Scottsdale is national leader in land set aside for parks, preserve

[Source: Peter Corbett, The Arizona Republic]

Scottsdale ranks among the nation’s leading cities for parks and preserve land.

The city is fourth in per capita parkland behind Anchorage, Alaska, New Orleans and Virginia Beach, Va., according to a Trust for Public Land report issued earlier this month.

“It’s a very impressive system,” said Peter Harnik, director of the trust’s Center for City Park Excellence, in reference to Scottsdale’s parks and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

The non-profit trust, a San Francisco-based conservation group, lists Scottsdale as having 15,172 acres of park and preserve land for its 235,371 residents.

That amounts to 64.5 acres per 1,000 residents, more than triple the per capita median for other low-density cities.

About 13 percent of the land area of Scottsdale is set aside for parks and preserve. The national median for low-density cities is 5.8 percent.

Phoenix’s 1.5 million residents have 43,609 acres of parkland, or 27.8 acres per 1,000 residents, the report said.

Anchorage has a very large state park within its city limits, and New Orleans and Virginia Beach contain national wildlife refuges that skew their parkland totals, Harnik said.

City parkland well-funded

The trust’s annual report compiled statistics on park acreage, spending and staffing based on data from 2008.

“We won’t see the full effects of current budget cuts until next year’s report,” Harnik said.

This year’s report did show that Scottsdale is also among the cities with the best-funded parks systems.

The city’s operating and capital expenditures in fiscal year 2008 are listed at $50.4 million, or $214 per resident. That ranks Scottsdale third behind Washington, D.C., and Seattle.

Excluding capital expenses, Scottsdale’s operating costs of $23.7 million, or $101 per resident, rank it 16th nationally in the report.

Scottsdale ranks 13th in staffing, with 281 non-seasonal employees, or 11.9 per 10,000 residents, more than double the national median of 5.4.

Preserve to add open space

Scottsdale’s preserve accounts for roughly 94 percent of its parklands, and the preserve is expected to add more acreage next month.

City parks total 941 acres with just less half of that planted with grass, said Don Davis, Scottsdale parks and recreation manager.

The Arizona State Parks Board last week authorized up to $25 million in matching funds for Scottsdale to buy 2,000 acres of state trust land at auction on Oct. 15.

The board also approved $20 million in matching funds for Phoenix and $7 million to Coconino County for preserve lands.

The Scottsdale acreage is north of Dixileta Drive near Troon North.