By Wayne Schutsky GSN Managing Editor

Gilbert took a symbolic first step toward its 272-acre park in its southern region on May 29 when it hosted groundbreaking of the first phase.

The park still does not have a name.

When completed, the park — tentatively known as Gilbert Regional Park — will be the largest in town. Mayor Jenn Daniels said it will be a premier attraction in the south, where residential population has boomed in recent years.

“South Gilbert can feel removed from the rest of the town, but this will function as a central hub of the entire community,” Daniels said.

Daniels, the Gilbert Town Council, town staff and dozens of community members and children showed up to mark the occasion.

The groundbreaking was ceremonial. Construction really begins in late summer or early fall. The town expects to finish the first-phase design process by the end of June. The park, at the southwestern corner of Queen Creek and Higley roads, will feature a splash pad, tennis courts, pickleball courts, tennis courts and playgrounds in the initial phase, to be completed in September 2019.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Gilbert resident Russ Perry, who lives nearby and attended the groundbreaking with granddaughters Lilly Kate and Violet Perry. “We have little community parks, but this will be somewhere we can come and spend the day.”

Future phases of the park may include a lake, amphitheater, dog park, disc-golf course, skate and bike parks and sports fields.

“It is exciting to see this amenity that will be here for them and for generations to come,” Perry said.

Town Council discussed naming the park as well as the Rittenhouse District Park at its May 17 meeting.

Parks and Recreation Director Rod Buchanan presented the council with the top five name recommendations for the southern regional park: Gilbert Regional Park, Mountain View Regional Park, The Gilbert Explorer, Gilbert Park South and Desert Oasis.

Buchanan said the department did extensive community outreach and received about 250 suggested names. Gilbert’s Parks and Recreation Board narrowed the list for the council.

Daniels did not feel strongly about any of the names and suggested the council continue discussing options.

“I know there is a desire to announce the name at the groundbreaking, but I also think it is really important to get the name right before we make an announcement,” Daniels said.

Daniels and several councilmembers want “Gilbert” in the name to leverage the park’s profile and increase the town’s visibility across the Valley. Councilman Victor Petersen and Vice Mayor Brigette Peterson suggested sticking with Gilbert Regional Park. Daniels suggested Gilbert Centennial Park, because the park will open a few months prior to the town’s 100th anniversary in 2020.

Councilman Jared Taylor suggested incorporating a patriotic theme, such as Freedom Park or Constitutional Park.

Councilman Eddie Cook hopes to use the Santan Character Area or Ocotillo Road into the name. Councilman Scott Anderson said he would like to see natural landmarks like the San Tan Mountains in the name.

The council agreed to continue public outreach and will take up the issue again at its meeting on June 7.