Papago Park Centennial Project for 2012

This page was set up to follow any proposals relating to future development of Papago Park, particularly that which relates to what is called the Centennial 2012 project. As I understand it, certain organizations and some specific individuals intend to make historic Papago Park a centerpiece in the celebration of Arizona's first 100 years as a state. Well, that is the theory. What may be happening in reality is a good old fashioned assault on public spaces (an Arizona tradition), to benefit commercial real estate and developer interests.

click for map 2006 aerial view of Papago Park I have the feeling that that the parks' days, as we know it, may be numbered. The 'powers that be' are planning dramatical changes. In fact, I put together the image on the left showing the park as it is now (1/2006) so as to be able to use it to compare any changes occurring over the next few years (Note: The image is large, and may take a minute or two to download). At this time (11/2005) we really don't know what is happening - the authorities are very vague about these future changes and what they mean for Phoenix area citizens in general, or for the folks that use and enjoy Papago Park in particular. Public input! What is that?

The parties involved are:
1. The City of Phoenix, the largest player in the game, controlling most of the park
2. The City of Tempe. Owns the lower 400 acres
3. The City of Scottsdale. Has no direct access or ownership of the park, but strangely enough has more people living next to it and using it than the other two cities combined.
4. The Papago Salado Association (a public/private partnership for promotion, preservation and enhancement of the cultural, historical, recreational and natural resources of the Papago Park/Rio Salado region), and
5. The Urban Land Institute (a nonprofit research and education organization supported by its members. As the preeminent, multidisciplinary real estate forum, ULI facilitates the open exchange of ideas, information and experience among local, national and international industry leaders and policy makers dedicated to creating better places. The mission of the Urban Land Institute is to provide responsible leadership in the use of land to enhance the total environment. The ULI has offices in Washington, D.C. and London.)
6. SRP - the Salt River Project, the Zoo and Botanical gardens
7. The people who live in the neighborhood and use the park on a daily basis and who will be impacted most of all by any changes, and
8. The general public - the tens of thousands of citizens that use and enjoy Papago Park's scenery and facilities - and lets not forget the taxpayers. Most of all lets think of future generations that are increasing at risk of losing this precious heritage.
9. Last, but not least, the abundant and varied wildlife that call Papago Park "home". The darn rabbits, squirrels, hawks, owls, snakes, coyotes and javalina - and this in the middle of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States.

There you have it! Well, here are two headlines from a local newspaper about the proposed project:

Park for Dreaming - The Arizona Republic, August 17, 2005 - by Steve Benson:
Papago Park has inspired all sorts of grand and insane human schemes. The Hohokam Indians built canals and hunted in the area for nearly 1,500 years. President Wilson designated it a national monument, although it only stayed that way for 16 years. The Army held German prisoners of war there during World War II. Gov. George W.P. Hunt built a pyramid to bury his beloved wife. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright drew up plans to build a futuristic-looking state capitol on the site. Icon Carl Hayden tried to turn it into a gravel pit. Someone even wanted to build a 600-foot-tall green neon cactus near the park. Despite pages of local lore, tourists don't think of these billion-year-old buttes like they do the Grand Canyon, Tombstone or Sedona's red rocks. But one day they will mention it in the same breath as Central Park in New York or Balboa Park in California - that is, if Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale have anything to say about it. All three communities have talked up the importance of this mystical place for years. But, for the first time, the three are working together to make this a statewide, even national, destination. They've gathered a thick binder of information from the area loosely bounded by 44th Street, University Drive, Indian Bend Wash and Camelback Road. At the end of September, experts from the Urban Land Institute will mull this information and make recommendations for the area. The information collected so far shows just how dynamic the area is. Aside from its colorful past, it also has more than 50 cultural activities, access to planned light rail, proximity to Sky Harbor International Airport, numerous office parks, residential areas and areas primed for redevelopment.

Papago Longs For Centennial Makeover - The Arizona Republic, October 20, 2005 - by John Davis
Under a proposal by former Phoenix mayor John Driggs, chairman of the Papago Park-Tovrea Castle restoration project, the clubhouse would be a multi-use facility as part of a $14 million expenditure that also would include a new visitors center at Papago Park. The clubhouse would include a full-service restaurant, conference center, facilities for holding weddings and banquets, meeting rooms and possibly parks offices, a golf hall of fame or offices for golf organizations. "The entire layout is superb and it wouldn't take much to make it perfect," said R.B. French, president of the Papago Men's Golf Association. "It could be something special if they're willing to spend some money, especially on the clubhouse."

At this time, I have no idea who is doing what or when it will be done. I have looked for, but have not seen any project designs, blueprints or layouts so far (2/2005). According to published reports, however, these were to be available by October. This makes me suspicious. Some of the items in the two articles above make me worry about the future of the park and the environmental impact of any proposed changes. I have underlined the parts in the articles above I do not like. Oh yes, one more issue: I sincerely doubt that Papago "longs" for a makeover, as stated in the newspaper article.

Past Developments and Projects at Papago Park

click for map The Capitol at Papago Park. There have been no end to the weird ideas about how to "better use" Papago Park. Probably the first designated use of the park area was as a reservation for the Papago Indians - but the soil was too poor even for the Native Americans. There were a few attempts to raise cattle in the area, and some early pioneers even even tried to homestead. There were miners who staked claims to parts of the area and even began rudimentary mining work (required to keep the claim). Even after Woodrow Wilson declared the area a National Monument, the wild ideas continued. The idea of just having desert landscape in a natural state was just as unthinkable to some people then as it is now.

