Guest Blog: Parks and Open Spaces Part of a Balanced Life

By Rep. Mark Cardenas, Member of the Arizona House of Representatives

In the district I represent in the legislature, we have what some would call “the best of both worlds.” While an urban center, it also includes plenty of outdoor spaces – a source of pride for residents who live here – that allows for fishing, hiking and camping.

Preserving parks and other open spaces is a priority for residents in my district, and for me too. Many of us shared a similar upbringing. Unable to go on exotic sounding vacations like Disneyworld, most of us took to the hills. On weekends, my family would pack a picnic and go to a park.

When I was about six years old, our family got in the car and headed to the White Tanks Mountains outside of Phoenix. In my young mind in the car that day, I had no idea where we were headed. It was my first experience outside of the city and totally new land that I didn’t know existed. There, at the end of a trail, was a waterfall that made my city and my home seem so far away.

 Rep. Cardenas at Desert West Lake Park on Arizona Fishing Day

Rep. Cardenas at Desert West Lake Park on Arizona Fishing Day

Places like that still inspire me as an adult. As a representative in the legislature it is the micro view of these places that inspire my work. To improve the world, we have to start in our own neighborhoods and I have a vested, personal interest in making sure we become a better city, with better opportunities. People need affordable housing and are also looking for balance in their neighborhoods. We want recreation as well as jobs, to help our families thrive.

It was that quality of life and balance that, in my first experience in public office on the Estrella Village Planning Committee, taught me how to mix development with open spaces. And now, in the legislature, I am still striving toward that balance for all our residents. Balance in our neighborhoods leads to a broader understanding of our state and our world.

There are currently proposals in our state and across the West to takeover federal land. But to do this would have a devastating impact on our economy. We have to look at all of these decisions through a balanced lens – how it impacts our recreational and economic opportunities, many of which are inextricably linked.

I see my job as the protector of our “best of both worlds” state. Like all Arizona residents, I take pride in our diverse landscape, our diverse economy and the opportunities they provide.

Rep. Mark Cardenas represents District 19 in the Arizona legislature, which includes part of Phoenix (Avondale). He is an Iraq war veteran, Phoenix native, and HECHO Board Member.