Upgrades at two parks in Peoria are fully completed following renovation projects that lasted for several months.
Sonoran Mountain Ranch Park and Country Meadows Park received extensive upgrades and changes, according to John Sefton, director of parks, recreation and community facilities for the city of Peoria.
Sefton said these park “refreshes” were aimed at creating more inclusive, accessible and updated park environments for Peoria residents.
He said several years ago city officials reached out to neighborhoods near the parks to learn what residents wanted to see in these upgrades. The city conducted surveys, in-person meetings, board meetings, and even a “survey night” at a local school to gather the information.
“We were able to touch base with the people who use the park, who live in the neighborhood, and some really large themes came out,” Sefton said of Country Meadows Park.
Increased shade, walking paths and lighting were among the most mentioned. These suggestions were taken into consideration.
Sefton said the city added a shade structure and more trees to Country Meadows Park, which also has a fully covered basketball court.
“One of the other points from the community was that they wanted to make sure that it was well lit, so the entirety of the park got an upgrade to LED lighting and all of the light poles are painted and refreshed,” he said.
The park has less turf to reduce water usage and increase efficiency. The walking paths throughout the park were updated.
Sefton said that along the walking path around the park, there are “four different workout stations, stretching stations and things along those lines that give people an alternative to just walking around.”
Country Meadows Park also received new, more inclusive play areas.
Similar upgrades were also made to Sonoran Mountain Ranch Park.
Sefton said for residents near this park, “their biggest concern was the turf conditions, walkability and shade.” He said parents complained to the city about the heat.
“That park has a very nice stand of mesquite trees, and we took full advantage of the shade that’s already natural, and then the playground as well received a full canopy,” Sefton said.
More accessible benches were added underneath trees, and shade sails that were originally used for the playgrounds were moved near the basketball court.
He said new playground equipment was added, but they “have been taking an approach to where we can refresh a playground whereas opposed to replace the whole thing.”
Sand was removed from the playground and replaced with wood chips to increase accessibility. New walking paths also increase accessibility.
Sefton said that the updates at the parks are part of a bigger, long-term plan by the city of Peoria and that other parks have already been, or will be, refreshed. One is Rio Vista Community Park, which, he said, will undergo a major facelift.
He said Peoria residents truly appreciate and rely on the city’s outdoor space and that this was one reason why the city is upgrading these parks.
“Our community cares deeply about having access to parks, having access to trails, and access to our open space,” Sefton said. “We have a strong tradition as a community in supporting our parks and utilizing them.”
He said that people are getting out and finding more ways to exercise and that in March of last year, after the pandemic hit, there was “over a 200% increase on our trailhead counters.”
He also said while it is important to recognize the positive activities that happen at the city’s parks, it is also important to recognize the negative.
“We also want to bring alert and attention toward any negative behaviors that go on in our parks,” Sefton said. “Whether that’s a call to our nonemergency or emergency police, or even directly to our parks department … we want to be aware and to be able to respond to the community in the very best way that we can.”