Maricopa County Parks and Recreation

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FAQs - Desert Lake

Questions & Answers

Maricopa County FAQ

Q: ​How do I become a community volunteer or park host?

A:

Complete the online fillable application or check the volunteer calendar for special days of service to lend a hand each month.

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Q: What do volunteers do?

A:

There are many ways to serve as a volunteer in the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department. Volunteers help by assisting the thousands of visitors who come to the parks each year by helping out in the Nature Centers, Entry Stations, and along the trails. Additionally, many volunteers who can’t commit to a monthly schedule will support the parks at a special work day.

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Q: Is there a minimum time commitment?

A:

Time commitment varies based on the type of volunteer opportunity.

  • Episodic volunteers serve a few hours on special days of service or trail work days.
  • Community Volunteers serve on a regular basis and are scheduled weekly to monthly.
  • Park Hosts are required to serve a minimum of 40 hours per week in exchange for use of a complimentary camp site, access to water, and electricity. Additionally, they are required to serve for a minimum of 5 months.

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Q: Can anyone volunteer?

A:
  • For adults: Park hosts and Community Volunteer positions require a criminal background check.
  • For teens: the minimum age to volunteer as an individual is 13. Those aged 13-17 must fill out an application and participate in an interview. Also, their parents or guardians need to sign an agreement form on their behalf.
  • Volunteers younger than 12: Same requirements as for teens. However, it is also required that youth be paired up with an adult either from their extended family or as recommended by their parents or legal guardian.
  • Unpaid Interns: Interns are treated as volunteers and are subject to the same policies and procedures of the volunteer program. Internships usually have very different expectations, are more in-depth, and require a more structured workload.

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Q: Groups projects?

A:

If your community organization or corporate group would like to volunteer on a special project, please contact the volunteer coordinator and provide date, park, and type of project the group would like to assist with.

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Q: Are guided hikes ever cancelled?

A:

Yes. Hikes are cancelled only if heavy inclement weather is imminent or if the trails are severely muddy.

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Q: Is beer and wine allowed at camping sites at Maricopa County Parks?

A:

Beer and wine are allowed at the campsite(s), as long as they are not in glass bottles.

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Public Information FAQs

Q: Are dogs allowed into the park?

A:

Dogs are allowed on leashes no longer than six (6) feet.

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Q: How may I obtain a map?

A:

Maps are available at the entry station, on the website at maps page, or via email as a .pdf file.

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Q: Am I allowed to hike off trail?

A:

No. All Maricopa County Parks have a stay on designated trails rule to reduce erosion of the natural desert setting.

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Q: When do you offer guided hikes?

A:

Guided hikes are offered 3 to 4 times per week. View our main calendar for guided hikes available throughout our park system. Reservations are not required for scheduled hikes.

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Q: What will we see on these guided hikes?

A:

There are several types of hikes offered; some emphasize the prehistoric Native American ruins and the petroglyph sites. Other hikes focus on birds, reptiles, plants, washes and riparian communities. Guided hikes typically have a difficulty rating of moderate. The average hike is 1 - 3 hours long with a distance of 1 - 3 miles. Hikers should be in moderate to good physical condition.

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Q: Why do I have to take a guided hike to see the archaeological sites?

A:

Guided hikes reduce inadvertent impacts, vandalism, and theft at these sensitive sites.

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Q: Can I access the Tonto National Forest via Maricopa County Parks?

A:

Yes. Within Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, Spur Cross Trail / SR Trails; within Usery Mountain Regional Park, the Wind Cave Trail can be used for non-motorized access to the Tonto National Forest. If you plan to hike north on the forest, you should leave a responsible person aware of your hiking plans. A compass and map for the area is recommended for all hikers.

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Q: Why can't I drive my Jeep off-road in a Maricopa County Park?

A:

All Maricopa County park trails are limited to non-motorized vehicle use. As one might imagine the danger involved in permitting motorized vehicles on the same trails used by pedestrians, bicyclists, and equestrians.

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Q: Where can I ride my horse or mountain bike?

A:

SX-PricklyPearEquestrians and bicycling is restricted to the open public trails. Riders must stay on the trail, and maintain a low speed for the safety of others.

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Q: Are there any camping or other facilities available?

A:

CC-_Strawberry_HedgehogYes. Many of the Maricopa County Parks have both primitive and developed campsites. Visitors should anticipate a natural setting and bring their own provisions, including water.

