Come explore the Lake Pleasant Regional Park Discovery Center
As the manager of more than 120,000 acres of pristine Sonoran Desert, the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department takes pride in having the resources to connect people with nature. Each year, more than 2.1 million people visit the County’s regional park system and enjoy the many miles of trails, educational programs, and wide variety of park activities.
With more than 750,000 outdoor enthusiasts flocking to Lake Pleasant Regional Park annually, the lake is easily the most popular park in the County’s regional park system. As these visitors pay their fees to enjoy the park, a portion of each fee collected is set aside to help improve the park’s infrastructure.
“While the department has been making improvements system wide, the lake has seen a significant number of changes over the last couple of years,” said Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Clint Hickman. “In 2014, the department expanded the park’s mile long trail system to just over 15 miles, and connected the trails to the Maricopa Trail. That alone gave park visitors the access to miles of trails.”
But not everyone comes for the trails. The 23,362-acre park also houses 9,966-acres of water at the high water mark, and 116-miles of shoreline. However, the lake hasn’t always been this size. Back in 1985, the Bureau of Reclamation began construction on the New Waddell Dam to store Colorado River water for Central Arizona Project use. This expanded the surface area of the lake from 3,528-acres to 9,966-acres, thus making it the second largest lake in Arizona, and increasing the recreational opportunities of Lake Pleasant Regional Park.
"In 1990, Reclamation built an overlook at the Lake Pleasant Regional Park allowing many visitors to watch the progress as New Waddell Dam was constructed. When the dam was completed, it was transferred to Maricopa County who transformed it into a small visitors' center," said Leslie Meyers, Reclamation's Phoenix Area Office Manager.
Over the past 25 years, use of the small facility has been expanded to include educational programs by the park's interpretive ranger, an information center, display space for a wide variety of marketing materials, live animals exhibits, information on the parks flora and fauna, and an ever expanding inventory of retail items for sale.
“The bones of the structure were still in good condition; however, it was time to modernize and expand the facility. Several years before the renovations commenced, our department began meeting with Reclamation to discuss the project, and ensure the final product would be a good representation of both agencies visions. I believe we achieved that mission,” said R.J. Cardin, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Director.
The newly renovated 4,321 sq. ft. facility includes a reception area, informative interpretive displays and wildlife exhibits, a fish tank, retail space, a meeting room and administrative offices. Restrooms are easily accessible located adjacent to the building’s entrance. Next to the Discovery Center, guests will find an amphitheater for outdoor programs and presentations, desert tortoise habitat, and the Discovery Center Trail.
On Saturday, October 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the agencies will host a grand opening for the Lake Pleasant Regional Park Discovery Center to showcase all that the new facility has to offer. The event will kick-off with short speeches from key partners in the project, followed by a Native American blessing on the building, and ribbon-cutting.
“For us, this is not just a celebration of the project, but a commemoration of a well-run partnership between multiple agencies. In addition to the traditional grand opening festivities, we will have an array of family-friendly activities, exhibits, educational and historical presentations, and much more available for those who attend,” added David Jordan, Lake Pleasant Regional Park Supervisor.
For additional information on the Lake Pleasant Regional Park Discovery Center Grand Opening, phone (928) 501-1710 or visit the Maricopa County Park and Recreation Department’s website at www.maricopacountyparks.net/events/discovery-center-grand-opening/.
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