Natural and developed open space and recreational facilities are not merely desirable, but they are essential to the overall well being of a community. The growing need for public open space and recreational amenities is a key focus of Scottsdale. As a result, the city pursues opportunities to acquire open space resources and explores retrofitting existing parks and facilities to accommodate the recreational needs of the future. The city's open space and park system include approximately 15,000 acres of developed and undeveloped areas. Ultimately, the city stands to have 44,000 acres of open space when built out.

Parks By the Sustainable Numbers

  • 30,580 acres of preserved land
  • 41 parks; 982 total acres
  • 5 urban lakes
  • 11 trailheads
  • 232 miles of nonmotorized trails
  • 129 miles of paved pathways, 151 unpaved


Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt

The Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt is an oasis of parks, lakes, paths and golf courses traversing 11 miles through the heart of Scottsdale. The greenbelt features more than 24 grade-separated crossings, meaning users can avoid major cross traffic. This world-renown flood control project is rated among the top urban "green spaces" in Arizona.


Open Spaces

The city is committed to promoting the acquisition, dedication and setting aside of open space as a community amenity and in support of the tourism industry in Scottsdale. Open space includes, but is not limited to, passive enjoyment and low impact recreational activities, active recreational uses and setbacks for vista corridors along major streets. The character and function of open spaces are different depending upon the character of the area within which they are located.


Xeriscape Garden

The Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden at Chaparral Park provides an educational resource where growing regionally-appropriate plants also grows public awareness to reduce outdoor water use, fosters development of sustainable landscaping and enlists community participation to conserve water resources for the future.

The garden, which is a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat, conceals a buried 5.5 million gallon reservoir from the adjacent Chaparral Water Treatment Plant. It showcases more than 7,000 plants and 200 species. Through signage and an interactive plant guide, garden visitors can learn about low-water use plants and trees, water harvesting and other tips for caring for desert landscape.


Environmentally Sensitive Lands (ESL) Overlay

The ESL is a set of zoning regulations to guide development throughout the 134 square miles of desert and mountain areas of Scottsdale. These areas are located north and east of the Central Arizona Project Canal.

The intent and purpose of the ESL are to identify and protect environmentally sensitive lands in the city and to promote public health and safety by managing development on these lands. The ordinance requires that a percentage of each property be permanently preserved as natural area open space (NAOS) and that specific environmental features, including vegetation, washes, mountain ridges and peaks, be protected from inappropriate development.

Benefits include:

  • Open space between properties and along roadways
  • Maintaining wildlife corridors
  • Protecting native vegetation
  • This city compiled a list of indigenous plants to be used in conjunction with the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance (ESLO) regulations in the Zoning Ordinance. These plants may be used for re-vegetation in Natural Area Open Space (NAOS) areas and in right-of-way as well, as any landscape areas. Download Indigenous Plant List (PDF)


Scenic Corridors and Streetscapes

Scenic Corridors are major thoroughfares designated by the General Plan to have scenic desert landscape setbacks, providing a sense of openness for the community. The design guidelines provide an outline of the city's design expectations for all designated Scenic Corridors.


Native Plant Ordinance

As part of its continuing efforts towards protecting large cacti and trees indigenous to the area, the city adopted the Native Plant Ordinance which applies citywide. Protecting native plants also applies to both natural desert and landscaped areas.

Many desert trees and cacti are slow-growing and can take decades to reach maturity. Therefore, leaving such plants in place or salvaging them for incorporation into landscaping is beneficial both from a financial and feasible point-of-view.


Awards and Recognition

Scottsdale named Tree City USA for 41st consecutive year

Scottsdale earned its 41st consecutive “Tree City USA” recognition in honor of Arbor Day – the longest run of any city in the state. To obtain Tree City USA recognition, a community must adopt a tree ordinance; appoint a board, department, or commission to advise the city on urban forest issues; spend at least $2 per capita on community forestry activities; and hold an Arbor Day celebration.

Scottsdale's Railroad Park captures best park in nation award

After a long bracketed battle of the 32 best local parks in America, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale has come out on top. The Scottsdale park earned the 2019 Engaging Local Government Leaders Knope Award in early April 2019 for best local parks and open spaces. The annual award, named for Amy Poehler's character Leslie Knope from the NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation," honors local government facilities. Parks were this year's focus, but libraries and city hall buildings previously have been honored.

Scottsdale awarded ASU-KER initiative inaugural Resilience Prize

Arizona State University’s Knowledge Exchange for Resilience recognized Scottsdale in 2019 for creating the Indian Bend Wash. KER was launched in 2018 with a $15 million gift from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. Its mission is to build resilient communities through knowledge sharing. The Knowledge Exchange for Resilience Class of 2020 fellows are tasked with identifying vulnerabilities in Maricopa County communities and responding to those challenges together.

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