South Tempe police substation to host community meeting May 30

Papago Park officials are conducting a planning exercise to direct the upcoming development of Papago Park as a premier regional area for residents Valley-wide.

And they want residents of south Tempe to be involved in the process.

“This all started when Tempe, Phoenix, Scottsdale and the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community formed a partnership to guide the park’s future and decided that tackling the project mutually would allow for better results,” said Denise Rentschler, community outreach coordinator for Tempe Parks and Recreation.

“The park is a wonderful asset to our community, and the city wants it to be a gem for years to come.”

Plans have been drawn for the development, however planners want the input of park users and other residents of Tempe.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 30, at the Tempe Police south substation, the park’s master planners will collect and consider the public’s ideas about the future of Papago Park.

Planning started in February, when brainstorming session took place among the design principals. Here stakeholders, external groups and the public expressed goals they wanted to achieve for revisions to the park, while also laying down guidelines and stipulations for the park’s rejuvenation.

“Tempe has added three meetings so that residents can be heard,” Rentschler said. “The meetings are available on the website at” 

Some of the issues to be explored include maintenance and classification standards. A concern of the first planning meeting was the affordability of park maintenance. They did not want costs of maintaining the park to become more than financial reasonable. 

The current timeline presumes that the final Papago Park Master Plan will be complete by Sept. 30. The planning committee is hoping that the final plan includes public outreach, environmental and cultural inventory and analysis, facilities/program inventory and analysis, strategic plan development, and master plan alternatives.

“We need the public’s input at all of the meetings and steps so the process can keep moving along,” said Shawn Wagner, Papago Park supervisor for Tempe. “People can get involved at any of the meetings; they do not need to attend all of them.” 

Papago Park is a 1,200-acre area known for its hilly landscape. Its red sandstone formations were formed six to 15 million years ago. The Hohokam Indians used to populate the Papago Park area before their extinction between 1375 and 1450.

During WWII, the park accommodated a POW camp and housed as many as 3,100 prisoners from 1942 to 1944. It was also the location of the largest mass escape from any U.S. prison camp in World War II.

The Great Papago Escape, as it has come to be known, took place Dec. 23, 1944, when a German U-boat captain and crew of 25 ran away using a 178-foot escape road and made their escape into the desert.

After the war, it served as a Veterans Administration hos[ital from 1947 to 1951, then as an Army Reserve facility. It was sold to the city of Phoenix in 1959.

The park is currently the home of the Phoenix Zoo, Desert Botanical Gardens, Hole in the Rock, Hunt’s Tomb (a pyramidal tomb of Arizona’s first Gov. George W. P. Hunt), Papago Sports Complex, Rolling Hills Golf Course and the Papago Golf Course, which was chosen by the Ladies Professional Golf Association and Tournament Golf Foundation for its2009 Phoenix LPGA International.

Active and passive recreation opportunities exist throughout the park, including bicycle and pedestrian trails, an archery range, picnic areas with historic ramadas, fishing lagoons, and athletic facilities.

The Papago Park project can be followed and influenced on the website or the project hotline, (480) 391-6800. There are surveys and message boards on-line that will help the consulting committee collect information.

“We encourage people to get involved and voice their opinion,” Wagner said. “It is the public’s park, and we want to make it as beautiful and enjoyable as possible.”

Tempe Police south substation is at 8201 S. Hardy Drive, between Elliott and Warner.


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