Before Maricopa was a city, it had a park. Back when the Heritage District was not called the Heritage District but was just Maricopa, the local Rotary Club saw the unincorporated community’s need for safe recreation.
The club was only 2 years old in 1956 when it decided the community needed a pool. According to Patricia Brock’s “Reflections of a Desert Town,” Rotarians John Smith and Fred Enke donated 3.5 acres, and the club raised money and donated labor to construct the swimming pool in 1958.
The park included a lawn shaded by trees, a ramada with picnic tables and grills, a basketball court, volleyball pit and bathrooms.
For decades, the pool was the place to go in the summer.
But times changed in Maricopa. The community grew, eventually incorporating and building a city park called Pacana. When Copper Sky Regional Park and its aquatic center opened in 2014, Maricopa Rotary Club closed its swimming pool.
Now, the city maintains the lawn area while the Rotary Club manages the now-drained pool, locked restrooms, basketball court and ramada.
The Maricopa City Council is contemplating taking over Rotary Park to make sure the Heritage District continues to have a usable park.
The Council seems to favor taking ownership of park, but the debate over how much of the park to maintain remains a divisive issue.
“We would like to acquire at least the park and get the restrooms open,” Maricopa Community Services Directory Kristie Riester said. “Right now the bathrooms are secured and closed off and unavailable for people that are accessing the park to use.”
Rotary President Aron Rausch said he has doubts the property can legally be split between two owners, another issue to be studied by City Hall.
If the Council moves forward with the purchase of the park, the city would conduct a survey of the park. The cost of the survey is approximately $6,320 and another $7,300 is expected to go toward renovations of the restrooms.
Though the city has not done a study of the pool costs, City Manager Gregory Rose estimated repair costs and bringing up to code would exceed $500,000. Reister said her rough guess for renovating the existing structure was $1 million.
Don Pearce, who had helped maintain the pool since 1959, took issue with those figures. “It’s ridiculous what they’re talking about,” he said. “That pool was built better than any other pool anywhere. It’s structurally good. I can’t imagine what they’re gonna do to it that costs that much money. We don’t need gold fixtures in there.” See related story
“When I first moved here, we used that pool a lot,” City Councilmember Vincent Manfredi said. “Does Rotary have any intention to spend the million dollars to fix it? If they don’t, there is no point in not acquiring the whole (park) and just taking the pool out or repurposing it. Otherwise it’s just going to fall apart, become an eyesore or create a hazard.”
Ideas such as a community garden or playground equipment have been mentioned as an alternative if the pool is filled in.
“I think the issue here is if there is interest in having the city staff move forward and start these negotiations,” Mayor Christian Price said. “The long-term plan needs to be brought back before us so we can make the ultimate decision. If (the park is) going to come to us, then it needs to be of a new use. We have to have the right to change that in the future.”
Another issue surrounding the park is whether it will stay a park when the State Route 347 overpass is built.
One of the elements of the overpass is the redirection of traffic from Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway to Honeycutt Road. The Arizona Department of Transportation is working on an alternative that would expand an existing access road by Maricopa Unified School District and direct it through to the MCG Highway.
If ADOT sticks to that plan, the road would be directly adjacent to and even within the borders of Rotary Park. That could affect park operations.
If the park is no longer used as a park, the ownership rights are transferred back to the original title holder, Maricopa Community Services Company, because it was deeded to the Rotary Club as a park.
“I’m concerned about the clause that if it no longer serves as a park it reverts back to the granter,” Councilmember Peggy Chapados said. “We can’t guarantee what the future of that land will be. With the future of Maricopa-Casa Grande and the 347 and the changes in that area, we can’t guarantee what it will be.”
This story appeared in the March issue of InMaricopa News.