Jay Tibshraeny is now serving an unprecedented sixth term as mayor of Chandler, Arizona, a Phoenix suburb of 250,000. Nestled in the Sonoran desert, Chandler enjoys year-round warm weather and picturesque desert views, but it’s the community that sets Chandler apart, attracting several high-tech companies along with a dynamic and active population. As a native of Chandler, a lifelong public servant of Arizona’s East Valley, and an avid runner and bicyclist, Mayor Tibshraeny knows amenities like health and wellness programming, parks and open spaces, and recreational trails make Chandler an excellent place to live. He recently shared some of his city’s highlights with Parks & Recreation.
Parks & Recreation magazine: What sets Chandler apart from other communities in terms of its amenities, programs and services?
Mayor Tibshraeny: We operate, protect, maintain and conserve Chandler’s 1,214 acres of park land, ensuring residents and visitors alike have the opportunity to connect with open space. At the same time, our programs provide educational opportunities to help our community engage in conservation practices. Our focus on health and wellness is our commitment to make Chandler healthier, stronger and more active by providing easy access to parks, as well as free or low-cost opportunities to recreate, swim and attend community events.
P&R: Chandler has a goal of developing a neighborhood park in each square mile of the city. Why is that important to you?
Tibshraeny: Chandler has always been a very family-oriented community. Giving people the ability to walk to a neighborhood park promotes a healthier community and instills greater pride and ownership in neighborhoods. We have 48 existing neighborhood parks with four left to develop, so we are just a couple of years away from completing the goal.
P&R: In 2012, you launched an initiative called Health Connect. Tell us what compelled you to emphasize fitness in your community.
Tibshraeny: A few years ago, my staff was approached by the city of Phoenix with a free prescription drug card program with which Phoenix was having some success. Instead of just rolling out the cards, I thought it would be nice to promote a more well-rounded health and wellness effort by combing financial health with the drug cards, physical health through the promotion of our many recreational amenities, and mental health through a series of Monday Tweets on stress relief. We’ll continue to add new aspects to the Health Connect Initiative where we see needs in the community.
P&R: The city of Chandler is one of only 14 communities to win the Playful City USA distinction from KaBOOM! for eight consecutive years. Why do you think that is?
Tibshraeny: A large part of it is the park amenities and recreational programming that we have in place. But it goes beyond that. We enjoy so many strong partnerships in Chandler with organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, youth sports associations and, of course, our school districts. If you step back and take a look at all we have managed to do, through good times and bad, it really makes for an impressive story.
P&R: What drove the development of Chandler’s network of alternative transportation options?
Tibshraeny: It has been the city’s goal for decades to be a well-connected community. We currently have about 333 miles of bike lanes in our planning area of approximately 72 square miles. With our weather, cycling is very popular. We also developed several miles of trails along an irrigation canal system that runs through Chandler. It is lighted and used for biking, walking and horseback riding. Currently our planning staff is working closely with the development community to bring more walking- and biking-friendly projects into our downtown area.
Jayni Rasmussen is NRPA’s Advocacy and Outreach Specialist.