click for map Another view of the 'Oasis' project, from a drawing at the State Capitol.
Frank Lloyd Wright's proposed Capitol building, to be called 'Oasis' (see picture at left/above) was only one of many unrealized projects. There have been ideas to move the County Hospital to the site, or to build a "Make Believe Land" theme park (different from Legend City), a mining exhibit below Hole in the Rock, a sailing basin, public swimming pools, waterfalls, the Arizona State Fairgrounds, a Velodrome, an ice arena, a Community College campus, a Military Aircraft museum, a football stadium, and now they are talking wedding halls, golf museums and whitewater rapids. If I had to choose, I would probably take the 600 foot florescent green giant saguaro with a sky elevator ride to the top, suggested in the mid 1970s. As stated in Phoenix Magazine, because of the demographic explosion in Phoenix and Arizona, "the demands on the remaining acreage of Papago Park will continue, and indeed, will increase." They sure got that right!
Note: Speaking of Legend City, see it here click for photo and here click for photo.

click for image The archery range (I just couln't resist this!). These are just the projects that never got off paper, and don't even include the many original parts of the park (and nearby areas) that have been used to build such things as the Zoo (good), the botanical gardens (good), the Arizona Historical Museum (ok), the stadium (???), the ballfields (bad!), the Hall of Flame Firefighter's Museum (OK), Hunts Tomb (no comment), the fisheries and lakes (great!), the two golf courses (insert obscenities here!), the archery range, the picnic and ramada areas (OK), the parking lots (necessary evils), the trails (ok), and other things, not to even mention the areas of the original part that were ceded to SRP - Salt River Project for their purposes, or to cities and private concerns as right of ways for railroads, streets and even the Red Mountain freeway.

click for map click for map Some projects proposed for the park, in 1956 and 1935.
There have been at least 6 or 7 major development projects in the last 90 years, not counting the continual upgrading and small modifications to the Park. Most of them never got off the paper, for many reasons, usually because there were no funds or because the planners, developers and local politicians couldn't agree on how many palo verde trees to cut down, or what names to be given to any improvements, honoring some local politico.

click for image click for image click for image And more plans...
One thing has been constant, however. In every case that a project was actually implemented, it resulted in less natural habitat and less open desert. The park has been downgraded, cut into pieces and parts of it have been removed from public domain. Much of the original Sonoran terrain has become parking lots, buildings, golf courses, roads, ball fields, picnic areas, lakes, and areas restricted to cultural and educational use. I am not saying all of this is bad. What I am saying is when they start carving up the desert, again, they should be very careful what they do with it. Just because they see a few acres with brush, mesquite, creasole and palo verdes on it doesn't mean that it should be "improved" with a club house, soccer field or parking area.

Plans, ideas and projects...

click for image click for image click for image These are a few of the many articles from the City of Phoenix library files. In 1912 Senator Carl Hayden said that the Papago Park lands were "almost worthless, that the government will probably never be able to sell them." Of course, this was not true, because in 1959 the City of Phoenix bought the 1,176 acres of Papago Park for $3,529,02. There were some strings attached to the sale, and the City of Phoenix has to invest in 'improvements' or it would lose the title to the land. Let me make it clear that, for the most part, my native city has done a good job in managing and preserving the park, with the exception of the golf course. I will never forgive that, even if in the 1950s, there were only a few golf facilities around, and most of those were upscale and expensive.

One day I went down to the Phoenix Central Library (great building, great library!) and pulled the verticle newspaper files on the POW camp and Papago Park. Actually there were four files of accumulated materials with newspaper articles and magazine stories since the 1940s. There were also quite a few brochures and pamphlets about different aspects of the park. Many, of course, referred to the continual discussion of what to do with the park. In the early 1970s for example, there were dozens of articles regarding proposals to have the Arizona National Guard move out of the park. Sometimes these seemed to refer to all Guard installations and sometimes only to the areas south of McDowell along 52nd Street. There seemed to be at one time an agreement between the City of Phoenix and the Arizona National Guard to do this, except that it failed when the City refused to pay for the Guard's relocation costs. For a decade, from the late 1960s to the end of the 1970s, another issue was a freeway. They wanted to build a freeway right through the middle of the park! I have a 1967 city map acquired on Ebay with a big green line showing the "Proposed Papago Freeway" (See part of it here: click for map). Fortunately it didn't happen, but the City of Tempe did cede part of their area in the 1990s to build the 202 'Red Mountain' Freeway.

click for image click for image The original proclamation, from 1914
This is the act in the Library of Congress, signed by President Woodrow Wilson - The President of the United States of America - that established Papago Saguaro National Monument (see image) signed in the City of Washington, on the thirty-first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and fourteen, and the Independence of the United States, the one hundred and thirty-eighth.
May I quote a few lines:
... it appears that the public interest would be promoted by reserving these natural objects and prehistoric inscriptions, together with as much public land as may be necessary for the proper protection thereof
Warning is hereby given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure, remove or destroy any feature of this monument.
I sincerely doubt that buildings and golf courses qualify as "natural objects" but what do I know...
Anyway, a lot of good that warning did...

The John Arthur 2012 plan for Papago Park. Click on the icon to see my plan for improving Papago Park. It may not be a good plan, but it is better than anything the ULI will come up with. In fact, if I had to choose between the Urban Land Institute pave it over and build on it plan and the Jolly Green Giant plan of the 1960s, I would go with Jolly.

Basically what I would like to see is a continuous ground-level connection between all parts of the park, and the removal of the golf courses and ball fields. That would be a good start...

click for map click for map The jolly green giant...
If the local governments want to make a real "we are stupid" statement, why not do the giant saguaro project from the 1960s? It may be crazy but it is a better idea than building a shopping mall or "offices for golf associations" in the park as proposed by the ULI (that is, if they would actually tell us the details of the their super secret project). I would rather see the 600 foot neon green saguaro cactus tower be built than see even a janitorial closet designated for golf offices. In fact, I have two rare views of the saguaro project, known as the "jolly green giant", as imagined by an unknown artist. The tower project was to be located directly behind the Hole-in-the-Rock, as pictured. I mean, you might find the proposed idea odd at first glance, but it grows on you. They didn't like the Eiffel Tower either at first. It could be seen 20 miles away, and it would be a great conversation topic, so much that we wouldn't hear about Sheriff Joe or that I-forget-its-name NFL team anymore. The planes going to and from Sky Harbor would just have to fly around it. Sorry!

