Category Archives: Parks & Open Space

Share your opinion on a Skateboard Plaza in downtown Phoenix

Last week, this blog noted that the Rob Dyrdek Foundation has donated $50,000 to design and build a skate park in the City of Phoenix. At the time, Phoenix Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski stated:

I’m thrilled to help bring a world-class skate course to my district. Residents have voiced concerns for additional recreational activities where they live and despite an economic downturn and budget cuts, we’re still able to create this opportunity for youth and families.

One of the sites that is seriously being considered is Hance Park.  It is downtown, pedestrian-friendly, accessible by numerous forms of public transit and near several schools and active neighborhoods.

Lafayette Skate Spot Rendering via Rob Dyrdek Foundation

City of Phoenix staff are looking for people express their opinions to the Parks Board at their next meeting, this Wednesday, September 1st, at 10AM.  The meeting will be held in the Parks Conference Room on the 16th floor of City Hall, 200 W. Washington.

For further information on the meeting, please call Marcia Wilson, Secretary, Parks and Recreation Department at 602-262-4993.

If you can not attend the meeting, you can share you opinion by sending an email to receptionist.pks@phoenix.gov and your respective city council member.

Downtown Phoenix lifeguards are best in Arizona

[Via: City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department]

Lifeguards at Phoenix Parks and Recreation pools earned top team honors at this year’s statewide annual American Red Cross Ultimate Lifeguard Challenge on July 18.

Competing against 48 teams from throughout the state, the team of four City of Phoenix pool staff members won the Top Overall Team category, the Coed Active Victim Rescue and the Coed Rescue Tube Relay events and placed second in the Submerged Object Recovery event.

The American Red Cross holds the competition each year to test speed and rescue skill for lifeguards. All City of Phoenix lifeguards are American Red Cross certified.

James Campbell, Rachel Rodia, Alicia King and Charles Woodruff represented the City of Phoenix at the competition. They work at Mountain View, University and Harmon pools.  (Both University and Harmon pools are close to downtown Phoenix.)

Information on city of Phoenix pools, including information on lifeguard training and certification, is available online at phoenix.gov/parks or by calling 602-262-6541.

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North, south improvements set for downtown Phoenix Civic Space Park

Civic Space Park looking north towards historic U.S. Post Office

[Source: Salvador Rodriguez, ASU Downtown Devil] — The city of Phoenix will break ground to expand the Civic Space north toward the U.S. Post Office in late April and will begin to renovate Central Station this summer, the project managers said Tuesday.  Tom Byrne, Civic Space expansion project manager, said the construction will add more trees and green space and will grow the park by nearly a half-acre.

Byrne also said the expansion will give the Civic Space another shade structure and area adjacent with the Federal Post Office’s truck dock that could potentially be used as a second stage.   Byrne said expansion should be complete sometime next fall and said the construction will be of “little impact to anybody using the building and/or the site.”

The city of Phoenix will use stimulus money to make Central Station more sustainable and convenient for passengers, said Mark Melnychenko, principal planner and project manager.   “That’s really the key, especially in our environment, to make (Central Station) a pleasant passenger area,” he said.

Melnychenko said the city will renovate the building at Central Station, use LED fixtures, add shade structures similar to the ones used for light rail stations, and will add a photovoltaic system to the building’s roof to power some of the station with solar energy. Melnychenko said the city chose to renovate Central Station but cause it is key to their public transportation system.  “It’s really a connecting point for transit for the central city,” he said.

The renovated Central Station will no longer include the historic display of past Phoenix buses located at its southwest corner, which will be moved off-site, Melnychenko said.   Also, Melnychenko said Central Station will match the Civic Space by adapting its color scheme and using a lot of similar plant life.  The project is expected to be complete in early 2011, Melnychenko said.  [Note: Read the full article at North, south improvements set for downtown Phoenix Civic Space Park.]

Phoenix General Plan “community dialogue” this Saturday, 3/6

The city’s Planning Department will hold a “Community Dialogue” on its General Plan update 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 6, at Phoenix City Hall, 200 W. Washington St.  Residents are invited to discuss a land-use vision for Phoenix by answering the question “Where do we want to go?”

