Nature Centers

Nature Centers

The Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department has four green-friendly nature centers which can be found in the following parks.

  • Cave Creek Regional Park
  • Estrella Mountain Regional Park
  • Usery Mountain Regional Park
  • White Tank Mountain Regional Park

Each of the nature centers are design to be fully functional, sustainable and energy efficient while minimizing the disturbance to the natural landscape and maximizing the design compatibility with the natural surroundings. Several other factors taken into consideration included the preservation of wildlife corridors, the need to avoid disturbing natural undeveloped land, and the possibility of utilizing a site which already had been previously disturbed.

The nature center's amphitheaters, patios and classrooms may be rented for corporate events, scout meetings, family gatherings, and a myriad of other functions. For information about capacity levels and fees, contact the park supervisor directly.

Estrella Mountain Regional Park Nature Center

The Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department constructed its first green-friendly nature center at Estrella Mountain Regional Park. This nature center has served as the prototype for additional centers throughout the park system. Before the department began designing the prototype, staff sought Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification criteria from the U.S. Green Building Council to gain a better understanding as to which types of materials and facilities would work best to preserve the natural environment of the park. Some of the green features include:

  • A garden roof system that contains native plant species, and enables the facility to visually integrate into its surroundings. The desert roof adds a significant isolative value, retains rainwater, and reduces storm water runoff on the site.
  • A central skylight that is fully glazed for daylight admission; yet is situated behind deep shade canopies to discourage direct sun in the summer. In the winter, when the low sun angle hits it, the skylight absorbs and reradiates the heat into the space.

Estrella Mountain Regional Park
14805 W. Vineyard Avenue
Goodyear, AZ 85338
Ph: (623) 932-3811 /

Cave Creek Regional Park Nature Center

The nature centers at Cave Creek Regional Park, Usery Mountain Regional Park, and White Tank Mountain Regional Park are paired with outdoor amphitheaters, and are connected to the centers by scenic desert walkways that stem from the back patio. The amphitheaters allow staff to incorporate interpretive and green educational programming opportunities into their schedules.

Cave Creek Regional Park
37900 N. Cave Creek Parkway
Ph: (623) 465-1431 /

Usery Mountain Regional Park

This nature center contains an entry pathway that welcomes visitors into the park and encourages them to venture into their natural surroundings. Some of the green features include:

  • The walls, glass, and the roof are all designed, and insulated to meet or exceed the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers energy standards. For instance, the windows are operable with dual-glazed low-e glass allowing them to be opened for natural ventilation when the weather permits, and to resist heat gain in the summer.
  • Whenever possible, Parks also took special care in selecting materials that were regional, rapidly renewable, and offered high recycled content. For example, the majority of the installed materials were left with a natural finish to reduce the use of paints and varnishes.
  • Exterior materials, such as the corrugated metal roofing panels, and the unpainted steel siding, were chosen for their durability and low maintenance needs.
  • The restrooms use low-flow toilets, and waterless urinals.

Usery Mountain Regional Park
3939 N. Usery Pass Rd.
Mesa, AZ 85207
Ph: (480) 984-0032 /

White Tank Mountain Regional Park Nature Center

The nature centers at White Tank Regional Park is LEED® Platinum certified and has 228 rooftop photovoltaic panels that produce 25% if the facility's annual energy needs. The building was green before it was even a building. The contactor that built the facility separated and recycled over 92% of the construction debris. Other green features include:

  • The 145-vehicle parking area is paved with decomposed, compressed granite to make use of natural materials and graded to allow runoff to trickle to unobtrusive catch basins.
  • The 22-foot tall, 12-inch thick fin walls across the rear exposure of the building help shield its dual-pane windows from the searing summer sun, thus reducing heat gain. While the ceiling-to-floor windows let in abundant light, automatic interior Mecho shades lessen the glare.
  • Salvaged and replanted native cactus and trees are from the site and keep outdoor water usage very low. Highly reflective roof coating on 75% of the roof reduces heat island effect.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park
20304 W. White Tank Mountain Rd.
Waddell, AZ 85355
Ph: (623) 935-2505 /