Parks And Recreation

Expanding to meet the growing needs of Payson residents

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In the eight years that Bill Schwind has headed the Town of Payson Parks and Recreation Department, he's overseen remarkable growth.

When he first arrived on the Rim country scene from Boise, Idaho, the Parks and Rec offices were housed in a tiny trailer adjacent to the police department.

Since then, his staff has moved to new digs in Green Valley Park. The new facilities, Schwind said, are a huge improvement over the original trailer offices.

Schwind has also seen the number of participants in town-sponsored recreational activities increase from about 2,800 to near 17,000. And that total does not include those who take advantage of the summer concert series.

"We have no way of keeping track of those numbers," Schwind said.

In the mid-90s, most Rim country recreational activities centered around adult softball, swimming and youth leagues.

Senior citizens had only limited recreational opportunities to choose from.

But today, seniors can opt from a long list of activities including trips to Kartchner Caverns, Grand Canyon, the Phoenix Art Museum and other Arizona sites. Among the most popular for seniors is the summer water aerobics classes.

One of the most grandiose developments accomplished during Schwind's watch has been the construction of Green Valley Park and the lakes it surrounds.

In addition to serving as a hub of community activities including the popular concert series, GVP is a part of the Arizona Game and Fish Urban Fish Program.

The lake, which is stocked with trout from October through May, has become a popular angling site for northern Gila County residents.

Schwind also headed the movement five years ago to build an artificial surface, multi-purpose playing field in north Rumsey park. Today, that field is used for youth and adult soccer games as well as Central Arizona Youth Football League practices. Payson High School boys and girls soccer teams also play and practice on the field.

In mid-March, construction began on a second artificial-surface playing field adjacent to the new library. The field will feature an improved all-weather playing surface and will be much larger than the original.

Encompassing 68,400 square feet, regulation football and soccer games can be played on the turf. A $390,000 grant obtained by the Parks and Recreation Department funded the new field.

As part of that project, construction is currently under way to develop 23 acres just west of the library where two ballfields are being built.

Backstops on both fields have been erected and crews will soon finish drainage systems that will keep the facilities high and dry during the summer monsoon season.

Payson High School baseball coach Teddy Pettet is ready to use the fields for batting practices and freshmen/junior varsity practices. In the future, the fields also could be outfitted with lights and all-weather turf.

When turf becomes a reality, the two outfields can be easily converted into another multipurpose field for soccer or football. That would give Payson three all-weather playing surfaces.

Those improvements, Schwind said, "will be done as money becomes available. We'll do it in increments."

Also at Rumsey Park, a $267,000 project to extend the library parking to include lots for the new soccer field has recently been completed.

Included in the project was the addition of a second entrance into the park.

Just over the horizon, Schwind will oversee several improvement projects at Green Valley Park to be funded by a $125,000 grant received last September from the Arizona State Parks department.

The list of improvements include adding public restrooms on the south side of the lake, and an information board to be used when Parks and Rec offices are closed. On the board will be a color map of the park, lists of upcoming events, public announcements and fishing rules and regulations.

There have been plenty of changes on the Parks and Recreation scene in the past eight years, but the biggest is yet to come.

Soon, a feasibility study will begin to assess the community's need for a recreational center that might possibly include an indoor swimming pool.

Months ago, Schwind and councilmember Dick Wolfe traveled to Colorado where they were involved in a recreational facilities and design seminar. As part of the seminar, the two visited several Denver suburbs that had demographics similar to those of Payson.

In both Thornton and Parker, Colo., Schwind and Wolfe discovered recreational centers that might fill the needs of our community. Both had indoor pools, a full court gym, administrative offices and activity rooms.

If the feasibility study shows Payson is in need of a similar recreational center, Schwind and the department will spearhead the project to build one.

Another goal, Schwind said, is to someday acquire land on the east side of the Beeline Highway. At present, there are no recreational sites in that part of town.

A possibility, Schwind said, would be the acquisition of 10-plus acres near the Payson Ranger District office. If that can be accomplished, Schwind said, a forest park or similar facility could be built. A park in that location would be more accessible to residents on the East side of Payson and in Star Valley.

With the town growing at a record-setting pace, Schwind and his crew find themselves struggling daily to find the resources to service the demands of the people.

The job's a big one, Schwind said, but the parks and recreation department is eagerly looking forward to the challenge.

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