Parks director outlines need for more recreation space

The city's park facilities are maxed out, "every patch of grass in the city is used by coaches training teams" and sports programs from elementary to senior levels are suffering from the limited space, Parks and Recreation Department Director Darel Fruhwirth said.

The city's proposed cure for the overbooked facilities comes in the form of an $8.64 million bond, which voters will have the opportunity to vote on in the Nov. 6 ballot.

Fruhwirth has narrowed down his department's needs to four projects, and all of them, he said, serve the same general purpose of maintaining the level of activity in Kingman.

The city has 14 public parks, two main facilities used for sporting tournaments, and too few neighborhood areas for families to use for picnics and reunions.

"One of the biggest problems is we don't have land; we're land poor," Fruhwirth said. That's why the city has requested approximately $3.07 million of the parks and rec bond for land acquisition. The city is looking at the North Kingman, Camelback and East Kingman areas for possible acquisition, but no definitive plans have been made - and won't be until there's money to seriously consider a purchase.

Because the state of Arizona doesn't require developers to set aside portions of their subdivisions for smaller, community parks, the city has been tasked with cramming in as many games and family events as possible into the current facilities, Fruhwirth said.

Add the 2,000 people a night that use Centennial Park on the north side of Interstate 40 on Beverly Avenue and another close to 2,000 people at Southside Park, and the reason for requesting $8 million in bonds makes sense, Fruhwirth said. But the bond won't do much for future growth, he added.

"This bond issues right now will just put us where we can provide for families right now," he said.

Another $3.93 million of the parks bond will go toward a sports complex to meet the needs of the current softball, baseball and soccer programs that are taking up a large portion of the current park space.

This complex would be similar to Centennial, and it would be planned, most likely, in accordance with the newly proposed high school. Space is the key issue.

The third aspect of this bond is an expansion planned for Lewis Kingman Park, a project directly tied to the relocation of Fire Station No. 2, which is a $5.876 million project in the public safety bond. If voters approve the $11.66 million public safety bond so the city can relocate the fire station, then that will open up the corner piece of land on Route 66 and Harrison Street for Lewis Kingman's expansion.

This project likely would include some kind of water playground area - or "splash park," as Fruhwirth referred to it.

Last is the $306,617 earmarked for Sycamore Neighborhood Park, where the city already owns 1.65 acres. Like several other areas throughout Kingman, the Sycamore/Harvard Street areas west of Stockton Hill Road need community park space, Fruhwirth said.

"If we're not successful here, all of these facilities will be years away, and we're telling people to wait," he said.

Fruhwirth addressed the "blank check" reference that members of Residents Against Irresponsible Development are targeting. The issue from RAID's perspective is that none of the projects that are listed in the bond are set in stone; the city doesn't have to spend money designated for this or that street project if another issue becomes a priority in the next several years. Fruhwirth's clarification is that while the city will have the ability to change its priorities, even after voters approve a bond, such a change in plans will go through the public hearing processes and City Council will have to approve a reallocation of funds in a public vote. Further, if money is taken out of the street projects bond, it must be used for another street project and it must be used for capital improvements; it cannot pay for upgrades to public safety, for example, and it cannot pay salaries or office supply costs.

Although early balloting has begun, Election Day is Nov. 6.