Well, that is it. Everything below this point will be a chronological account of events relating to the development of the park, as I become aware of what is happening. I admit that I am biased and opinionated. I may get some facts wrong, but I am willing to correct any mistakes. On the neigborhood emails quoted here, most names have been removed to protect the innocent! Anyway, The fact that good, reliable information on the Project is hard to obtain. This makes me skeptical and suspicious. Maybe I overdo it; Maybe not.

Update for January 2007

Michael Clancy, The Arizona Republic - Jan. 31, 2007 12:00 AM

PHOENIX - The city has taken its first steps toward developing a "new vision" for Papago Park, those attending a luncheon were told Tuesday. But how long it will take, how much it will cost and how the park will look when all is said and done remain a source of conflict.
The Phoenix Parks Board decided last week to start forming two committees - one of government officials and the other of city staffs and park stakeholders - to further the process, Phoenix Zoo director Jeff Williamson told a Valley Forward luncheon.
"This is an unprecedented opportunity," said Nan Ellin, director of Urban and Metropolitan Studies at Arizona State University, who moderated a panel discussion that also featured attorney Grady Gammage Jr. and Scottsdale City Councilwoman Betty Drake

So, nothing new. Nothing has been done in the last two years but produce large amounts of hot air. Fine with me. I see that Gammage is still around and still does not think the Park has enough attractions, or maybe not the type of attraction he wants. Is ULI back? I was not aware of this meeting.

Update for October 2006

Urgent: The Urban Land Institute is out! Maybe? No tears here! The newspapers say "New group could head park revamp."
Quote: A national conservation group could get the nod to find ways for improving Papago Park six months after a different group created a plan that sparked harsh criticism.
The Papago Salado Association, which acts as an intermediary between Tempe, Phoenix and Scottsdale on Papago Park issues, will decide Tuesday whether to enlist the services of the Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation group. The national non-profit organization works with municipalities to buy and preserve open space, usually in rural areas. (Arizona Republic, 10/12/2006)
Harsh criticism? Who would do such a thing? and just because the ULI wanted to build housing and do a little commercial development... Well, let's see what happens now. From what I could find on the Internet, the TPL seems to be a step in the right direction. Now if they could only come up with a plan that preserves and reunites the three park areas.

click for map click for map click for map click for map click for map

Oh yes, today we had our annual neigborhood block party, with lots of food, good conversation and visits from our local city officials, the trash guys, the fire department and our police department with their new uniforms and the patrol car. The kids loved it.

Update for June 2006

click for map click for map Just when you think it can't get worse....
Believe it or not, the newspapers are reporting that Papago Park is one of five locations that the Tempe City Government is considering for a Homeless Shelter (in the Moer Park area just north and east of Curry Road and Mill Ave). Yes, just what we need. Not that Papago Park is not already a shelter for homeless. Here are two pictures of urban campers taken in the park, one near the Tempe Rolling Hills golf course (a favorite spot for bums and drug users) and another up near Papago Buttes in the Phoenix area. Yes, the highway in the background is Galvin Parkway.

Update: Papago Park is off the list! Maybe my phone call suggesting that if a Homeless Shelter were put in the park then perhaps the City of Tempe and all its staff should relocate to 24th and Van Buren. Another bad idea has died a happy death.

Update for April 2006

The Phoenix New Times has published an article (on 4/27/2006) on the Papago Park project.
Cash Cabal, by John Dougherty - Powerful developers must be stopped from sullying scenic Papago Park with another Valley resort. Led by Phoenix attorney Grady Gammage Jr., the intellectual architect of Arizona's rapacious development industry that's systematically tarnishing the Sonoran Desert, a powerful cabal of developers is quietly planning to convert the 1,500-acre park into yet another banal cash cow.
The ambitious "redevelopment plan" was trumpeted as a "grand vision" by the real estate industry's propaganda organ, the Arizona Republic, in an April 20 front-page story.
"Papago Park could be Phoenix's Lincoln Park, but it's not now," Gammage gushed to his stenographer at the Republic, referring to Chicago's landmark park. "It's an incredible piece of real estate for the Valley that's completely underutilized." Underutilized is development-speak for "let's get our hands on that property and cash in!"
These fast-buck artists are laying the groundwork for extensive private development in the park, including construction of a plush resort hotel, restaurants and coffee shops, and -- the coup de grce -- an exclusive, high-end golf course capable of hosting major tournaments.
and so on... I couldn't have said it better. Here is the link:

