Neighbors talk, Tempe listens

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Residents living near McClintock Drive and Warner Road will be receiving notification from the city of Tempe this week as planners gear up for a Monday, Oct. 30, public meeting regarding a proposed Fire Station #7 to be built at Estrada Park.

Currently, the plan is to build a fire station on park property, which lies behind the McClintock Fountains shopping mall at the busy south Tempe intersection at McClintock and Warner. Some residents in the area have said in the past they do not object to fire and rescue capability being housed nearby but are unhappy that precious green space would be lost and unwanted facilities added as part of the construction.

After weighing input from residents in the area, officials say the city has decided against the addition of certain park facilities, including tennis and sand volleyball courts, as well as a dog park which was opposed by 81 percent of the 73 nearby residents who posted comments on a city website.

In August, members of the Estate La Colina Neighborhood Association formulated a vision statement regarding the park based on responses to the city’s first round of public comment and feedback to board members from neighbors.

The statement reads in part that the group wants to “preserve as much open green space as possible that can be used for recreation by a majority of nearby neighborhood residents of all ages, and not use green space for niche elements that will not be used by a majority of the 380 households in Estate La Colina neighborhood association” as well as other nearby homes.

Niche elements in this case related to the proposed playing courts and the dog park which, according to the group, tend to attract people from distant neighborhoods who could utilize similar amenities at such nearby venues as Kiwanis Park.

In response to those residents’ concerns, the city has decided not include any of the neighborhood-opposed elements in the rework of the park, according to Tempe spokeswoman Nikki Ripley.

Several weeks ago, Mckell Keeney, an Estate La Colina Neighborhood Association board member, contacted Wrangler News following recent public meetings about possible changes at the park. The statement she provided points to neighbors’ desire to preserve as much green space as possible at Estrada Park, as follows:

“We are hearing more and more from residents who value the grass and open sky. They want places to put down a picnic blanket or fly a kite, as the soccer field is often in use,” the statement reads.

Neighbors were also objecting to the fact that mature trees at the park would be cut down to make way for the fire station and replaced with smaller trees that will take years to grow and provide shade.

The city of Tempe estimates that 1¼-1½ acres of the 8-acre Estrada Park will be taken up by the new fire station—a facility they say studies show is needed to improve critical response time in the nearby area.

As to Keeney and her association-board allies, they feel the proposed upgrades to Estrada Park are not compensation for the loss of green space once the fire station is built. She and another neighbor attended a Tempe parks board meeting in August and a city council work study about a week later regarding the changes at the park.

“Even if a big chunk of the park was not being taken over for a fire station, there is a city council mandate to enlarge and improve all city playgrounds. That means even though the city gave us a survey on what kind of playground pieces we wanted, Estrada Park will be getting the types of equipment in this inclusive playground initiative,” Keeney said, even though the park would be receiving the same installation eventually anyway.

“We will be getting an enlarged and improved playground because of the inclusive playground initiative and because we were scheduled to get one within a year or so anyway.”

Nikki Ripley, spokeswoman for Tempe, agreed that Estrada Park was scheduled for improvements “within the next few years” but that the process was bumped up in order to minimize disruption at the site.

“The idea is to reduce the impacts of construction on the surrounding area, rather than two separate projects at different times,” Ripley said.

“The public input process for Estrada Park has been done thoroughly and in keeping with other park enhancement projects in terms of extensive resident involvement. We respect and seek the input of many neighbors in any park improvement project.”

Based on all of the Estrada input, staff is finalizing chosen amenities and the architect is finalizing design,” Ripley said.

“We anticipate funding for the enlarged playground and fitness/walking trail, per the resident input received.”

Information: Tempe.gov

 

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