This is the first of two workshops.  The second, to be held in May, will focus on answering “How do we get there?” by allowing participants to develop action items based on discussions from the first workshop.  The General Plan provides comprehensive direction for the growth, conservation, and redevelopment for all land-use aspects of the city.  The General Plan provides goals, policies, and recommendations for the next 10 years.

For more information on the General Plan Update, send an e-mail, call 602-261-8289, visit the website, and follow on Twitter.

Seating for these workshops is limited.   Contact Carol Johnson at 602-261-8289 to reserve your space.

Phoenix City Council approves budget plan, 7-2

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — Despite opposition from two members, the Phoenix City Council on Tuesday approved a budget plan that eliminates 520 jobs and requires $64 million in cuts to parks, public transit, after-school programs, and the arts.  But it contains none of the severe cuts to public safety, senior centers, and libraries that were proposed in late January.  Under the spending plan, no sworn police officers or firefighters will be laid off, and no senior centers, libraries, large community centers, or softball fields will be closed.  City officials clarified that fewer than 50 full-time employees would actually be laid off, due to vacancies, retirements, and efforts to transfer police officers and other workers into other departments.

The general-fund budget adopted Tuesday was drastically different from the initial proposal that called for cutting $140 million in services and axing 1,300 jobs, including pink slips for hundreds of police officers and firefighters.  City leaders managed to save city jobs and services primarily by imposing a sales tax on groceries, using unspent money in a public-safety fund, and getting labor unions to agree to a 3.2 percent concession in wages and benefits.  “Hundreds of people’s jobs will be saved because of the measures we have taken here,” City Manager David Cavazos said.

Annual budgets in Phoenix typically are approved on a unanimous vote, but Council members Peggy Neely and Sal DiCiccio voted against the budget and said this plan contained elements that lacked transparency and were impossible to support.  They pointed to Mayor Phil Gordon’s move last month to push through a 2 percent food tax without adequate public input.  And they blasted a plan by budget officials to shift more than 20 police officers into the Water, Aviation, and Transit departments to save their jobs, a move that law enforcement and management argued would boost security at water plants, the airport, and on light rail.  “I’m very concerned with how we built this,” Neely said during a seven-hour meeting at the Orpheum Theatre.

Gordon and six other council members supported the budget, which runs through June 2011.  The cuts take effect April 5.  They come just a year after the council slashed a record $156 million from the roughly $1 billion general-fund budget.  Among the most severe reductions this time:

  • The city’s after-school program will close at 25 of 55 sites during the school year and the summer program will shut down completely.
  • The city also will stop funding the Shemer Art Center and Museum and Arizona Horse Lovers Park, which could be operated by private groups.
  • Visitor centers at North Mountain, South Mountain, and Rio Salado parks will be shuttered.
  • Bus service along several routes will be reduced by 15 percent and the DASH Downtown Loop bus will be eliminated.
  • Riders also will have to wait longer for light rail during peak hours, though late-night weekend service will be preserved.
  • Some departments will be consolidated, including the City Clerk’s Office and Information Technology.
  • And cuts will claim two top officials in the City Manager’s Office, as well as positions in the mayor and council offices.

In recent weeks, 4,500 residents attended 15 public hearings on the budget. About 500 sent e-mails or made phone calls to the city. Many said that without preserving the arts, culture and recreation in the city, Phoenix would fall into urban decay.  “What I heard is that we are a city that is more than just a police force.  I also heard that we simply cannot be a city-police state,” said Councilman Tom Simplot, who attended a handful of the hearings.  “This budget reflects that to be the best we can, we need our youth centers, our libraries, our art centers.”

Added library advocate Dan Cook: “I am a retired senior citizen and my wife and I live on a fixed income, but I am willing to pay that tax to keep our city vital and alive.”  A handful of African-American community leaders made one final plea to restore year-round funding for the decades-old South Phoenix Youth Center. Food-tax revenue will keep it open only during summers.  “You’re closing the community out by closing these centers,” said longtime Valley broadcaster Art Mobley.