Another email from a neighbor about the changes being planned...
Everyone, As others have said, we need to be right on top of the Papago Park plans. I think they are farther along than they seem, and only a few specific plans have been publicly mentioned. There are other aspects of "improvement", as yet to be publicly discussed, which might seriously affect our neighborhood:
-- if Park traffic is limited along McDowell and Galvin Parkway, that immense vehicle load will have to go somewhere. Where? Can Thomas and 52d stand the traffic increase? And what about the horrific possibility of major alterations to Oak to allow through E/W traffic? (It seems that Scottsdale streets rather than Phoenix streets will likely be more impacted.) Also, any of us with the currently beautiful commute thru the Park might find traffic restrictions inconvenient at the least.
-- The commercial and other development being described cannot exist without support structures and facilities; what are the plans for these? Since our neighborhood borders what to developers might seem like the "back 40" of the park, there is the risk of maintenance yards and parking lots (lights, paved areas, traffic, ugly views) being installed across Oak.
-- We should not assume the Guard cannot be moved. The Guard representative's quote in the article about the National Guard does state "...we're not going anywhere." But he goes on to say "To do that would take an enormous amount of resouces, of which nobody has discussed with us." That is an open invitation to Phoenix for negotiation (as well as awkward grammar).
Of course all these issues are hypothetical at this point, but it seems to me no one from any of the agencies/bodies/municipalities involved is bending over backwards for citizen input or approval, or even total transparency re what is planned and how far along the plans are.
The value of Papago Park to our neighborhood, and in my opinion to the Phoenix metro area, is as open space, relict desert, dark, quiet, cool, and a close-by place that is not filled to the brim with people, buildings, cars, pavement and noise. Remember that until the late 1920's, Papago Park was Saguaro Cactus National Monument. Is the current plan really moving us the right direction? For anyone who would rather live near a national monument than an imitation of Balboa Park, the answer is no. I'm not against improvements in the current condition of the Park. Like others, I would like to see it cared for and designed for use by people from here, not crammed full of still more "attractions" for tourists. So what if it's not pristine (as some have said to defend building on it) -- in this day and age, can anyone truly defend destroying desert for more development?
One final thought: there is likely more to this plan than meets the eye. Grady Gammage speaks of the Park as becoming a "destination" and something to improve the national reputation of our city. Is building a coffee shop, running a trolley, and putting in an activity center for kids by the Zoo really going to do that? Pretty modest facilities to accomplish such a lofty goal...

On April 21, 2006 our neighborhood news group received this email from a member about the ULI sponsored meeting:
Four of the "trial balloons" that were sent up were: A resort; Concert venue; Housing; Removal of The National Guard (our only buffer for all these years)
Each and all of these made the hair on the back of my neck stand up! We had better pay very close attention to this whole affair. I am the neighbor that Billie referred to and the only way we found out about the meeting, was that my brother was sent a notice of Tuesday's meeting...and he is a developer. It was not publicized. Their "dream" for making Papago park another Balboa Park is worth taking notice of. There was an article on March 26th, in the Tribune, by Grady Gammage, Jr. that will give you his ideas for Papago. Keep in mind, he is a real estate attorney. If you go to and click on Papago/Balboa (April 20th)--then read the comments at the bottom of the article, you get a flavor of the valley wide thinking on this subject.
As stated, the meeting was not publicized; at least I didn't hear about it and I'm on the list for news alerts for the Centennial Commission. I read the Arizona Republic article (see below) and left this on the comments section:

No, no, no. Papago Saguaro National Park was created in 1914 by Pres. Wilson to preserve 'natural objects'. I sincerely doubt that golf courses, parking lots, restaurants and other buildings qualify as natural objects. In the last 90 some years the park has been downgraded and cut up by local governments and developers many times, each taking a chunk of land. In technical terms, these are called "improvements". Each improvement has resulted in less natural habitat. Once again we are witnessing a developer assault on Papago Park. In a meeting in February we were told by a City of Scottsdale official that there would be no new facilities, even as he was talking about new 'amenities'. In a ULI pamphlet from that meeting, labels such as 'commercial hub' and 'tourist and convention venues' were clearly indicated on a map of the park. Kiss another 50 acres of Sonoran desert goodbye. From the article, it seems that if they cannot get their hands on a a sizable portion of the park, they will develop a small part of the park (near Hole in the Rock and/or North of McDowell?) with the sole purpose of maximizing the cpommercial value other properties in the area. The problem is that doing what is best for that purpose is not neccessarily what is best for the park, the people that use it or even the remaining flora and fauna. Oh yes, about ULI... I don't want people from DC and London planning my local park, thank you very much. Look what they are doing to New Orleans! It appears that the Urban Land Institute likes big business a lot more than litle people. Oh yes, there are far too many developers, real estate folks, bankers, and government officials on the planning commission for my taste. I have been trying to find out what these folks are up to for about a year, but no luck... When and if I find anythiung I will add it to this page on the centennial Project and the future of Papago Park: [] If people care about Papago Park, they had better keep an eye on these people.
And then I sent this message to our Yahoo email group:
Re: [sherwoodhts] Papago Park - here we go, again I wonder about these people. Check out the latest article about the 'Grand Vision' coming your way.
Notice they talk about an 'activity hub' between the zoo and the botanical gardens? Why don't they just say it instead of using coded words - It is called Hole in the Rock. That is what is between the two points. They want to put a visitor center with a commercial area in front of Hole in the Rock. The park manager mentioned this to me, saying it might be located where the ranger station is now. Notice also that the article says the park is "completely underutilized". Think about that! The link for the Az Republic article is ....
The Arizona Republic has published another article on the project. (April 20, 2006)
A GRAND VISION FOR PAPAGO PARK By Catherine Reagor - New York has Central Park. Chicago has Lincoln Park. San Diego has Balboa Park. Phoenix has Papago Park? It doesn't quite have the same ring, probably because Papago isn't in the same league as those other big-city parks with their instant name recognition and loads of amenities.
"Papago Park could be Phoenix's Lincoln Park, but it's not now," said Grady Gammage Jr., a real estate attorney who led an Urban Land Institute panel that looked at Papago Park's potential. "It's an incredible piece of real estate for the Valley that's completely underutilized."
The redevelopment of Papago Park, near 55th and Van Buren streets, isn't something developers would make money off of initially. But as the park and the area around it became a destination, they could profit from developing the surrounding property in Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale.
The plans also call for upgrading transportation within the park, likely by adding a trolley or monorail to connect a new activity center to the zoo and the botanical garden. The 11-member panel, which has been studying the park since last year, also suggested clearly defining the park's entrances. Today, members said, visitors may not know when they're within Papago's boundaries.

The original article and comments can be found here:
and here is a link to that page: click for site.

