Oracle Community Park

Oracle’s current park was developed in the late 1960s and early '70s.

FLORENCE — In a discussion of updated park fees, a couple of Pinal County supervisors advocated for none.

Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, R-Coolidge, said Dudleyville residents are recovering from a devastating wildfire and asked if their park fees could be waived for a year.

Vice Chairman Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, noted other county residents have struggled through a year of the pandemic and asked if fees could be postponed a year for everyone.

The board took no action Wednesday.

Kent Taylor, Pinal County director of Open Space & Trails, said the county doesn’t make money on these fees — they don’t cover the county’s costs, nor are they intended to. Across the country, the average park fee covers about 25% of the cost of serving the visitor.

Consultant Bruce Cowans commented to the board the revenue potential in the proposed new fees is mostly in the future Peralta Regional Park, 480 acres east of Gold Canyon, expected to open in a year or so. “In general, we found the other fees, they’re at break-even level for the most part. The key opportunity here, should you wish to pursue it, is to establish new fees for Peralta,” Cowans said.

Taylor said county staff would like to see fees established for Peralta “sooner rather than later.” Staff is recommending admission of $7 per vehicle, compared to an estimated cost of $13.96 to provide the service. Staff recommends a camping fee of $10, compared to an actual estimated cost of $16.36. Staff recommends a $20 fee to rent a group picnic site and $10 for a picnic ramada rental.

But a citizen spoke up for no fees. Jerry Stevenson with the nonprofit Gold Canyon Community Inc. told the board if the county could waive fees for hiking, cycling and equestrians at the new regional park, it would draw more people to those free options and relieve traffic congestion elsewhere.

Although small, fees would be missed. Taylor said if the county discontinues what it’s currently charging at West Pinal Park, that would represent a $10,000 budget hit to his department. Since December, when COVID-19 restrictions began to relax, use of West Pinal Park has been substantial and is only going to increase, Taylor said.

Deputy County Attorney Chris Keller told the board that it could approve updated fees, but specify that they don’t take effect until a certain date.

The county’s Open Spaces & Trails Advisory Commission previously voted 6-2 in favor of the updated fees. Those who voted no expressed concerns that fees of any amount are a burden to low-income areas of the county. They further noted since the county is currently funding operations and maintenance with limited or no fees, it should continue, and they didn’t want to add or change fees for outdoor recreation during the pandemic.

Supervisor Jeff Serdy, R-Apache Junction, said state park fees are waived on certain holidays, and perhaps Pinal County could do something similar.

Board Chairman Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, noted that some citizens object to fees because they’ve already paid for the park with their taxes. Taylor replied that others also pay taxes, yet don’t use the park. Fees are the county’s way of monitoring traffic and protecting the resource, Taylor said.

He said county staff’s goal is to keep fees affordable, simple and consistent. Proposed fees for ramadas and ballfields are to reserve those facilities, and regular “drop-in” use is not affected. Trail fees are for commercial events only and don’t apply to single or group use of regional trails.

Pinal County manages and maintains five parks throughout the county:

  • Dudleyville Park is a 9.94-acre neighborhood park located in the unincorporated community of Dudleyville. Amenities include softball/baseball field, picnic ramadas and grills, tot-lot equipment, sand volleyball court and basketball court.
  • Oracle Park is a small neighborhood park encompassing 4.92 acres in the unincorporated community of Oracle. Amenities include basketball court, picnic tables and grills, and playground equipment.
  • San Manuel Park is a 5.4 acre park in San Manuel Arizona. The park currently provides opportunities for picnicking, unstructured recreational play and community events. Pinal County acquired the park site in the spring of 2019 from BHP Copper, Inc.
  • Pinal West or Kortsen Park is a 160-acre community park located west of Stanfield. Amenities include picnic ramadas with grills and several group sites and playground equipment.
  • Dinosaur Park in Gold Canyon
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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.