Public pools and splash pads aren’t as common in the Phoenix area as you might think.

The largest cities in metropolitan Phoenix are lacking in public places to splash around compared with other large U.S. cities,  a report released Wednesday by the Trust for Public Land, a national non-profit group, shows.

The cities — Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix and Scottsdale — all ranked below the national average of splash pads and swimming pools per person, when looking at the 100 largest cities in the country.

“That’s interesting to me,” said Ali Hiple, program coordinator for the trust’s Center for City Park Excellence. “That could be something for the cities to be thinking about.”

Other interesting facts in the report: Glendale has the most volleyball nets per person out of any city on the list. Mesa is lacking in public restrooms, comparatively. And at least a few Valley parks are really big, although they may not be very close to homes.

Reports on each city can be downloaded from the trust’s website.

Public pools and splash pads

Metro Phoenix cities on the list have 0.8 to 2.2 public pools per 100,000 residents. The average of the cities listed is 2.4.

Phoenix has 29 public pools, at 1.8 pools per 100,000 residents, compared with Tucson, which has 38 pools, or seven per 100,000 residents, according to the report.


Gregg Bach, Phoenix parks spokesman, pointed out that there are many private pools in the Phoenix area that aren’t considered in the report, such as pools in private neighborhoods and YMCAs.

Compared with other cities, he said, more Phoenix residents probably have pools in their backyard or community.

Nevertheless, Hiple said the trust encourages cities to add pools and splash pads so everyone in the public can have access.

Volleyball fad in Glendale?

Randomly, Glendale has tons of volleyball nets, compared with most other large cities.

The city has 51 volleyball nets, for a rate of 2.1 nets per 10,000 people. That’s a lot more than most cities on the list — 25 have none, and the average is 0.39 per 10,000 people.

Chandler and Scottsdale are in the top 10 for volleyball nets, too.

Asked for an explanation for where exactly all of these nets came from, Kim Larson, Glendale parks spokeswoman, said she would have to ask around, but she didn’t think there was a reason for it.

However, Glendale hasn’t quite caught onto the pickleball craze yet.

The city has no official pickleball courts, although Larson said it does convert space in the Foothills Recreation and Aquatics Center into courts during set times.

Phoenix has 31 pickleball courts, Scottsdale has 11, Chandler has six, Mesa has five and Gilbert has two.

Where are Mesa’s public restrooms?

Mesa ranks pretty low on the trusts’ overall “park score,” coming in at 96th out of 100 in terms of access, acreage, amenities and investment. 

But, most of all, it is one of the cities on the list with the lowest number of public restrooms, with 31, or 0.6 per 10,000 residents.

Mesa is proud of its park system, which is expanding, but hasn’t kept up with the city’s rapid population growth, said Kevin Christopher, a city spokesman.

“The city is focused on managing our parks, recreation and community facilities the best way possible to continue to meet the needs of our residents,” he said.

RELATED: Mesa youth sports complex among local asks on the November ballot

Large parks, but not close to home


From a historic train built in 1912 to lazy rivers, splash pads and an archery range, the options for cool and family-friendly fun are plenty in the Phoenix-area’s public parks.

By releasing the report, the trust aims to raise awareness about public access to parks. The goal is to see that every person in the country has a park within 10 minutes walk from where they live, Hiple said.

In Phoenix, only 45 percent of people do. In Gilbert, that number is 26 percent, although more parks are coming.

But Phoenix also has much more preserved space than most cities on the list, and even compared with other cities of its size. 

Phoenix has nearly 50,000 acres of preserved space or parks, which makes for 30.7 acres per 1,000 residents. That compares with 13.9 acres in cities with similar densities.

The two largest parks in the 100 largest cities are in the Valley, too: McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale and South Mountain Park and Preserve in Phoenix.

Republic reporter Lily Altavena contributed to this article.

Reach reporter Jen Fifield at [email protected] or 602-444-8763, or follow her on Twitter @JenAFifield.



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