City of Tempe working on a visionary plan for the Tempe Beach Park

The plan outlines proposed additions to the park from bird-watching platforms to a rock wall

The City of Tempe is working on visionary plans to improve the Tempe Beach Park with hopes to enhance the area and create an inviting park for visitors.  

Melissa Quillard, city of Tempe public information officer, said the project, referred to as the Rio Salado and Beach Park Master Plan, is a far-reaching and large-range plan that shows what the city could possibly accomplish in the next 20 to 30 years. 

“It will be basically our guideline to how it (Tempe Beach Park) develops moving forward and the types of things and the types of activities that we put in there for the community and the types of activities people want to see in there,” Quillard said. 

She said the next step in planning is to develop a list of priorities and identify where development should start. 

Bonnie Richardson, an architect and urban planner in the transportation sector for the city of Tempe, is a project manager for the plan.

She said the plan was taken to the Tempe City Council, where it was voted on and approved. The city council asked them to come back with “an implementation strategy for maybe the next five years,” Richardson said. 

According to the work study session presentation for the Rio Salado and Beach Park Masterplan, the park is envisioned to include a zip-line, sculpture gardens, a rock-climbing wall, multiple viewing decks, and more.

The conceptual draft for the masterplan shows that there could also possibly be a floating stage, new volleyball courts, a beer garden and a new beach access point. 

Richardson said part of the process for the plan is to figure out how the project will be funded and that the city is currently looking at different options, including non-profit partnerships. 

She said the project has “been approached by a couple different non-profits with some kind of exciting projects in mind that are pretty much ready to go.” 

Richardson said she couldn’t comment on specifics regarding those projects currently.

"During this next year, one of the tasks we have is figuring out how we work with non-profits and the community organizations that may want to help make a better park, by fundraising and implementing some small projects,” she said. 

Richardson said that there is a preliminary plan in place for outdoor workout stations that are accessible to all and can be used by anyone in the community. 

She said that the city wants to make it easier for people to walk around the park and also have different activities to interact with along the way. 

“You don’t just want to have pathways all around," she said. "You want to have places to stop to enjoy something, do something — really anything that will draw people around the walk of the park.” 

Richardson said that the city hopes to create areas in the park that will accommodate everyone. While she said the project aims to encourage events that require a large area of concrete, the plan also emphasizes a goal to reduce the amount of concrete and have focus on nature. 

“There’s a lot of (bird-watching) done around the lake, and, in fact, we have the bald eagle," she said. "We’ve got all sorts of birds in this area, that people from other countries come to seek out. So, whether that is an interesting tourism attraction or a great education opportunity for people in the valley, it’s worth pursuing.”

Cathy Wise, education director for Audubon Arizona said that an area that is pleasant and shady can allow people to relax and gain a sense of well-being and they can observe different birds that are in the area and that this is a way to connect with nature. 

“Birds can be a great gateway to connect people with nature because they’re so easy to observe and they’re so interesting," she said. "So, when you’re in that space, when you’re quiet, when you’re able to sit back and take in your surroundings, you’re going to start noticing birds and it also connects you with the outdoors.” 

Aimee Esposito, the executive director for Trees Matter, said she thinks that adding to the nature component of the park is a great idea. 

Esposito said that adding a large amount of trees placed together would be extremely beneficial for those walking around the park.

“When you have a collection of trees together, they support each other and create a large cooling effect," she said.

Richardson said that she think this is a unique opportunity for Tempe and she's excited that the community is interested. 

Reach the reporter at and follow @itsbrennaaaa on Twitter. 

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