Update for March 2006

The East Valley Tribune has published an article by Grady Gammage Jr, March 26, 2006). This is an important viewpoint by a very prominant Arizona leader. Here are selected quotes from the piece:
THE PROMISE OF PAPAGO ...We need to recognize that Papago is not mountain preserve land or pristine desert… we need to get beyond thinking of it as pristine desert to be left in a raw and untouched state. ...There is no physical sense of a "park" rather, there is: A golf course in Tempe; a golf course, a zoo and a botanical garden in Phoenix; a National Guard installation; edges that do not clearly identify the existence of the park within; inconsistent monumentation; no way to get from one attraction to another within the park; and no central gathering place from which the park as a whole is comprehensible.

Ideas for solutions...
Recognize and embrace more intense uses of the park compatible with the desert. Examples of such compatible uses might include a small cluster of restaurants and shops for visitors… Physical improvements should be made in the park to link the attractions and to create focus. Examples of such physical improvements might be clear and improved pathways between the zoo, the botanical garden and other attractions. Maybe these should even be upgraded with some kind of people-mover system that could itself become an attraction. A central gathering spot for people visiting the park and also conceivably for significant public events could be added and linked to the other attractions. Plan for transitioning the presence of the National Guard to a much smaller footprint within the park. In our daylong charette we heard from a representative of the National Guard that it would be possible for many of their functions in Papago Park to be relocated elsewhere. Doing so obviously is expensive but the guard occupies some of the most geologically interesting areas within the park and some of the property currently occupied by the guard could be made available for a commercial development for hotel, restaurant, shopping or housing uses. That development might fund some of the other improvements in the park. Fix the jurisdictional fragmentation…. Position Papago Park as a premier regional attraction. ...Possible ideas to create such a major regional attraction could be: Building a major gathering place within the park. The old amphitheater along McDowell is no longer big enough and is too close to the road to serve this function. A piece of the National Guard property would provide the best opportunity for such a gathering spot. This might be a place for major festivals, outdoor concerts, etc… Locate a potential site for a business-class resort….If the National Guard could relocate in part, a site might be freed up for a business-class resort/ hotel/conference facility

I didn't see this article until a month later.

Update for February 2006

click for map click for map A neighborhood meeting...
Went to a neighborhood meeting yesterday. Among the issues discussed was the Future of Papago Park. Kevin Osterman, from the Scottsdale City Council and a member of the Planning Committeee for the future of the park was there to give us an update. Mr Osterman came across as sincere, concerned and maybe naive. The problem is not our local representation. The problem, if indeed there is one, will come from folks that are 10 miles, 100 miles, 2,000 miles or even 6,000 miles away that do not either use or love the park. To them it is only a job, and if it puts a chunk of money in their pocket or in the pockets of their friends, they will be happy.

At the meeting I obtained a copy of a pamphlet "Summary of the 04 October 2005 ULI Papago AzTap" (see thumbnail). It really doesn't say much about what is going on, but it does make it clear that there are a lot of ideas flying around. The pamphlet includes many 'verbatim quotes' from individual panelists that participated in the discussions. Some of the comments follow:
"…Papago Park is not a wilderness area, a mountain preserve or a turf park. Papago Park is a home, an expression of Arizona, an outdoor university and a major gathering place and destination.
"Papago Park lacks a central point that is attractive and engaging. The Park should include a great public place where people go to see people."
"There should be a clear central core destination with a major theme that is designed to attract locals and tourist will follow."
"Consideration should be given to relocating the National Guard and adding uses that would better compliment the park…"

The Summary does not present any specific plans. There is, however, a "project map" in which some of the ideas are presented and associated to parts of the park. Some of the labels on the map say things like "add tourist and convention venues to the Desert Botanical garden " and "add tourist and convention venues to the Phoenix Zoo." The big thing seems to be a plan for a NEW HUB FOR PARK ACTIVITY. In the words of the pamphlet: "Create a social, cultural and commercial hub to focus the activity of the park. The hub should be a branded location between the Zoo and the Botanical Garden." The map in fact has a big "X" just above Hole in the Rock indicating the location of this hub. In many ways this reminds me of the 1956 plan, except it is worse. Kiss 50 acres of desert goodbye.

Note: Of particular interest to the folks living north of Oak is a gateway designated "Open space corridor linking neighborhoods to park." This corridor starts at 52nd street and turns south between 58th and 60th streets. Interestingly, it includes the area between Oak and the landing strip on the Military base. I have no idea what this means. Well that is it. I will end this section of the update with a quote from a lady to me after the meeting: "I don't understand how they say there will be no new facilities when they are talking about all these new amenities."

Update for November 2005

Email received from City of Scottsdale, Sat, 26 Nov 2005
John: Councilman Ecton has asked me to contact you and provide an update on the Papago Park preservation intitiative, and how it will impact the Sherwood Heights neighborhood.
As you may know, Council member Drake and I represent the city on the Papago Salado Commission. Both Betty and I are determined to ensure the Scottsdale has direct access to the many park amenities, and a strong voice in ensuring this beautiful park is well preserved. Other members on this important commission represent Tempe, Phoenix, SRP and the National Guard.
Scottsdale has agreed to have a comprehensive study performed by the Urban Land Institute. As a result of this study a Papago Park Master Plan will be created and agreed to by all entities who have direct impact on this park. Ultimately, we support making the park a centerpeice in the planned 2012 State Centenial celebration, as this will attract additional money from the state in support of creating public awareness and our efforts to preserve and maintain the park.
A major part of preservation is to make sure that there is no new development in the park. A significant portion of the park is bounded by southern Scottsdale (to include Sherwood Heights) and we will protect the integrity of your neighborhood to the greatest extent possible.
Should you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at home: 480-970-xxxx.
Sincerely, Kevin J. Osterman, Councilman

