Embracing Challenges As Opportunities

Photos Courtesy Of the City of Henderson

Photos Courtesy Of the City of Henderson

When the city of Henderson, Nev., hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony in March to mark the grand opening of its 56th park, residents were thrilled. They had been anxiously awaiting completion of Whitney Mesa Recreation Area and the many amenities it would bring to their neighborhood. What they didn’t know, however, was that the park also has the distinction of being one of Henderson’s most historic and one of the most challenging to build. 

During the early planning stages, it was noted that the established neighborhood and developing new communities in the Whitney Mesa area did not have a half-mile access to a neighborhood park (although residents did have access to a recreation center and aquatic complex). In keeping with the city’s objective of having a park or trail within a half-mile of most Henderson homes, it seemed balance could be achieved with the addition of the Whitney Mesa Recreation Area. 

Long before a shovel turned dirt, the city invited residents and stakeholder groups to participate in public meetings in order to engage in the planning process. They were asked which amenities they wanted most, how they planned to use the park, and what “flavor” the park should have. Residents expressed an interest in having traditional park amenities, tennis courts, trails, an archery range, and a BMX area. 

Sprucing Up The Site

But cultural and environmental assessments conducted in the area documented an extreme degradation of the desert throughout the future 100-acre park site. As a result, it was determined that project objectives must include a mix of improvements and restoration. For example, natural springs located throughout the site required creative planning and construction solutions. Ultimately, the water was directed to safe channels, leaving unspoiled the natural look and feel of the desert springs. In areas where cliffs and the danger of falling rocks were identified, trails and amenities were placed to minimize access to these areas. 

The mesa had also been used for many years by children and teens as a makeshift “cut-through” from the neighborhood to Whitney Ranch Recreation Center/Aquatic Complex, four nearby schools, and a softball area. In public meetings, neighbors expressed concerns that legitimate trails might pose a potential for increased vandalism and graffiti. But there have been fewer reported incidents since the trails were installed, reinforcing the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design philosophy, which suggests that by casual surveillance, good users will help minimize improper use of the area. Trail alignment along the top of the mesa provides convenient access for users, but also allows buildable land for future development. 

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges planners had to address was visual and physical pollution, including the need for an extensive cleanup of an area where motorcycles and ATVs had caused


The tennis complex at the Whitney Mesa Recreation Area features standard courts as well as 10 and Under courts to encourage children to give the game a try.

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