Chandler’s oasis in the desert marks a decade - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler’s oasis in the desert marks a decade

May 14th, 2018 development
Chandler’s oasis in the desert marks a decade

By City of Chandler, Contributor


It has been 10 years since Chandler elected officials, city employees and members of the community gathered at the northeast corner of Chandler Heights and Lindsay roads to dedicate a most unique collection of city facilities.

Collectively known as the Chandler Heights Community Facilities, the 113-acre site includes the Chandler Heights Recharge Facility, Veterans Oasis Park, a five-acre fishing lake, the Environmental Education Center (EEC) and the Chandler Heights Police Substation.

Three city departments – Municipal Utilities, Police and Community Services – partnered to create the $22 million multipurpose complex that has served the needs of residents in a variety of areas.

The city initiated the project to develop a reclaimed water storage and recharge site with an important secondary goal of developing an integrated multi-use park with fishing lake and educational center that provides education, passive recreation, wildlife habitat and trails.

This unique combination of a water recharge facility and park at the same location has given the city an opportunity to educate and demonstrate to its citizens the importance of water recycling and reuse. The recharge basin, riparian areas and urban fishing lake are focal points for this theme.

The diverse habitat attracts many types of migratory birds year-round and provides a sanctuary for other wildlife. A pamphlet given to visitors lists 42 different species of birds spotted at the park.

The police substation is located on four acres and houses all of the patrol officers, and their supervisors, responsible for covering the city’s largest and most populated precinct, encompassing approximately 36 square miles and a population of 90,000 residents.

The department’s K-9 unit and park rangers work out of the Chandler Heights station, along with the Volunteers in Policing Program and renowned Police Cadet Program.

The EEC features classrooms, a nature discovery room, exhibit areas and a nature store. It offers a variety of classes year-round focused on nature and the environment. An outdoor amphitheater hosts free lakeside concerts during the fall and spring.

As amazing the park and EEC are, they remained undiscovered by many in the community for some time. But that is changing.

“People are starting to know about us,” Ariane Francis, a recreation coordinator with the city who manages the center, said. “We’re starting to show up on many lists, like top places in the state or Valley, plus we’re starting to hear people saying ‘we’re from Cave Creek and wanted to come here.’”

The city purchased the property for $6.3 million in 2000 for the purpose of building a groundwater recharge facility utilizing injection wells and a series of basins.

The shallow basins infiltrate high quality reclaimed water to the subsurface aquifer for storage and recovery as part of the city’s comprehensive reclaimed water management plan.

The city hired Carollo Engineers of Phoenix in 2003 to develop a master plan concept for the 78-acre recharge project and 31-acre park, which was first unveiled to the public in October of 2004.

Deutsch Associates of Phoenix designed the 20,000-square-foot police substation and 10,000-square-foot EEC facility and Logan Simpson Design Inc., of Tempe provided landscape design services. M.A. Mortenson Company, a Chandler contractor, performed the construction.

In September 2008, the first delivery of 500 pounds of farm-raised catfish was shipped in from Arkansas and added to the lake, which is part of Arizona’s Urban Fishing Program.

Since that time, the lake has been stocked with a variety of fish species, including channel catfish, rainbow trout, sunfish and largemouth bass.

Following the park’s completion a decade ago, numerous volunteers, Scout troops and city staff have continued to develop the park, adding interpretive signage, trail distance markers, a desert tortoise habitat, solar system walk, demonstration garden and a collection of geocaches, hidden items that people try to find using GPS devices.

The first phase of a veteran’s memorial was dedicated in 2016 and includes a plaza that replicates the Arizona State Flag and includes low walls with inscriptions recognizing the memorial’s six core values: freedom, reflection, recognition, sacrifice, family and memories.

Over the years, Chandler’s oasis in the desert has received accolades from groups like the Arizona Forward Association, which awarded the EEC its prestigious Crescordia Environmental Excellence Award in the category of Site Development and Landscape.

Chandler also received the American Crown Community Award for Outstanding Leadership in Local Government for development of Veterans Oasis Park.

But the accolades most meaningful to those involved in the project and its continued operation are those from visitors. Instagram posts and Yelp reviews are filled with comments from people enjoying the park and EEC, including Jennie in Chandler.

“Yesterday we took an entomology class,” Jennie said. “It was terrific. My children woke up this morning looking for more insects. This is an excellent learning experience in my book. This is what I am always seeking, since we homeschool, something that captures their attention and educates them for days, weeks and was fun. I can’t wait to sign them up for more programs here.”