Update for October 2005

Email sent to me by a neighbor, Fri, 14 Oct 2005
Subject: [sherwoodhts] Papago park - Still be active
Even though Papago Park is under City of Phoenix juridiction, the new movement at the recent meeting at the Phx zoo (in August) was for there to be a shared type of decision making arrangement by all three adjacent cities with regards to reexamining future uses and possible development or preservation of Papago Park. As we learned from the ice arena issue and the master plan committee process a year or two later (which was about 7 or 8 years back), Scottsdale citizens do in fact have considerable clout with regards to their concerns for the preservation of Papago Park, particularly for the site so many of us enjoy, the southern most portion sometimes known as the sports commplex which is south of McDowel Road. Much of the area is still desert thank goodness but this is so because Phoenix and Scottsdale citizens were active and rose to the occasion to speak their minds at meetings and write letters of concern. This is what made the difference.
With regards to the most up-to-date master plan for Papago Park, I was on the master plan committee (about 8 yrs back) as a neighborhood representative and you should know there were a few things on the the master plan which would cause somewhat(not a huge dent but somewhat) of a dent into the desert so many of us enjoy.
Specically, there is planned an additional one or two more ball fields to be added along with the addition of a few hundred more parking spaces. This will cut into the desert westward somewhat which I don't like and never did and I voted against any development at all which would further cut into or slice up the remaining desert on the sports complex(ZONE C) as it was called during the master planning process 8 yrs ago. At the time though this was better than the other 2 plans the city of phoenix offered for citizens to consider for a supposed 20 year master plan which both included more devlopment of the desert near our neigborhoods.
Why things are being revisited right now, I have no clue but I'm somewhat concerned of possible developers who may have an interest in any undeveloped land we like to call our little oasis of desert in a sea of sprauling urban development. It is not yet time to panic but neighborhoods should absolutely keep a close eye on the situation so that if public input and opinion is called for or warranted, then citizens can respond in a strong and timely fashion.

Yet another email from responding to the one above
A. and neighbors - fortunately it does not appear that there are any plans for any more structures or new facilities for Papago Park - the discussion sare focusing around improvements to Phoenix Municipal Stadium, which really isn't the Park and some of the facilities south of McDowell. Scottsdale City Councilman Kevin Osterman is on the task force looking at this issue with Phoenix - Kevin lives close - just east of 64th street, south of Thomas - he is adamant that nothing with proceed that would impact Scottsdale neighborhoods. Perhaps we should invite him to attend an upcoming neighborhood meeting to brief us on this issue?

And another, 05:15 PM 10/11/2005
Still, even though Papago Park is under Phoenix jurisdiction, doesn't a city have to take into account effects its development/land use might have on bordering historic (or any other type of designation) neighborhoods, even those of another city? Maybe not... Also,you would think Scottsdale might have an interest in preserving the quality of its > >historic neighborhoods, and come to bat in a (hypothetical) situation like this. Just asking... A.

And yet another, 10/8/2005
No, Papago Park is under Phoenix jurisdiction.
If our neighborhood was on the historic register, do you suppose it would be more difficult for "improvements" to be made to Papago Park, especially on Oak, which would affect the neighborhood dramatically?

Update for September 2005

My email to the neighborhood group, 20 Sep 2005
Subject: Re: [sherwoodhts] New Developments in Papago Park
I am skeptical of the "South Side only" argument. If Scottsdale wants in, there are only a few logical points of access - the best would be around Oak and 64, after relocating the Barnes Center and depot.
There is also the fact they want to do something with the amphitheatre (mentioned in another statement by officials). This means messing with McDowell in some way. I can remember going to the amphitheatre for Sunrise Easter service in the 50s, and the road was not there, at least not like today. That's how old I am.
The fact is that Scottsdale wants in, and that means change. The question is what kind of change. As far as I am concerned, nothing that the cities of Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale will do will enhance our lives, much to the contrary. I don't know what is going to happen, but I know it will mean less desert, less natural habitat, less peace and quiet, and more people.
In fact, not only should they leave it alone, they should get rid of the athletic facilities and fields (existing and planned) and also the two golf courses (let the snowbirds use the other 363!) and revert those lands to desert. The only acceptable use of the Papago Park lands is to limit the existing facilities (Zoo, botanical gardens, lagoons, picnic areas and some parking) and leave the rest as Sonoran desert habitat, with a few trails. Period. This would be a great contribution to the future of our community and state.
Governments do not like desert. It is too easy. No big budgets or million dollar contracts or large staff needed. No buildings or sports facilities to give some politicians name to.
Let's see how hard it will be to get info on this project. John

And still another sent to us by a member of the neighborhood group, September 20, 2005
Subject: [sherwoodhts] New Developments in Papago Park
Folks: I recently met with a representative from the City of Phoenix Mayors Office. It was on another matter, but I was lucky to find out that she is also the representative for all Parks related matters for the City of Phoenix. We briefly discussed the project(s) proposed for the Papago Buttes (Galvin Parkway) Area. Although, she was aware of some plans in progres she admitted to not knowing all the details. However, she did indicate that as far as the City of Phoenix the only proposals pending are for development South of Mcdowell Road. And the only projects are for a Park Center Gift Shop and a community athletic field.
But, she is eager to research any specific questions. So please help me develop/edit a list of questions for her...
1) What is the extent of any projects or proposals in work, pending or under review for the city of Phoenix in the Papago Buttes/Galvin Parkway area?
2) In the Papago Buttes/Galvin Parkway area are > there any projects or proposals in work, pending or under review that are "Regional Development" > projects that would involve Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale?
3) Who if any are the private business interests involved in this project?
4) Are any project pending for expanding existing facilities?
5) Who would be the primary contact(s) for any projects for this area- public and private