Voice your ideas on connecting Rio Salado to downtown Phoenix, Feb. 11

[Source: City of Phoenix] — The first of three stakeholders meetings to discuss the HOPE VI Rio Salado Connector Trail to downtown Phoenix has been scheduled for Thursday, February 11 at 5:30 p.m., 1150 S. 7th Ave. (northwest corner of 7th Avenue and Buckeye; the yellow building with bell tower).  Please attend to contribute to the pedestrian improvements plan for this project.

This session will be held as part of the Matthew Henson Village Community Action Team meeting.  For more information, please contact Gail Brinkmann, City of Phoenix Street Transportation Department, 602-495-2073.

Street BMXing in downtown Phoenix

Havin a good ol’ time in downtown Phoenix with John Seitz, Aaron Milhorn, John John, Jake Cohoe, Josh Bigar, Piggy, Jamey Welsh, Cody Clark, John Paul, Wolfman, and James Brooks. While riding we came across the Cult Crew in the middle of filming for their Phoenix/L.A. edit. You can see Mr. Roche in the background of a few clips along with Chase Dehart, Chase Hawk, Trey Jones, Robbie Moralis, and even Sean Sexton. What a great way to end a great session.

Phoenix residents vow to fight cuts to city programs

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — As Phoenix leaders prepare to whittle $140 million in city services to help close a $245 million budget gap, neighbors say they are ready to fight for popular programs.  The proposed cuts will be announced this week, and there will be public hearings next month at which residents can voice their concerns before the final vote, scheduled for March 2.  But residents aren’t waiting to have their say.

In central Phoenix, downtown activists are worried about two neighborhood parks that they fear could become havens for crime if they lost funding.  In west and south Phoenix, residents want the city to stop trimming library hours.  And in northeast Phoenix, horse enthusiasts are concerned about a popular equestrian park…

The latest round of cuts comes one year after the city slashed $156 million in city services to close a $270 million general-fund budget shortfall.  City leaders are considering a proposed 2 percent grocery tax that could generate $50 million annually.  But even if it is implemented, the city would still have to cut about $100 million in city services.

Since cuts are inevitable, residents also worried that Phoenix may end recreation programs at University and Verde parks.  Cuts at those parks were proposed last year, but the city backed off amid an outcry from the community.  Activists recently spent most of the Downtown Voices Coalition meeting brainstorming ways to shield those parks from more reductions.  Cuts could erase years of community efforts to boost youth programs, discourage gang activity, and make the parks safer, said Reid Butler, a local developer who belongs to the group.

It’s premature to talk about specific programs because no proposals have been made, city spokesman David Urbinato said.

The Parks and Recreation Department has been asked to suggest ways to cut its budget by 30 percent.  At 30 percent, “it would dramatically reduce, if not eliminate” many parks programs, Urbinato said.  The parks would remain open, but the staffing, programs and community centers attached to them would face deep cuts.  “That’s the tragic downside.  There has been massive investment through the system” over the years, Urbinato said.

People now depend on city services more than ever, said Councilman Michael Nowakowski, noting that he and Councilman Michael Johnson represent some of Phoenix’s poorest neighborhoods in west and south Phoenix.

Residents have pressed Nowakowski to protect after-school programs and library hours, the councilman said.  People wait up to three hours to use free computers at César Chavez Library, because they have canceled their Internet service, he said.  Recently, a mother came to a community meeting with an armful of notices about sex offenders who live in her neighborhood, he said.  She wants the city to keep low-cost after-school programs open so her children will be safe, Nowakowski added.  “We need to listen to find out what are the needs and wants for the whole city,” he said.

Viewpoint: Phoenix budget woes, big art, light rail made ’09 quite a year

[Source: Arizona Republic; section headers organized by yours truly] — With this being Christmas week, we figured you wouldn’t want to read a traditional editorial any more than we wanted to write one.  So today, we lighten things up a bit with awards for notable achievements in 2009.

