by Kelly Tolbert, Recreation Services Coordinator, Prescott Parks and Recreation
Pioneer Park has quite a history, morphing into a multiuse sprawling facility, switching between landowners and agencies over the past three decades.
Originally, the land where Pioneer Park facilities sit today belonged to the United States Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (commonly referred to as BLM). Back in the early 1980s the City of Prescott and Yavapai County signed a Recreation and Public Purpose Lease to obtain over 1,200 acres allowing for typical uses such as schools, municipal facilities, hospitals, historic monument sites, campgrounds, parks and fairgrounds.
In fact, the Pioneer Park area has transitioned through multiple master plans that over the years have included the horse-racing track known as Yavapai Downs. Other master plans have included recreation and aquatic facilities. Yavapai County explored the possibility of relocating its administrative offices to include everything except the Courthouse that would remain downtown.
Part of the agreement with BLM is that any plans for construction of facilities are submitted for approval. Yavapai County has what is called a patent on part of the BLM owned property and a lease for the other part. Not having a clear title was a deterrent for the County to move forward with such a substantial capital project that included jails for both adults and juveniles.
Around the same time, Yavapai County received BLM approval to construct Kuebler Field in partnership with American Youth Soccer Organization 172 (AYSO) with the goal of adding soccer fields. This field was named in honor of Robert Kuebler Jr., who served as Justice of the Peace, City Magistrate, and Judge for the Yavapai-Prescott Tribe. Judge Kuebler was tragically killed in an automobile incident while vacationing with his family in Montana.
Longtime County Supervisor Gheral Brownlow (Brownlow Trail namesake) was heavily involved with these efforts and secured funding through donations and funding from the county. The City participation was limited to design with the knowledge that maintenance and management would be transferred from the County per the 2002 IGA. Plans for the in-line hockey rink and volleyball courts were in place for the second phase of improvements and private funds were raised by community members.
Three years later, the City converted Kuebler Field from softball use to baseball use requiring turf and irrigation to be added to the infield. This reduced the amount of outfield turf ultimately affecting the layout of soccer fields for AYSO use. Due to the popularity of Little League in the area and the growth of travel baseball, advocates began to suggest an expansion project.
It was not until 2014 with the support of the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation that a second baseball field was added to the complex. With a generous donation totaling about $450,000, the field was named after retired Diamondback pitcher Brad Ziegler. The park maintenance agreement was also renewed between the City and County at that time.
Youth baseball and soccer were not the only sports experiencing periods of growth, as high school mountain bicycling was becoming officially organized in Northern Arizona, a project of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), in 2013. Historically, the Brownlow Trails located in Pioneer Park were maintained by the County and consisted of wide, flat paths popular for runners like Brownlow himself. When he constructed them, they were marked for 5K and 10K race courses.
Aiming to satisfy race organizers, the City of Prescott recognized that adding single-track trails would enhance the existing trails and began work on drainage improvements after assuming maintenance responsibilities in 2016. Again, with the help of volunteers, the trails at Brownlow now offer over 20 miles for hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use. Sign improvements were also installed, providing users with color-coded options in choosing a route.
A longtime partner with the City, Prescott Kiwanis Club, approached the Recreation Services Department with an idea for a new playground honoring the legacy of humanitarian worker Kayla Mueller in 2015. After vigorous fundraising, the playground opened in 2016 and continues to be one of the most visited in the portfolio of playgrounds.
Shortly after the construction of Kayla’s Hands Playground, the Prescott Pickleball Association approached the City with a proposal for eight, state-of-the-art pickleball courts. A fast growing sport and recreation pastime, pickleball attracts tournaments, league play and lessons drawing visitors from all over the state. The courts were opened for play in 2017, and a restroom facility was added in 2018. The courts are so popular that the association is currently planning to add four more courts.
Over the years, Pioneer Park has successfully adapted to the demands of both sports and outdoor recreation communities while serving visitors and residents In Prescott. Any weekend beginning in March and ending in late October there is likely some event at Pioneer Park. Soccer, baseball, softball, in-line hockey, pickleball and mountain biking all call this area their homes. Pioneer Park also served as the venue for the City’s annual Fourth of July Celebration for over eight years, and the hockey rink sometimes hosts roller derby events.
For a schedule of events and more information on Prescott’s Pioneer Park, please visit www.prescott-az.gov.
Pioneer Park Timeline
- 1992: City of Prescott & Yavapai County enters in the first Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA)
- 2002: Construction begins on softball and soccer fields
- City of Prescott and Yavapai County sign second IGA
- 2003: Yavapai Trails Association President and trails advocate Jan Alfano retires
- 2004: American Youth Soccer Organization (YCSO) donates $10,000 to construction of Kuebler Field
- Inline Hockey rink constructed by Yavapai County
- 2005: Arizona Cardinals Football Team utilizes multiuse fields for preseason training camp
- 2006: City of Prescott and Yavapai County enter third IGA
- 2008: County agrees to include inline hockey with land trade agreement with the City of Prescott
- City agrees to take over maintenance after the County completes improvements
- To include concession stand and restroom facilities
- 2011: City Council agrees to utilize park impact fees
- 2013: First Arizona Mountain Bike season begins utilizing trails at Brownlow which combined
- With Legacy Trail was 5.45 miles total
- 2014: County Board of Supervisors vote to approve Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation field (Brad Ziegler Field) and to renew park maintenance agreement
- 2016: City of Prescott trails division expands Pioneer Park system to total
- Kayla’s Hands playground construction complete/donation from Prescott Kiwanis
- 2017: Pickleball Courts construction complete and play begins
- 2018: City of Prescott adds restroom facility to pickleball courts