Safford to build 15-acre park with a splash pad and pickleball courts

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Safford Public Works Director Lance Henrie points to one of the various style choices for an amenity at Safford’s new park to be built at 8th Avenue and Discovery Park Boulevard. Four themes were presented to the public, who then voted by sticker for their favorite style of park and amenities.

Public gives input on design aesthetics

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – The city of Safford is planning on constructing a $5 to $7 million, 15-acre park at 8th Avenue and Discovery Park Boulevard with preliminary plans including five main amenities: a splash pad, pickleball courts, inclusive playground equipment areas, pinch-less zip lines, and an amphitheater to possibly seat up to 500. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: This slide shows the placement of the new park and lists its five main amenities.

The beginning of the design phase moved forward Tuesday, with a presentation regarding the park at the Safford City-Graham County Library by landscape architect Rebeca Field of Kimley-Horn and Associates. Local dignitaries in attendance included Safford City Councilmembers Arnold Lopez and Brad Hemphill, and Graham County Supervisor Paul David.

Some of the questions Field answered at the presentation included the possible use of reclaimed water for vegetation, and – since the park will be located adjacent to the Safford Cemetery – she said features such as the amphitheater will be appropriately designed to have sound and light directed to lessen any undo impact. The main idea is to not interrupt sensitive-use neighbors, in this case, not having noise pollution during a funeral while activities are simultaneously taking place at the park.

“We definitely look at how to mitigate impact,” Field said.     

Kimley-Horn is a design consulting firm that combines “creative yet practical solutions, a sense of urgency, and a focus on bottom line value to meet your specific project needs,” according to its website. The city selected Kimley-Horn after an RFQ process. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Kimley-Horn landscape architect Rebeca Field explains the project to the audience.

“I’m very excited to be here this evening to talk to you about this new park within the city of Safford,” Field said. “I think it’s a really great opportunity for the community to have a  really interesting and different space for a new community park.”

Along with the five main amenities, the area will also feature a bridge over Graveyard Wash connecting both sides of the park, as well as several possible additional amenities, including a food truck court, ramadas, turf areas, workout stations, picnic areas, and a game area. 

Field said they plan to have a master plan with three concepts over the design by the end of July. From there, Kimley-Horn will take input from the city and come back with a final master plan by mid-September. Construction is expected to start in late spring 2024. This city has roughly $2.5 million in COVID relief money for the park and will come up with an additional $3 to $4 million to fund it, according to Safford Engineer Gabe Bowman, who is heading up the project. Additional partnerships could lessen the cost to the city.     

After Field’s thorough presentation, the audience was invited to take a row of six stickers and place them on the design elements they would most like to see incorporated into the park. Attendees were free to mix and match whatever item from whatever theme but they each were allowed only six stickers to place on their favorites.   

One problem was that out of everyone in attendance, there were only a few who I was sure was not a reporter, an employee of the city of Safford, or government official. So, we are the only ones who have voiced an opinion on the development of the park – so far. The Gila Herald inquired about showing the various design elements online and letting the public vote on their favorites that way.  

Bowman said since the next presentation from Kimley-Horn won’t be for a few months there is still time to receive input from the public and, importantly, the youth. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Attendees ponder where to place their stickers for their favorite style of amenity.

“We’re going to look at it. I’m not sure that we have a plan right now, but we’re going to try to do a little more outreach . . . We’ll challenge these guys to see if we can maybe get a little bit more – maybe onto Facebook or something where we can reach out and get more input,” Bowman said.


The four themes for the new park include a river theme, a sky island theme, an agricultural theme, and a mountain theme. Graham County Supervisor Paul David suggested a pioneer theme be added. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Safford City Councilmember Arnold Lopez makes his choices.

Along with each theme, there are various styles of the five main amenities for the public to choose from. One didn’t have to stay on the same theme and could mix and match their favorite styles. An attendee could have voted for the sky island version of the playground equipment and the “natural” style of the splash pad but went with tri-racing zip lines over the one on the sky island theme.  

“This is a brand new park,” Field said. “There’s not a lot of opportunities to start from the ground up when you are looking at parks. So, this is our chance as a community to really start defining what that vision is and what a look of this park can be.”