Phoenix Overall

  • Story of the year: Phoenix did the virtually impossible this year — it cut $270 million from the general fund to balance the budget due to low sales-tax revenue.  Residents are feeling the effects with reduced hours or closures of swimming pools, libraries, and senior centers.  They also see more graffiti and potholes because staff is stretched so thin.  Now the city is talking about cutting an additional $100 million or so.  This story is getting old.
  • Best cheerleader: Mayor Phil Gordon earns this award again.  With frequent trips to Washington, D.C., to lobby for stimulus funds, and Janet Napolitano resigning as governor to lead Homeland Security, Gordon is the face of Arizona.
  • Embarrassment: Rep. Ray Barnes’ rambling reasons for voting to cut $144 million from public education.  Grab some eggnog and watch this Phoenix Republican go off.
  • Hot potato: The idea to raise the sales tax temporarily to generate revenue quickly.  Mayor Gordon suggested a community member take on his idea.  But no one wants to touch it.
  • Landmark: The city became the second in the state to offer a domestic-partner registry to gay or straight couples who share a Phoenix residence.  Among other privileges, the registry grants partners visitation rights in hospitals.
  • Pillar: City Manager Frank Fairbanks earns this award again.  He retired this year, but not before balancing the nastiest budget deficit in city history.  Thanks, Frank.

Downtown Focused/Strong Influence

  • Pushin’ on: Light rail has its fans and its foes.  But ridership is up and businesses have sprouted along the line.  The system is approaching it first anniversary.  We say light rail is on track.
  • Newcomer: Janet Echelman’s “Her Secret Is Patience” at the new Civic Space Park downtown opened to much criticism.  Meant to resemble a cactus bloom, the floating sculpture was called everything from a basketball hoop to a male contraceptive.  Not that we mind.  Some of the best artwork in the world drew heavy criticism.  We’re just glad people are noticing what downtown Phoenix has to offer.
  • Comeback: Phoenix Urban Market Grocery and Wine Bar at Central Avenue and Pierce Street is the first grocer to serve the area in 30 years.  It only carries the basics.  But milk, vegetables, bread, pasta and other staples are welcome.
  • Bragging rights: President Barack Obama made three visits to the Valley this year.  One of those was to the new Phoenix Convention Center, where Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention.
  • Feather in the cap: A budding knowledge-based economy, parks and preservation efforts, and teen spaces at public libraries make Phoenix an All-America City.  Now it has the civic award to prove it.  This was Phoenix’s fifth win.  It would be a shame to lose these gains to budget cuts in the down economy.

Other Parts of Phoenix

  • Senseless act: A photo-enforcement-van driver was shot to death while deployed near Loop 101 in north Phoenix.  Thomas DeStories was indicted in connection with the shooting death of Douglas Georgianni.
  • Tallest story: Despite opposition from neighbors, the City Council approved a Mormon temple whose steeple and spire will rise 86 feet above the Deer Valley area.
  • Unsung hero: The Macehualli Day Labor Center in northeastern Phoenix provides a central location for day laborers and potential employers to negotiate business.  The center is for sale.

ASU students design projects for vacant downtown Phoenix lots

ASU sustainability students Carissa Taylor (left), Truman Kiyaani, and Braden Kay with a planter box nearing completion. (Photo source: John Harlow)

[Source: Arizona State University] — Low-cost ideas, including the construction of planter boxes, to transform vacant lots in downtown Phoenix for temporary use until their development, [were] presented on Dec. 8 on the Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix campus.  The multimedia presentation of research models was developed by university students in an urban design practice class taught by Nan Ellin, an associate professor and director of the planning program in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  She also is an affiliate faculty member with ASU’s School of Sustainability.  “In 2000, the Phoenix metropolitan area contained 42.6 percent vacant land, significantly higher than most American cities,” said Pei Zhai, a doctoral student in sustainability.

“To address this vexing challenge, the office of the mayor requested that ASU students develop a model for the temporary use of publicly-owned vacant lots,” explained Ellin.  “In response, students developed the Desert TULIP – Temporary Urban Laboratory Infill Project – a low-cost strategy to transform vacant lots until their development,” Ellin said.

The students were asked to focus specifically on lots south of Garfield between 3rd and 6th Streets, an area designated to become part of the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.   [Note: Read the full article at ASU students design temp use project for downtown Phoenix vacant lots.]