My email dated Sat, 17 Sep 2005 sent to our Yahoo group
Subject: [sherwoodhts] Papago Park ????? I don’t get the Republic anymore, so I missed your article. A quick search on the site shows a flurry of activity and planning for the park, but no hard information.
Questions: Who are these “advocates” and what are they advocating? What new amenities are these? Will “everybody” really benefit?
The fact that Washington and even London are planning our neighborhood really makes me feel good. The fact they I called the City government and they were not very helpful or informative makes me feel even better.
A high use, high profile attraction means the end of Papago Park as we know it. The folks on Oak are going to love the new 6 lane highway, the 3 story panoramic visitor center and the 25,000 people a day traffic, but it will be worth it just to have the rock concerts right next door. The new traffic flow and access ramps on 52th, 56th, 60th and 64th may be ugly but in a few years we’ll get used to them. Some of us will have to move when the City exercises “Eminent Domain” but that is a small price for making “everybody” happy. One other benefit is that the coyotes, rabbits, javalina, foxes and those damn quail we hate will be gone. It will be heaven on earth. This maybe hyperbole. Maybe.
What is really going on? John

This is my first email to our neighborhood association, after I became aware that the were planning to make major changes to the park - sent on Friday, 16 Sep 2005.
Subject: [sherwoodhts] Papago Park tour to be scheduled (and about the future of the Park) - Regarding several questions about what I know about the future of the military base....
1. Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale are planning, planning and planning a joint plan (That is the best I can do to describe it).
2. Scottsdale is considering doing something, maybe some type of access (off Oak?) to the park, or even some type of connection between Papago Park and Indian Bend Wash/Park. (Don't ask me how! They're miles apart!)
3. There are people in City governments (plural) that would like to see the military out (from a February 2005 meeting I attended in Tempe).
4. This all (item 1) is supposed to happen for the Arizona centennial (2012). I actually heard somebody say these words "Something like Balboa Park". That is in San Diego, in case you don't know.
So, in conclusion, like Sargent Shultz, I know nothing! I have no hard facts, just some ideas that are floating out there that may be of concern to some of us.

August 2005 - They have a plan...

Starting in August there were a bunch of meetings that basically kicked off the Papago Park project. The meetings generated a series of reports in the newspapers. It was a this point that some of us began to sit up and take notice of what was happening in our neighborhood. Here are some of the news items about the future development of the park from our local newspapers. In many cases the complete article can only be read by subscription. In some cases I have extracted specific quotes from the article.


Papago Park has received a lot of attention lately from city officials in Scottsdale and Phoenix ("Scottsdale's next park?" Scottsdale Republic, Aug. 11). It's a welcome surprise to many residents of south Scottsdale. The park, with its companion Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo and the bordering Papago Park Military Reservation, is one of the area's great amenities. Though often believed to be a part of Scottsdale, the park is...

Westbound drivers on McDowell Road in south Scottsdale enjoy a unique and beautiful skyline. The road ahead disappears just beyond city limits into the awe-inspiring Papago Buttes and Barnes Butte in the sprawling Papago Park. The rocky landmarks are as immediately recognizable, if perhaps not as grand, as Camelback Mountain. Papago Park, distinguished by the eye-catching pyramid tomb of George W.P. Hunt, Arizona's first governor, actually is in Phoenix and Tempe, but Scottsdale...

Advocates looking to give Papago Park a makeover are lobbying to have the site selected as a signature project of the committee planning for Arizona's centennial in 2012. The Papago Salado Association, which promotes the preservation and enhancement of the 1,200-acre park, is seeking millions of dollars that could add new amenities and enhance old ones. Former Phoenix Mayor John Driggs, a Papago Salado board member, predicted the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission will...

Leaders of Tempe, Scottsdale and Phoenix took one of the first steps Wednesday in what is shaping up to be a years-long effort to improve Papago Park. Next month, the non-profit Urban Land Institute, based in Washington, and London, will lead a brainstorming session on the future of the park. In the interim, the three cities are looking to develop a formal partnership that will guide future efforts. The 1,200-acre park has hiking and biking trails, museums, ramadas, fishing lagoons, a ...

SCOTTSDALE'S NEXT PARK? - August 11, 2005
Papago Park sits squarely inside Phoenix and Tempe, but at least one prominent park advocate believes part of Papago could one day belong to Scottsdale. Former Phoenix Mayor John Driggs predicted Wednesday that sometime over the next century, Scottsdale will be part owner of the park and that Scottsdale's involvement will benefit Papago Park. "Ultimately, very long term, (Scottsdale) would have some kind of a community investment or stake in the park...

3 CITIES BEGIN PLANNING FOR PAPAGO PARK FUTURE - Arizona Republic, August 10, 2005
City leaders from Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Tempe are meeting today to talk about the future of Papago Park. On the table: a comprehensive master plan for the park that is divided by Phoenix and Tempe, and is bordered on the north and east by Scottsdale. The 1,200-acre park plays host to residents from across the Valley, offering hiking and biking trails, museums, ramadas, fishing lagoons, a botanical garden and zoo. "All three cities realize the importance of the ...

(end of cronology)

More Information....

I was going to end this page, but more material has become available - so I am going to put it here...

click for map click for map Maybe I have been too critical... The biggest problem with the current project (as of 6/2006) is the secrecy. The powers that be that are doing the planning are not sharing information with the public about the big plans they are working on. So we are forced to make wild guesses. I was however able to obtain a copy of a detailed, confidential report with an overview of an alternative proposal. Here are pictures of the center 'Hub' area of the park in front of Hole-in-the-Rock "before" and "after" the centennial project is completed. When one considers the facts, it must be admitted that cacti can be dangerous and can hurt people and Arizona summers are hot. The planned one hundred new retail establishments, including restaurants, a multiplex cinema, clothes and sporting goods stores, art galleries and department stores, will ensure that the park visitor or tourist will have a unique, authentic Arizona Experience in the comfort of a modern, air-conditioned facility. The large multi-colored signage on the exterior of the main Activity Center will honor the corporate sponsors that have revitalized Papago Park, and symbolizes the private-public partnership has transformed a cactus and scorpion infested dessert into a consummer oasis generating tax revenues, jobs and profits of course. To demonstrate environmental consciousness, a small corner room on the third floor will be dedicated to honoring and remembering the local flora and fauna, with pictures of native plants and a taxidermic exibition of birds, rodents and other animals that once inhabited the region. The planned 5,000 car parking area will ensure that access to the commercial facilities is plentiful and easy.

