Riparian Preserve in Gilbert-a desert oasis

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Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch serves many purposes


Synergy is an unlikely word to describe this 110 acre mulit-purpose facility, but it is very fitting.  The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is a neighbor to the Southeast Valley Library, providing one of the most scenic libarary views in the city.  The preserve is also home to the Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory, which is open every Friday and Saturday evening at nightfall.  The preserve is a bird lovers’ oasis where over 200 different species have been observed.  The lake is  stocked with catfish, trout, bass, and sunfish by the Arizona Game and Fish department.  Less obvious is  the water recycling which replenishes  the underground water supply. All of this comes together to contribute to family fun and entertainment  in an environmentally minded way. And there is no charge to enjoy this unique Gilbert attraction.

I thought this was the desert?


Satellite view of Water Ranch

The  Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory houses a 16 inch diameter Meade, modified Richey-Cretien telescope and is open to the public Friday and Saturday evenings, and is operated by volunteers from the East Valley Astronomy Club.

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The Southeast Regional library sits next to the Riparian Preserve.  This 66,000 sq.ft. library opened in April 1999.  It has offers materials in many formats as well as public access to the Internet, word processing and activity computers for children. Looking out the library windows is a fishing lake that uses reclaimed water and has a floating board walk to help visitors get a closer look at wildlife and riparian habitat.   Water Ranch particpates in the Urban Fishing Program.

birds-on-islandPart of a bigger water conservation plan

In 1986,  the town of Gilbert made a commitment to reuse 100% of its effluent water.  The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is one innovative way the town is accomplishing  this goal while providing educational and recreational activities for its citizens. See that synergy thing kicking in?  Of the 110 acres, 70 are dedicated to 7 recharge ponds that are filled with effluent that seeps into the underground aquifer.  Once it reaches the upper underground aquifer 150 feet underground it is cleaner as a result of the filtering process.  It is the water from the upper underground aquifer, not yet drinking quality level,  that is pumped into the fishing lake to make a home for  trout, bass, catfish and sunfish.

ducks-on-walking-path1While this natural filtering prcoess is taking place it is also creating a riparian habitat. Riparian  means “of or relating to or located on the banks of a river or stream”. The Water Park has been designated an “Important Bird Area” by the Audubon Society, thanks to the shore birds that migrate from as far away as Alaska. The 4.5 miles of trails that weave between the recharge ponds and fishing lake give visitors an excellent opportunity to see the more than 200 species of birds that have been identified.

This literal oasis in the desert is close to such Gilbert waterfront communities as Val Vista Lakes,  Stonebridge Lakes, Winddrift, and Lago Estancia.  Being 2 miles south of the US 60 freeway, it is accessible from many Gilbert locations.

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