So Long, Schwind

Parks and recreation director leaves behind 12 years of lasting accomplishments

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In the 12 years Bill Schwind headed the Town of Payson Parks and Recreation Department, he oversaw remarkable growth and change.

Green Valley Park was built, and Parks and Recreation Department moved its office there.

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Bill Schwind, seen at Green Valley Park, was instrumental in developing the park, installing all-weather playing surfaces at Rumsey and relocating the Payson Event Center.

Four FieldTurf all-weather playing fields were added to Rumsey Park. Payson trails master plan was finalized. The Payson Event Center went up and participation in parks and recreation programs skyrocketed.

With those accomplishments behind him, Schwind is moving on to a similar position with the City of Glendale.

When Schwind first arrived on the Rim Country scene from Boise, Idaho, parks and recreation offices were housed in a tiny trailer adjacent to the Payson Police Department.

Seeing those cramped quarters, Schwind immediately spearheaded a drive to move the department into new offices overlooking the lake at Green Valley Park. The new facilities, Schwind said, are a huge improvement over the original trailer.

Schwind also witnessed the number of participants in town-sponsored recreational activities increase from about 2,800 to nearly 20,000. 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-1990s most Rim Country recreational activities centered around adult softball, swimming and youth leagues.

Senior citizens had only limited recreational opportunities.

But today, seniors can opt from a long list of activities including trips to Kartchner Caverns, the Grand Canyon, Laughlin, Nev. or the Phoenix Art Museum.

Probably the most popular offering among seniors is the water aerobics classes. Each summer, throngs of seniors flock to Taylor Pool for a cooling physical conditioning respite.

The construction of Green Valley Park and its lakes is the most visible development during Schwind's watch.

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, is now a popular angling site for northern Gila County residents.

Schwind also headed a movement 12 years ago to build Payson's first artificial surface, multi-purpose playing field in north Rumsey Park.

In 2002, construction began on a second artificial-surface playing field that now stands adjacent to the new library.

Encompassing 68,400 square feet, regulation football and soccer games can be played on the turf.

The field has been used the past several years as a practice site by the Arizona State University Sun Devil football team when rain renders their Camp Tontozona field unplayable.

A $390,000 grant obtained by Schwind helped fund the field as well as two recently completed FieldTurf baseball/softball fields on 23 acres just west of the library.

The two outfields can be easily converted into a multipurpose field for soccer or football giving Payson four all-weather playing surfaces.

Today, those fields are 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 fields.

Also under Schwind's tenure, a $267,000 project to extend the library parking to include lots for the new soccer field was completed.

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

Schwind also oversaw several improvement projects at Green Valley Park that were funded by a $125,000 grant received 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 that can be used when Parks and Rec offices are closed. On the board is a color map of the park, lists of upcoming events, public announcements and fishing rules.

Schwind's ability to earn grants impresses many, including Parks Manager Nelson Beck.

"He's been exceptional at finding funding," Beck said.

As much as was accomplished under Schwind, the one project that was never completed is the construction of a community recreation center. In 2002, Schwind and then councilmember Dick Wolfe traveled to Colorado where they visited several Denver suburbs that had recreation centers.

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

A feasibility study later showed Payson in need of a community center, but the money to build the center was never available.

Ironically, at about the same time Schwind assumes his new duties in Glendale, the town parks and recreation department there will be conducting a ribbon-cutting on a new 55,000 square foot recreation center.

Schwind said he remains convinced Payson can someday have its own center, but it will take a person with conviction to spearhead the drive.

In 2003, Schwind was the recipient of the Mayor's Physical Activity Leadership Award that recognizes individuals in the community who have made significant contributions to physical fitness.

At the time, Schwind said, "We do what we can to improve the quality of life in Payson through the parks and recreation programs we have."

Schwind's final day with the Payson Parks and Recreation department is Sept. 15.

The town began a nationwide search Sept. 1 to find his replacement.

-- To reach Max Foster call 474-5251 ext. 114 or e-mail mfoster@payson.com.

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