parks staff prepare for looming closures, Maricopa County park staff respond to local and out-of-state residents who are eager to find out what will happen to the county’s park system this spring and into the future.
“Out of respect for our sister agencies, we’ve tried to avoid touting the fact that all of the county parks are still open for business. However, we’re discovering that our silence is feeding rumors that we’re closing and further confusing visitors,” stated R.J. Cardin, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department director.
“There’s no denying times are tough and we’ve all had to make deep cuts. While we empathize deeply with these agencies, we still have a responsibility to our customers and need to make sure that they know the county parks are open for business and are ready to provide visitors with services, programs and resources to connect with nature.”
Over the past two years, Maricopa County’s Parks and Recreation Department has experienced a 62 percent budget cut, which has resulted in postponed capital improvement projects, reductions in staff and stretched operating budgets. Although the department has taken a huge hit, Cardin continues to assure visitors that the system is structurally sound and does not anticipate closing parks.
With over 120,000 acres of pristine Sonoran desert, Maricopa County’s park system is one of the largest regional park systems in the United States. There are ten parks in the County’s park system that circle the metropolitan area and are within a 45-minute drive from downtown Phoenix.
Parks include —
• Cave Creek Regional Park,
• Estrella Mountain Regional Park,
• Lake Pleasant Regional Park,
• McDowell Mountain Regional Park,
• San Tan Mountain Regional Park,
• Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area,
• Usery Mountain Regional Park, and
• White Tank Mountain Regional Park
Each park offers a wide range of educational programming opportunities and trails for hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding.
“Right now, we’re preparing for what we hope will be an impressive wildflower season. During the spring, some of the most beautiful palettes of blues, yellows and reds found in the Sonoran desert are in the County parks,” Cardin added.
“We’re also putting the final touches on several large scale events such as the Day of the Spanish Horse at Estrella and the Dam Good Run at Lake Pleasant.”
The park entry fee is $6 per vehicle and includes use of the facilities and most programming opportunities. Revenue generated from entrance fees is used to operate and maintain the parks. For additional information on Maricopa County’s park system, contact (602) 506-2930 or visit
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