Parks & Rec Director highlights the community space success
The little gem known as Flatiron Community Park was brought out to sparkle last week when Liz Langenbach, director of Apache Junction Parks and Recreation, highlighted its first year.
“We have a rough estimate of 10,000 visitors,” she said. Since its grand opening on April 22, 2017, park visitors have enjoyed playing in the splash pad, walking their dogs, picnicking, and participating in city-sponsored fitness events, movies and concerts.
After the grand opening, over the hot summer months, the park was used mostly as a site for smaller-scale events like movies and concerts in the park. Parks & Rec also tried out individual rentals for birthday parties and family picnics.
The first big event was held when the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce hosted the Festival of the Superstitions in the park on November 11, 2017. Dovetailing with the city’s annual Veterans Day Parade, the city took the opportunity to shake out parking logistics by establishing relationships with nearby businesses and clearing vacant property to accommodate the cars.
Also held for the first time in Flatiron Park was the Holiday Event and Light Parade in December, which featured live music, tons of snow, inflatable attractions and food trucks.
The success of the Blues, Brews & Arts Festival held this year in March and attended by approximately 1,800, encouraged Parks and Rec to repeat the effort. Langenbach said that partnering with a promotion company helped Parks & Rec put on a first-class show.
Langenbach pointed out that some issues are still being worked out. A button activating the splash pad had failed and a back up button was installed. Seasonal reseeding of the lawn is a moving target, with timing dependent on weather conditions. Also, bees seem to love gathering near the plash pad. She said a solution that is good for both people and bees is forthcoming.
When the park was being discussed in hearings last year, concerns were raised about transients creating a nuisance. Langenbach said that, thanks to the presence of park rangers and police, no problems have persisted. She also pointed out that the park’s proximity to a marijuana dispensary, which was a subject of concern early on, has not resulted in any complaints.
Future plans for the park include a possible purchase of an inflatable movie screen. Langenbach would also like to expand the running/walking programs, add more food truck events and possible hot-air balloon “glow” events.
One year into its opening, the bow has been placed on phase I of the project. Future phases will be proposed as funds become available and include more concrete and plantings on the east side of the park. The new surface would better accommodate food trucks and vendors. The improvements are estimated to cost $145,000. Work on an east ramada is estimated at $100,000, and the addition of an observation deck and walkway that appeared in the original plans is estimated to cost $1 million.
Langenbach acknowledged that the observation deck is pretty far out of reach right now.
Apache Junction’s first city-owned park started in December 2014, when the city approved a land exchange with WGG Partners, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company. WGG proposed an exchange of a city-owned parcel at 2nd Ave. for their abandoned Trailway Apartments property on N. Apache Trail. The abandoned buildings standing on the lot were demolished in February, 2015.
Almost a year after the land exchange, in November 2015, the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission presented the Apache Junction City Council with its master plan recommendation for a downtown city park.
The concept included an observation deck, an interactive water play feature, two permanent performance stages and an expansive 1.2 acre lawn.
The plan was unanimously approved by the City Council.
$450,000 was in the city’s budget to begin the first phase of construction—installing turf, an irrigation system, some lighting and the perimeter walkway, but funds were still needed to complete other features in the master plan.
In June, 2016, with the help of residents and the newly formed Apache Junction Youth Advisory Council, the park was named Apache Junction Flatiron Community Park. The contract for construction of the park was awarded to Blount Contracting Inc. the following month, and an official ground-breaking was held on August 31, 2016.
It was announced in September, 2016, that the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) was awarding the city with a $100,000 grant to further develop the park. The grant came from a portion of the 12% gaming revenue that SRPMIC contributes to communities in the state and marked the first time that SRPMIC chose Apache Junction as a beneficiary.
In October, 2016, a partnership between the city and the Superstition Mountains Community Facilities District No. 1 (SMCFD) resulted in the addition of permanent restrooms to the downtown park. SMCFD contributed $62,000 toward the construction of the park’s restrooms.
At the “soft opening,” Parks & Recreation Director Langenbach acknowledged the assistance of Park Superintendent Nick Blake, and her predecessor, Jeff Bell in getting the first city-owned park opened. She also named Salt River Project, Core Construction, Blount Contracting, SMCFD, Arizona Water and the city’s water district, Resolution Copper, Apache Junction Landfill and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community as contributors to the park’s progress.
Photo above: The Grand Opening of the Park on April 22, 2017. Photo by Betsey Bruner.