Sunday, May 28, 2017
#5 Thunderbird Conservation Park
Summary: The 1,185-acre park with nearly 20 miles of trails in the Hedgpeth Hills is yet another of the desert recreational areas located in the north Valley. Dedicated to the preservation of the desert environment, the park offers enjoyable outdoor opportunities for hikers, mountain bikers, trail riders, picnickers and bird watchers.
Why You Should Go: In addition to the normal outdoor activities commonly found in all of the local desert parks, this park offers four unique wildlife viewing blinds that overlook an adjoining community lake. This constant source of water within the desert attracts many species of wintering waterfowl as well as residential desert birds and animals like coyotes, javelina, quail and deer.
When To Go: Like all desert parks the best time to visit is during the cooler months between late October - May. Hiking during the summer months is safest and best enjoyed early in the morning.
Be Safe/Insight: All desert outing precautions should be taken when visiting the park. Good shoes, a wide-brim hat, sun screen and plenty of drinking water are a must. Trails are wide, well maintained but rocky. This is a very popular hiking/mountain biking area so please use all trail courtesies. Dogs on leashes are welcome; be sure to bring water for you dog and pick up and properly dispose of any dog waste.
History: The name Thunderbird is a common name today across the north Valley. The name first came into use in the area in 1939 when a group of Hollywood investors decided to create a commercial pilot training facility near near 59th Avenue & Greenway Road in Glendale, Az. Such celebrities as Jimmy Stewart, Hoagy Carmichael, Henry Fonda, Cary Grant and Margaret Sullavan were all a part of the investment team.
Hollywood’s creativity was immediately on display when artist Millard Streets designed the air field to look from the air as a representation of the mythical thunderbird of the Anasazi Indian culture. This “super” bird was said to be the magnification of power and strength. The control tower created the head of the bird, the flower gardens represented the bird’s colorful tail, the airplane hangers symbolized the wings and the airfield itself embodied the bird’s powerful body. Del Webb Construction was the building contractor.
When World War II began the field was leased to the United States Army Air Force. During the war over 10,000 fighter pilots from 30 nations were trained at Thunderbird Field.
When the base closed in 1946 at the end of World War II, Lt. General Barton Kyle Yount, commanding general of the US Army Air Training Command, acquired the old training field. He began the American Institute for Foreign Trade school in the building of the old field. Today this award winner school is known as the Thunderbird School of Global Management and still operates on the site of the historic Thunderbird Field.
The name Thunderbird quickly became used for local roads, schools and even a desert park. The City of Glendale acquired the park land in 1951 with a lease from the federal government. City ownership occurred in 1956 with help from the Glendale Rotary Club and Glendale Women’s Club. Maricopa County took over the operations of the park in 1963 and many of the trails and facilities were constructed at this time. In 1984 the City of Glendale regained control of the park and continues today to oversee the park’s operation and management.
Hours: Sunrise - sunset - 24/7/365
Trail Map: http://www.glendaleaz.com/ParksandRecreation/documents/T-birdParkMaprevised.pdf
Website: http://www.glendaleaz.com/parksandrecreation/thunderbirdpark.cfm ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnh2KTWGmkg
Location: Main Entrance: 22800 N. 59th Ave, Glendale, AZ; East Trailhead is located at 55th Avenue & Pinnacle Peak Road; West Trailhead is located 67th Avenue & Patrick Lane
Zip Code: 85310