Tempe and Papago Park

click for image I really haven't said much about the City of Tempe and Papago Park. That is probably because there isn't much to say. I have seen references to some development projects proposed by Tempe for the park, but I have never seen them. I have also read that these proposals were mostly shelved because there was no funding to pay for them. For the most part, since the 1960s, the City of Tempe has had no major projects for its part of Papago Park. The main reason for this is, I believe, because for the last 30 years City officials have been dreaming about the Rio Salado Project, and have had little time or energy to think about other things. Initially the Rio Salado project was to be a 40 mile multi-billion dollar joint project (several cities, including Mesa, Tempe and Phoenix) to create an ultramodern multi-use recreational and cultural environment along the Salt River bed. There were several projects, countless proposals, studies, ballot initiatives, votes, and a few scandals, but the idea never was approved. In the 1990s, the City of Tempe decided to go it alone and so now we have the "Tempe Town Lake." I have here an image showing a much more elaborate project from 1979, which had it been realized, would have had a much bigger impact on Papago Park.

So - Who is the 'Urban Land Institute' in Arizona?

I got these member names of the Arizona Executive Committee from the ULI site on the Internet:
Member Kenneth Abrahams Executive Vice President, Diamond Ventures, Inc. Tucson, AZ
Chair C. Joseph Blackbourn President, Everest Holdings Scottsdale, AZ
Vice Chair - Membership Paul Blue Deputy Director, Business and Properties, City of Phoenix Aviation Department Phoenix, AZ
Member Timothy Bolinger Principal, Greenbrier Southwest Corporation Scottsdale, AZ
Member Pete Bolton Senior Managing Director, CB Richard Ellis, Inc. Phoenix, AZ
Member John Bradley Vice President, DMB Associates, Inc. Buckeye, AZ
Member Arthur Brooks President, Brooks Engineers & Surveyors, Inc. Phoenix, AZ
Member Drew Brown President, DMB Associates, Inc. Scottsdale, AZ
Vice Chair - Education Cynthia Bullinger Director of Development, College of Architecture and Environmental Design, Arizona State University Tempe, AZ
Vice Chair - Smart Growth Wilford Cardon President/Chief Executive Officer, The Cardon Group Mesa, AZ
Past Chairman Matthew Crow President, Chief Executive Officer, Grossman Company Properties Phoenix, AZ
Vice Chair - Communications Kathryn Ferron Partner, Ernst & Young Phoenix, AZ
Member Steven Gervais Vice President, Pinnacle West/SunCor Phoenix, AZ
Member John Graham President, Sunbelt Holdings Scottsdale, AZ
District Council Coordinator Sheila Hamilton District Council Coordinator, ULI Arizona District Council Phoenix, AZ
Vice Chair - Programs Cynthia Hammond President, Churchill Mortgage of Arizona, Inc Phoenix, AZ
Past Chairman Lee Hanley Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Vestar Development Company Phoenix, AZ
Trustee Lee Hanley Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Vestar Development Company Phoenix, AZ
Member Ivan Kasser President, Holualoa Arizona, Inc. Tucson, AZ
Member Gadi Kaufmann Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Robert Charles Lesser & Co., LLC Bethesda, MD
Vice Chair - Young Leaders Group Kirsten Lewis Project Manager, Butte Properties, Inc. Scottsdale, AZ
Vice Chair - Programs Gary Linhart Managing Director, ViaWest Properties LLC Phoenix, AZ
Advisor Ad Hoc Anne Mariucci President, Inlign Capital Partners Phoenix, AZ
Vice Chair - Young Leaders Group Jaime Marquez Vice President of Development, Butte Properties, Incorporated Scottsdale, AZ
Member Don Morrow Managing Principal, Grubb & Ellis/ BRE Commercial Phoenix, AZ
Member Francis Najafi Chief Executive Officer, Pivotal Group Phoenix, AZ
Member Wellington Reiter Dean, College of Architecture and Environmental Design, Arizona State University Tempe, AZ
Member Thomas Roberts President, Opus West Corporation Phoenix, AZ
Member David Roderique General Manager, City of Scottsdale, Economic Vitality Department Scottsdale, AZ
Treasurer David Scholl Senior Vice President, Westcor, a Subsidiary of the Macerich Company Phoenix, AZ
Vice Chair - Sponsorship David Scholl Senior Vice President, Westcor, a Subsidiary of the Macerich Company Phoenix, AZ
Member Robert Sharpe President, Sharpe & Associates, Inc. Tucson, AZ
Past Chairman Gena Trimble Manager, Land Department and PPC, Inc., Salt River Project (SRP) Phoenix, AZ
Vice Chair - UrbanPlan Gena Trimble Manager, Land Department and PPC, Inc., Salt River Project (SRP) Phoenix, AZ
Assistant Chair Gregory Vogel Chief Executive Officer, Land Advisors Organization Scottsdale, AZ
Member Bruce Ward President, Alliance Residential Company Phoenix, AZ
Member Mark Weiss Director of Development, Arizona State University -W.P. Carey School of Business Tempe, AZ
Member Mark Winkleman State Land Commissioner, Arizona State Land Department Phoenix, AZ

I don't know about you, but there are far too many real estate, development and bankers on this committee for my taste. The fact is that the Urban Land Institute has been in the news recently - working on the plan for post-Katrina New Orleans. They have been getting a lot of criticism also, because, according to some critics, they seem not to like common and/or poor and/or black people too much! Well, not as much as they like developers and business, anyway. Many local folks from that city say they are not only being left out in the rebuilding, but the ULI is slamming their own doors in their own faces. I don't know about the rest of you, but the idea that 'experts' in Washington DC and London are planning our local park makes me a little unhappy!

All 'Papago Park' Pages

Here are all the pages on this site that relate to the history, development, attractions and even the future of this area: