Take a tour of Gilbert’s planned 272-acre regional park, which will be built at Queen Creek and Higley roads. Credit: Gilbert.

Gilbert. A hub of innovation. A community of excellence. The former hay shipping capital of the world. 

A lot of geckos … And cactuses.  

The town’s residents were not short on ideas to name Gilbert’s two newest parks, up until now called Gilbert Regional Park and Rittenhouse District Park. The Gilbert Town Council whittled 245 submissions received during the April 10 to May 10 submission period to four finalists — two per park — for an online town vote. 

The contenders received more than 3,000 votes. Gilbert Town Council unanimously voted Aug. 2 to go with the most-voted-for names.

After all that, they went for the placeholder name for the future 272-acre park.

The bigger of the two parks is now officially Gilbert Regional Park, the placeholder name used during planning. It narrowly defeated the suggested Gilbert Centennial Park.

The other park, temporarily dubbed Rittenhouse District Park, will now be called Desert Sky Park, the winner with more votes by far than Power Sports Park. 

A range of submissions 

Ask a large group of people to name something and you’ll get a few off-the-wall suggestions. The British government can attest to that after an internet electorate overwhelmingly voted to name a research vessel “Boaty McBoatface.” (The government ended up naming the vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough and dubbing a smaller submarine “Boaty McBoatface.”) 

Gilbert asked the community to stick to a few specifications. Town leaders wanted the name to speak to one of the following: 

  • A geographic location. 
  • The area’s natural features. 
  • A nonliving person or group who made historical contributions to Gilbert. 
  • Something historically or culturally significant. 
  • A vision or purpose.
  • A person or organization of outstanding civic service 

Many suggestions veered to naming the parks after people, perhaps for a family member or even themselves. Other voters thought the parks should be named after fallen officers such as Lt. Eric Shuhandler, a Gilbert officer killed in 2010, or Pat Tillman, an Afghanistan war hero and former National Football League player.

A few voters said the park should be named for U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., citing his civic contributions to the area. But another voter wrote to say naming a park after a state figure like McCain would be “too political.” 

Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald got a shoutout, too, as did several past Gilbert mayors.

Sunset, Sunrise

It’s not lost on anyone that Gilbert is in the middle of the desert. Two people requested “Cactus Park” because, as they wrote, “It’s AZ” and “There are a lot of Cacti in the state.” Others incorporated desert words like “coyote,” “spur” and, well, “desert.” 

Sunrise and Sunset also duked it out as suggestions (one person dubbed sunrise a “noncontroversial” name, hence the suggestion). Neither won. 

Three people borrowed Arizona State University’s favorite word — innovation — in their submissions. 


And then there were voters who looked to community. But “Gilbert Heritage Park” was not chosen.

“As Gilbert grows, families will be bringing their children and their children’s children will keep coming until the end of time,” the anonymous submission reads. “This park is like an inheritance or heritage for future generations to come.” 

Reach reporter Lily Altavena at [email protected] or 602-444-8927. Follow her on Twitter: @lilyalta


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