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Q: Can I use the dump stations in the County parks if I’m not camping there?

A:

No. However, although this is not encouraged, if you pay the $25 developed camping fee, you may use the dump station.

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Q: Is hunting allowed in Maricopa County Parks?

A:

Yes. Some of the parks within the system allow hunting during specified seasons. Contact the ArizonaGame and Fish Department for all hunting information. 602-942-3000.

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Q: Is metal detecting / recreational prospecting allowed in any of the County parks?

A:

Metal detecting is allowed in the parks; however, you may not stray off of the trails or dig/remove anything from the parks. Straying off trail, and removing items from any of the parks violates Park Rules R-109 and R-118.

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Commission Members

Q: When is the next Parks Commission meeting?

A:

Please visit the Meetings, Agendas and Minutes page for the list of upcoming meetings.

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FAQs - Desert Lake

Q: What should students bring on a field trip?

A:

Pack a water bottle, a hat, walking shoes, and be dressed appropriately for the weather. If you are staying overnight with us there is a complete list of what to bring.

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Q: Will I be able to walk around with my class on our own prior to or at the conclusion of our programs?

A:

Yes. This is something you will need to discuss at the time of reservation. We can set aside time before or after your scheduled programs.

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Q: Where does our class go when we arrive?

A:

Your school guide will meet you in the bus zone. If you are arriving by car, your school guide will meet you at the flagpoles adjacent to the parking lot. From there you will enter the building and proceed to the multi-purpose room where your rangers will meet you and explain the events of the day and go over the rules.

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Q: Where do we eat?

A:

Most groups eat meals in our multi-purpose room which serves as a meeting area and dining hall. Other groups prefer to take advantage of the scenery and eat outside in the amphitheater or patio. We ask that you do not bring glass containers, try to keep food tidbits from falling to the ground and attracting critters, and be sure to pick up any trash.

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Q: Where can we store cold food or drinks?

A:

Many groups bring in large coolers and ice chests for this purpose. However, if requested, we do have a refrigerator available to keep food and drinks cold, and ice for your ice chests.

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Q: Can we cook our food there?

A:

A propane grill is available free of charge, and you must bring your own grilling tools. Also a commercial kitchen is available for a fee if your group is large or you hire a caterer. If you reserve the kitchen at least one member of your group must hold a current food handlers card.

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Q: How much do School Programs cost?

A:

Please contact Desert Outdoor Center or see the Fees page for a listing of current fees.

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Q: Will any or all of the classes be outdoors?

A:

It depends on the class you take. Some classes are held completely outdoors, while others might include a short activity outdoors. Other classes are held entirely indoors.

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Q: What do the programs entail?

A:

Programs are themed activities that provide highly interactive and hands-on experiences. Rangers lead students through a series of engaging activities, culminating in an experience designed to support the program theme. Students are divided into groups and develop a meaningful rapport with several rangers throughout the day. For a complete list of programs click here.

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Q: Do the programs meet Arizona Academic Standards?

A:

All classes comply with Arizona Academic Standards with subject emphasis including science, social studies, visual arts and physical activity.

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Q: Who teaches classes?

A:

All classes are taught by highly qualified full-time interpretive rangers who have been with Maricopa County Parks & Recreation Department for an extensive period. They are specialists in engaging people, especially children, in an assortment of cultural and natural history topics as well as fun and recreational endeavors.

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Q: How long are the classes?

A:

Our classes are approximately 45- 50 minutes long.

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Q: I have made arrangements for a “full day.” Does this mean I can get more than 5 classes if there’s time?

A:

If you book for a full day, it means that you have reserved the facility until 4:30p.m. (half days, 12:30 p.m.). There are three classes in a half day, and five with an extended break in a full day. Our experience has demonstrated that learning tapers off significantly after five of our classes. If buses are late we suggest a class hike or some outdoor activity to occupy fidgety students.

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Q: What happens if the bus arrives late in dropping us off?

A:

Unfortunately, buses do arrive late. We will adjust the class schedule to accommodate late arrivals, including the possibility of eliminating a class.

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Q: What can we do if the buses are late in picking us up?

A:

Sometimes groups must wait for pick up after their classes are finished. We do have a TV/DVD/VCR available for use, as well as some educational videos. Or you may choose to take your students on an exercise hike.

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Q: Can individuals, such as parents or principals, come in during the day while the students are in classes?

