Parks & Hypergrowth, Part 1

Editor’s note: Mr. McDonald will take us on a tour of the burgeoning City of Maricopa, and how the newly-created Parks, Recreation and Libraries department is positioning itself to handle this growth and provide relevant and quality services. This series of articles comes at a fortuitous time in parks and recreation, as “hypergrowth”, particularly in communities surrounding major metropolitan areas, has become a widespread phenomenon across North America.

The City of Maricopa is in the midst of tremendous hypergrowth, both a dream and challenge for any parks and recreation director.

Located 20 miles south of Phoenix, the City of Maricopa is one of the newest municipalities in the state of Arizona. Housing industry experts have determined that Maricopa is currently the fastest growing city in the nation based on the number of new single family home permits issued.

Through detailed planning and the development of strategic partnerships your parks and recreation department can help navigate the sometimes rocky slope of hypergrowth.

Historical Numbers

Historically speaking, Maricopa was known for farms and rail cars. The area settled into a slower pace as rail traffic was halted during the 1930s and diverted to the north.

Although agricultural production had been consistent through time, it became the catalyst when the rail service was cut. Increased mechanization of agriculture slowed the flow of people. However, it created a healthy farm economy that still thrives today.

Maricopa is one of the most productive farm communities in the state. Cotton, grains, fruit, vegetables, and beef thrive in this arid desert. But those same farms are giving way to tile roofs and 24-hour drugstores.

The City of Maricopa incorporated on October 15, 2003, after two-thirds of our town had been platted by Pinal County for residential development.

Our city encompasses 27 square miles and the majority of the development is residential with key areas set aside for industrial and commercial use.

While our current city limits are small, we have the intent to annex into our already established planning area approximately 268 square miles. Open space planning is a critical part of our general plan as our citizens are demanding a higher level of service.

The last official census showed Maricopa’s population to be just over 1,492 residents in the year 2000. The City of Maricopa ordered a special census to determine our new population in 2004. The special census revealed a population of 4,998 residents of which 30 percent were under the age of 17 years.

By the time you read this, our population will have tripled to 15,000 new residents. Before we close the books on 2005, we’ll eclipse the 20,000-resident mark. Incredibly, our growth rate is forecast to remain strong for the next ten years.

These are important numbers to understand because our humble Maricopa has morphed from a sleepy agricultural town into a bustling city expected to reach build-out in five years with an estimated 110,000 to 135,000 residents.

Our proposed planning area is estimated to house 350,000 people by the year 2025. Numbers don’t lie nor should they intimidate. Instead, they can be your best friend when justifying additional costs and designing new facilities to accommodate the growth.

The Beginning

Maricopa is very fortunate to have a city council determined to provide plentiful open space and quality recreational amenities for our residents. City Manager Rick Buss and Councilman Kelly Haddad were major forces in addressing the need for open space and quality of life issues early on.

At the direction of the City Council, Councilman Haddad formed a Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee in January 2004 and I was selected along with six other residents to serve on this board.

After being appointed to this committee at the recommendation of City Manager Buss, the City Council authorized the inception of the PRL Department and my subsequent hiring as PRL Director in April 2004.

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