South Mountain Park gets $23 million makeover

PHOENIX – South Mountain Park, one of the nation’s largest city parks, has been showing the wear of hikers and picnickers over the years. Now it’s getting a $23 million makeover.

“South Mountain Park has gotten a lot of love from the community,” said Phoenix Councilwoman Kate Gallego. “With that use comes some wear and tear, so we do need to keep investing in our park system.”

Starting next year, the city will renovate and build facilities at the park, including new ramadas and restrooms, to improve visitor experience. Sales tax will pay for the changes.

“It’s a very comprehensive plan that includes upgrades to parking facilities, the ramadas that create shade for events and picnics, better trails, a great new trailhead and monument that will help mark the entry to South Mountain Park,” said Gallego, who is vice mayor.

Advocates said an upgrade is overdue.

Lesly Bondy, who has been hiking South Mountain for 12 years, said the Foothills Trailhead could use some maintenance. A new ramada, rest rooms, an updated water fountain and some much needed parking mark the popular hiking trail.

Bondy said many hikers now have to park in nearby neighborhoods that discourage parking.

“I think the park system and these hiking trails and reserves, they need money put into them,” Bondy said. “I think it’s a wonderful idea that they are thinking about restrooms. This is one of the fewer facilities that actually has water, drinking fountains and Porta-Potties.”

Click on an icon for more information on renovations by trail:

(Map by Kia Murphy/Cronkite News)

Bruce Leadbetter, of the Friends of South Phoenix, said the project is worth $23 million.

“Personally, I like it. Professionally, I love it,” Leadbetter said. “Personally, because the government wastes so much money that I think that anytime they invest it in infrastructure, especially recreational opportunities for citizens, it’s a great thing. Professionally, I love it. The amenities that South Mountain have needed some refreshing for quite a while.”

Bondy said the changes will enhance hikers’ experience and may spur more people to come to the mountain.

Gallego said millions visit the park, a 16,000-acre urban oasis.

The park improvements to the park come just in time for the park’s 100th birthday. The park turns 100 in 2024.

“We will have a large celebration for the 100th anniversary and really mark the unique history of South Mountain Park,” Gallego said. “It has a great story and has played an important role in so many Phoenicians’ lives.”