A:

Yes. However, we are a closed campus with a locked gate for your student’s safety. Individuals entering separate from the group should have the gate code from the lead teacher, and immediately check in at the office upon arrival.

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Q: I teach students with special needs, can I sign them up for a program?

A:

Yes, for groups of 10 or more students. Review the program descriptions and recommended grade levels to determine which tour would best meet the needs of your students then discuss your choices with our rangers. They are trained to adapt tours to meet the abilities and interests of the group. Please let us know when you make your reservation if you have students with special needs so we can better plan to accommodate them.

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Q: What should I, as a teacher, bring?

A:

You should be sure to bring your class roster and emergency contact lists for your students, any necessary student medications (such as inhalers, etc.), your payment or purchase order, your final attendance count, hat, water, sun block, sunglasses, and any other personal items you feel are necessary.

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Q: What do we do to ‘check-in’ if we are an overnight group?

A:

Our camp hosts and/or receptionist will direct you where to put your gear and food then walk you through the dorms and kitchen, going over rules and facility operations, and expectations for check-out.

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Q: How many people can your facility accommodate?

A:

The DOC can accommodate overnight groups and table-settings for groups up to 150 people. Chair-only seating limit is 200 with standing space for an additional 30 people outside on the patio.

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Q: Is bedding provided in the dormitories?

A:

No. We have bunk beds with twin sized mattresses. You must bring your own bedding/sleeping bag and pillow.

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Q: I understand that there is a gate at the entrance. How do I get in?

A:

There is a gate at our entrance for security purposes since we are a reservation-only facility. A gate code will be provided to the coordinator of your event at reservation time.

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Q: How long is the hiking trail?

A:

Honeymoon Cove Trail is a 2-mile loop. The average hiker should allow about an hour to complete this trail.

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Q: Are we allowed to go on a hike by ourselves?

A:

You may go on a self-guided hike using instructive booklets available at the front office to make your hike more interesting and informative.

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Q: Will we be able to go down to the lake?

A:

Our loop trail does NOT go down to the lake, but there is a separate trail that accesses our pier in Honeymoon Cove that is available only for groups that are accompanied by DOC Staff. Unauthorized access to the lake is strictly prohibited.

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Q: What about dangerous animals?

A:

Since the DOC is located in a rural setting, wild animals are occasionally encountered. We stress that visitors keep their distance and not try to approach, feed, or handle any wild animal. If there is a potential hazard, see any ranger for assistance.

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Q: Do you have a first-aid office?

A:

We do not have a designated first-aid office, and there is not a nurse on staff. We have basic supplies available, and the DOC staff has current first-aid and CPR training. If your group has individuals with special medical needs please bring a medical staff.

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Q: Are there “real” restrooms or only outhouses?

A:

We are a full-service, modern air-conditioned facility with indoor restrooms, and drinking fountains. Our dormitories also have showers.

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Q: Is there seating in your outdoor amphitheater?

A:

Yes, but it is on hard concrete terraces. For more comfortable seating we suggest you bring your own chairs or padding.

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Q: Is there a gift shop?

A:

Yes, we have a gift shop that offers a variety of souvenirs, beverages, snacks, and desert-themed items. You should arrange with a ranger to have gift shop time in your class schedule if your group is interested in shopping. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

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Q: We have a small group of people. Can we still make a reservation?

A:

Yes, but we have a 25 person minimum. If you have less than 25 your billing rate will still be at the 25-person cost.

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Q: If I book my wedding or event at the Desert Outdoor Center (DOC) is alcohol allowed?

A:

Only beer, wine or malt beverages (like wine coolers) are permitted. They must be served by a designated bar-tender into plastic containers and in a designated area. Group serving alcohol must obtain a special-use permit, applications for which are available through our receptionist.

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Q: Can our cook or caterer arrive early to set up and prepare food?

A:

Yes, but arrangements must be made with our receptionist so we know when to expect that person. Your reservation time will also start at that time.

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Q: Is smoking permitted?

A:

There is no smoking permitted in any of our buildings. Outside, ash trays are available.

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Q: What forms of payment do you accept?

A:

We accept cash, credit cards, debit cards, purchase orders, and checks made out to the Desert Outdoor Center, or any combination of the above.

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Q: How soon do I have to have the money in?

A:

The reservation fee is due 30 days upon receipt of the invoice. The reservation fee is a separate fee that is nontransferable, nonrefundable, and does not apply toward your visit. The payment for your visit is due in 30 days from the date of your visit.

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