Queen Creek community park to be named iconic resident

Opting to choose unique over generic, the Queen Creek Town Council voted 6-0 to name the town’s new community park Mansel Carter Oasis Park.

The late Mansel Carter is pictured as many who knew him remember him — a lover of nature who could feed the birds from his hands. The town of Queen Creek’s newest park will be named Mansel Carter Oasis Park in his honor. During its planning and design stages, the outdoor site was referred to as West Park due to its location on the west side of the town. (Special to the Independent/Town of Queen Creek)

The decision was made during the council’s regular meeting Oct. 4 in the Queen Creek Community Chambers, 20727 E. Civic Parkway. Voting in favor of the name were Mayor Gail Barney, Vice Mayor Jeff Brown and council members Robin Benning, Dawn Oliphant, Emilena Turley and Julia Wheatley (by phone).

Councilman Jake Hoffman was absent due to a family obligation, Mayor Barney said at the meeting.

Up until then, the working title for the 30-acre outdoor site was West Park. It reflected the site’s location on the west side of Queen Creek, at 19535 E. Appleby Road, near Ocotillo and Sossaman roads.

The park will include baseball/softball fields, multi-purpose fields, a playground, splash pad, wheel park, walking trail and lake. The town held a groundbreaking ceremony Aug. 1; the park is expected to open fall 2018, according to the town’s website: queencreek.org.

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The name was voted on after Adam Robinson, the town’s recreation superintendent, explained to the council the names submitted by the public. Eighty submissions met the qualifications set forth in the town’s naming process.

Names for the park had to adhere to town-designated criteria, such as including a geographical location of the park or facility, or natural or geological features proximate to the park or facility. They also could reflect a cultural or historical significance to the town or a surrounding neighborhood, or include the family name of an individual or a family that has made a significant contribution to the community, country, state or the field of parks and recreation.

Residents were notified of the park-naming campaign on the town’s website, via social media and in a press release.

The names were reviewed by the town Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee members during their Sept. 12 meeting.

The purpose of the committee is to assist and advise Queen Creek Parks and Recreation staff, according to the town’s website. The PRAC also acts in an advisory capacity to the town council in the development and continuing review of goals and objectives for Queen Creek’s parks, trails and open spaces as well as recreational programs and events.

Committee members selected three names from the public suggestions to recommend to the council. They were: Queen Creek Adventure Park, Queen Creek Lakeview Park and Queen Creek Community Park.

Mr. Robinson said the committee also liked suggestions that included the names representing Queen Creek’s pioneering residents or unique history. They included Mr. Carter and Dave Croxell as well as Doodle Bug Park.

This statue of the late Mansel Carter feeding birds is in front of the Justice girls clothing store, near Target, in the Queen Creek Marketplace. The town of Queen Creek named its newest community park after its iconic resident, who was also known as the Old Man of the Mountain. (Special to the Independent/Nikki Bunnell)

Mr. Carter (1902-87) is known as the Man of the Mountain to many who research the town’s history. He made his home on Goldmine Mountain, where he had filed mining claims for 40 years.

In 1948, he and a Cherokee Indian from Oklahoma named Marion Kennedy moved to the San Tan Mountains to try their hand at mining, according to the town’s website.

They worked their claims for silver and copper until Mr. Kennedy died in 1960. Mr. Mansel then started making his “cactus curios” — small carvings from cactus and wood. Over the years, he became a genuine celebrity, welcoming visitors from all over the world.

He had a way with small birds and a respect and understanding that can only come from the heart, according to the website.

A reporter once wrote, “Carter, who wears thick eye-glasses and has a long white beard, placed a bit of food on his fingertips and called out, ‘come on.’ A woodpecker poked its head around a pole, landed on Carter’s fingers and snatched the piece of food.”

His guest book, cactus curios and many of his personal items are on display at the San Tan Historical Society’s museum. And the gravesites of Mr. Mansel and Mr. Kennedy are in San Tan Mountain Regional Park.

Queen Creek resident April Holland Wiltbank submitted the name Mansel Carter, Mr. Robinson said during a phone interview. Mrs. Wiltbank said during an interview she didn’t know Mr. Carter, but was looking back as far back as she could in the town’s history to pay tribute to its roots.

“I just like studying about the history of the area where we live and educating my kids about it,” Mrs. Wiltbank said. “When I saw the contest, it just struck me that we needed to name it after someone who was influential in the area. I thought of him and his love of animals, especially birds. Birds, nature, parks and the idea of the park being named after him seemed like a natural fit.”

She said she is proud the name was chosen because of its history.

Mr. Croxell was a senior building inspector for the town from 2001 until his passing in 2015. During his tenure, he held a supervisor position, was interim building official and performed fire construction inspections after the fire marshal position was eliminated during the Great Recession, according to Mr. Robinson’s presentation. He touched every commercial project and a large percentage of the residential houses that were constructed from 2001 to 2015.

Doodle Bug Park was a suggestion made for the original “commuter” train in Queen Creek, according to Mr. Robinson’s presentation. “I always remember growing up and even now. I don’t know how many times I was late to school because of that Doodle Bug,” wrote the person who suggested the name. Mr. Robinson did not include the nominator’s name in his presentation.

“Doodle Bug is historically significant,” wrote the nominator. “The Doodle Bug switch was located just blocks away from this park site. The train was known as ‘The Doodle Bug’ since it consisted of just an engine and a coach. Area residents could hop aboard for a ride into Mesa, Tempe, Phoenix or Tucson. The railroad car was the preferred mode of transportation nearly 80 years ago. This early version of the commuter train was once part of the daily life for Queen Creek residents. Also, the name is just plain fun.”

The Queen Creek Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meets at 6 p.m. in the San Tan Conference Room of the Queen Creek Municipal Services Building, 22358 S. Ellsworth Road. Regularly scheduled committee meetings occur quarterly (March, June, September and December), or as needed. The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 14.


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