Regional Park Nature Center set for completion by December

Park logoBy Curtis Riggs | October 1, 2008

Will serve needs of locals and visitors
CAVE CREEK – Cave Creek Regional Park officials hope the new $1.1-million Nature Center will entice local residents, school children and groups to begin visiting the 3,000-acre park, which lies just a few miles west of town.

The Maricopa County Parks Department decided to build the Nature Center because comment cards from park visitors listed an education/park center as the number one request.

nature centerThe Regional Park Nature Center is one of three centers now being built in Maricopa County parks, including Usery Mountain Park and Estrella Park.

“It is designed to introduce visitors to the desert and give locals information about their own back yard,” Cave Creek Regional Park Supervisor Amy Ford said.

The 1,800-square-foot Nature Center will also function as a meeting place for local groups and as an events venue.

“It will be an asset to the park community,” she said. The center also provides local history about mining and indigenous people who lived in the area a couple of centuries ago.

Animals native to the upper Sonoran Desert, like Gila Monsters, rattlesnakes, king snakes, Sonoran Desert toads and desert tortoises, will be housed in exhibits at the Nature Center.

Both Ford and County Parks Director R.J. Cardin hope the Nature Center will convince Cave Creek residents to have the same sense of ownership for the Regional Park as many locals have for the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area.

 “The Nature Center will be for local residents as well as visitors to learn more about Sonoran Desert plants and animals,” Cardin said. The new center will also allow the park to hold summer activities.

Cardin stated the new Regional Park center alleviates the need for a similar center at Spur Cross. The current eight-mile annexation that will link the two parks also helped to take Spur Cross out of the Nature Center equation.

“We talked to the Town about tying in the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area into the Cave Creek Regional Park and we thought is there a need for two visitor centers?” Cardin said.

The new Nature Center will be a green building that uses solar power and other environmentally friendly operating features.

Half of the roof on the center will be made out of a Desert Roof, which will use desert plants to insulate the building. The other half will house solar panels.

In addition to providing insulation to help heat and cool the building Cardin said putting natural soil on the roof will keep hikers on the nearby Overton Trail from having to look down on a huge manmade roof in the park.

A solar light strip at the end of the auditorium portion of the Nature Center will also provide solar light for the center.

An outdoor amphitheater is being built just outside the center that will be a great place to gaze at the stars, watch animals and hold outdoor events.

“We hope the new center will help to make the park not just a one-time destination. We hope it will allow people to use the park year-round,” Ford said. “The new center will allow us to do things we have only dreamed of before.”