The Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department takes pride in its ability to work closely with local government agencies and community stakeholders to offer outdoor recreation services to the region. In 2021, the department was approached by a local non-profit agency to consider a connector trail from Usery Mountain Regional Park to the Tonto National Forests and its Hawes Trail System.
Currently, two routes connect the trail systems, the Maricopa Trail and Pass Mountain Trail, which are very popular with bikers, hikers, and equestrians. The request for an additional connector trail was made to provide more cross-use of the neighboring trail systems, to keep users off the busy roadways, and help reduce congestion on the existing trail connectors.
To determine how an additional connector trail would impact the park and adjacent properties, the park’s staff met with the various groups. During the meetings, staff was made aware of several potential issues that could arise from the proposed connector trail. To avoid these issues, the department suggested a slight location shift for the connector trail and walked the alignment with the group proposing the new trail. This shift would provide the same connection point in the northwest corner of the park while also using an underutilized area within the park that contains both parking and restrooms.
To determine whether or not park visitors would support the development of a new multi-use connector trail in the park, a targeted marketing campaign was launched to gather feedback. The campaign ran on the park's social media account, department’s website, and utilized a 13-minute video about the project, which nearly 900 people viewed. Of those polled, 75% of the responses favored the connector trail.
On November 16, 2021, the department provided the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission with an update on the project. The Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approve an Amendment to the park’s Master Plan to include the connector trail.
On January 26, 2022, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors reviewed the Commission's request and approved the Usery Mountain Regional Park Master Plan amendment to include the connector trail between the park and Tonto National Forest.
“The Usery Mountain Regional Park Master Plan called for continually expanding recreational facilities to continue meeting the needs of its ever-growing service population,” stated Maricopa County Supervisor Thomas Galvin, District 2. “When Maricopa County’s regional park system was first developed, the parks were located on the outskirts of town. Fast forward sixty years, and our regional parks are now surrounded by communities that view the parks as their local park. I’m pleased to see that the department is listening and working closely with the community and local stakeholders to ensure their needs are being met while also protecting the park's natural resources. I’m also pleased that community groups like the Hawes Trail Alliance are such supportive partners.”
To learn more about the project, visit www.maricopacountyparks.net/park-locator/usery-mountain-regional-park/park-information/park-projects/. Information on Maricopa County’s regional park system can be found at www.maricopacountyparks.net/.