AJ Parks and Recreation Earns State Awards

Flatiron Community Park, Earth Day event and TGIF program recognized by Arizona Parks & Recreation Association

By Al Bravo

The Apache Junction Parks and Recreation department on Wednesday received three honors from the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association during its annual awards presentation.

The Apache Junction Parks and Recreation department was given awards for Outstanding Program (Youth Enrichment Award) for its “Thank Goodness It’s Friday” program, the Outstanding Facility Award for Flatiron Community Park and the Outstanding Special Event award for the Earth Day Ladybug Release. The latter two awards were in the midsize city category.

The state Parks Association held its annual awards ceremony Wednesday at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale. The awards committee is made up of colleagues from a dozen parks agencies statewide. Awards are given in 23 categories.

“Yet another sign of our accomplished Parks department,” said Apache Junction Mayor Jeff Serdy. “We have consistently earned honors and shown our innovation with great facilities, programs and events. Flatiron Park is already one of the most popular places in the city, and it’s been open a little over a year.”
The department received the Outstanding Program (Youth Enrichment Award) for the “TGIF” program. The Friday program was developed in response to the Apache Junction Unified School District’s move to a four-day school week in 2015. The parks department saw the need for youth activities on Fridays and created a variety of programming with support from the Apache Junction Public Library and others. Over nearly three years of Fridays, the program had 6,000 visitors and 3,000 lunches served.

The department also received the Outstanding Facility Award for cities between 25,000 and 100,000 in population for Flatiron Community Park. Flatiron has become the heartbeat of Apache Junction’s downtown redevelopment and fills a need for a community gathering and event space, as cited in the city’s Downtown Revitalization Implementation Strategy. The initial phase of the development of Flatiron Park includes the splashpad, restrooms, large ramada, open seating turf and “Think Water” and “Think Desert” gardens.

The department also received the outstanding special event award for cities between 25,000 and 100,000 population for the Earth Day event. The Earth Day event is held at EarthHeart Park, a community garden outside a private health facility in the city. As part of the festival, more than 150,000 ladybugs are released into the garden by attendees. The event includes a lineup of entertainment from dancing to mariachi music, vendors of the homemade variety, a farmers market, kids activities and the Ladybug Queen herself! The city partners with more than 13 different agencies and boasts hundreds of volunteer hours to deliver this impressive event.

Photo above: Accepting the Outstanding Facility Award for Flatiron Community Park are (left to right) Jonathan Peiffer, RJA Architecture; Kurt Montei and Dean Chambers of J2 Engineering & Environmental Design; Mayor Jeff Serdy; Parks Superintendent Nick Blake; Park Ranger Supervisor Kelly Martin; City Manager Bryant Powell; Vice Mayor Chip Wilson and Parks Director Liz Langenbach

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