The Payson Parks and Recreation Department employees are kept busy year round providing programs and opportunities in a primary service area that by 2006 will include almost 28,000 people.
In the past fiscal year, the department has participated in a $20,000 Rumsey Park thinning project, overseen improvements at the Rumsey north soccer field, added bike racks and sidewalks at the library, renovated buildings at Taylor Pool, been involved in the building of the Deming Pioneer Park and by the end of the June, will have completed an expansion of the Green Valley pier.
Under the guidance of Parks and Rec director Bill Schwind, employees were able to accomplish all that and still run the many recreation programs the town offers young and old alike.
The Rumsey thinning project removed underbrush and excessive foliage from areas inside the park. The thinning will provide additional fire protection for the Alpine Village and Woodland Hills subdivisions. The Payson Fire Department and inmates from the Arizona Department of Corrections in Winslow helped with the thinning.
Improvements at the north soccer field included building a retaining wall that will alleviate the flooding that occurred when heavy rain fell. Fencing also was built around the field.
At Taylor Pool, rest rooms have been improved and the lifeguard office has been renovated.
When the GVP pier expansion is completed, it will allow for easier boat access and more fishing area. The pier is a hot spot for anglers who visit the park hoping to land a trout or two.
Also at GVP, public rest rooms on the south side of the lake are now complete.
Upcoming projects include building picnic shelters at Green Valley Park and at the dog park.
Lights will soon be erected on the Rumsey Park sand volleyball courts and asphalt basketball courts will be built near the south side of the pool.
About two years ago, a second artificial playing surface was built near the Payson Public Library. The field features a state-of-the-art 68,000-square-foot all-weather FieldTurf playing surface. Late last summer, the Arizona State University Sun Devil football team used the field extensively because their preseason practice sessions at Camp Tontozona were rained out.
The Longhorn football team also held spring practices on the field and in the fall, the PHS soccer teams practiced and played there. About a year after the field was completed, lights went up around the facility giving Payson another venue for nighttime activities.
The field was build in part by a $390,000 Heritage Grant obtained by Schwind and others in the department.
Also at Rumsey, two ball field were built last year on 23 acres just west of the library. Backstops have gone up on both fields and drainage systems are in place to keep them dry during the monsoon season.
Because the facilities now have dirt-only infields, they are used only for practice sessions by Little League and school teams.
According to Schwind, plans are to eventually add either grass or artificial playing surfaces to the field.
Another project in the works is to acquire 10 acres of land near the Payson Ranger District offices.
If the acquisition occurs, a forest park or similar facility could be built there. Such a park would be more accessible to residents on the East side of Payson and in Star Valley.
According to Schwind, the success of that project will depend on the U.S. Forest Service and its plans to relocate offices to a new site.
Plans for rec center continue
Although Schwind stopped short of calling a proposed indoor community recreation center a top priority, he did say it was high on the department's wish list.
A feasibility study compiled by the firm of Ballard King and Associates confirmed that Payson is in dire need of a center.
The study concluded, "It is clear the Payson Parks and Recreation Department does not currently have adequate facilities to provide much more than just the most basic of indoor recreation programs and services.
"Much of what already takes place is in inadequate facilities and relies on the school district buildings."
Some of the features of the proposed center are an indoor pool, weight room, aerobics/ dance area, walking/jogging track, multi-use gymnasium and what Schwind calls "a new and rejuvenated senior center that's more than an old bowling alley."
Schwind was referring to the Main Street building, once a bowling alley and skating rink, where the center is now located.
The feasibility study identified fund-raising, donations, grants and partnerships as sources of funding. It also cited a tax increase, but Schwind said that would only happen as a last resort.
The site preference for the proposed center is Rumsey Park.
In the past year, Parks and Rec has met the many challenges it faced in providing for the growing numbers of Rim country residents.
But Schwind realizes many more obstacles lie ahead especially those of funding a rec center.
"With our limited facilities, it's getting more difficult to serve the community," he said.
As difficult as the job is becoming, Schwind and others in his department have proven they are up to the challenges.