Three-Star Certified Pilot Project

Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
Project Size: 34 acres
Project Type: Open space - Park
Site Context: Suburban
Former Land Use: Greenfield
Terrestrial Biome: Desert
Budget: $4,299,000
photo by: Bill Timmerman, Timmerman Photography

Project Overview

The primary principles guiding the design of George "Doc" Cavalliere Park were preserving open space, respecting existing neighborhoods, and creating a demonstration project for sustainability. Cavalliere Park is the result of over 20 years of planning and is a product not only of extensive community input but also the significant challenges of integrating a community park into a regional stormwater retention facility. The resulting project has established a new standard for the design and implementation of a truly sustainable community park for the City of Scottsdale.

Located on 34 acres of rugged desert terrain, the site had been previously developed as part of north Scottsdale's regional stormwater management system, including the construction of a large earthen dam and two significant retention basins. Project requirements included the enlargement of the upper basin to accommodate a total of nearly 50 acre feet of stormwater volume, dramatically influencing the park's layout and design.

Regional Context

Located in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, Cavalliere Park is within the "Arizona Upland" typology of the Sonoran Desert. This region is typically more mountainous than other areas within the Sonoran Desert. It is this region where iconic plants such as the Saguaro and Palo Verde are most prevalent. As with other desert regions, this site is subject to hot, dry conditions with over ninety days a year above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Rainfall in the area averages around 8 inches for the year with rainy seasons in the winter and during the summer monsoon season. Storm events in the Sonoran Desert are often sudden, high velocity storms with a short duration. Flash flooding incidents can be a frequent occurrence during the summer monsoons.

SITES Features + Practices

Sustainable features at Cavalliere Park include on-site stormwater management, preservation and restoration of native plants and soils, reuse of materials salvaged on site, elimination of unnecessary paints and finishes, and incorporation of sustainable technologies such as PV panels and LED lighting. These features help the City of Scottsdale to provide a high quality park with ecological and social benefits that can be easily maintained for years to come.

A primary strategy for the park was the preservation and restoration of the site's natural resources. The project utilizes a 100% native plant palette. All native trees, cacti, and plant communities were surveyed as part of the design process. A number of beautiful existing mesquite trees, that were too large to salvage, were incorporated into the layout of the parking and shade structure through the use of steel retaining wall systems that preserved the existing grade around the trees. All other trees and cacti were salvaged and re-used onsite to restore significant areas of desert upland and riparian plant communities. Parking, driveways, and paths were paved with stabilized decomposed granite, which utilized only site-salvaged materials and dramatically reduced drainage runoff and the urban heat island effect, while retaining a natural desert character. Sustainable user practices are encouraged by providing designated parking for carpool and low-emission vehicles, as well as connections to the citywide trail system to create access for pedestrians, bicyclists, and equestrians.

The steel, concrete, and rock filled gabion baskets provide a regionally appropriate and sustainable palette of materials on site. All site elements were custom designed using either natural steel or concrete to eliminate the use of industrial finishes. The naturally rusted roof panels, structural components, steel planters, bridge, and other site elements are all made from high percentage content recycled steel and continue the palette of desert colors and textures found in the paving and gabion structures. The strict use of natural unfinished materials eliminated the onsite release of VOC's and will greatly reduce future maintenance costs. Even the lines of the basketball courts are natural, since they are sandblasted in place instead of being painted on.

The shape and design of the central canopy and restrooms took their form directly from the nature of the site, with the roof form closely mirroring the slope and tilt of the adjacent mountainside and the restroom walls utilizing the same gabion construction as the site retaining walls. In addition to providing shade, the canopy roof also functions as a large rainwater collection area, which directs water into a central collection basin where it is then distributed to the native landscape.

High efficiency LED lighting was used throughout the site and all lights are continually monitored through a central Greengate Controlkeeper system. A grid-tied 24 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system provides 100% of the park's energy requirements, resulting in net-zero energy consumption.


From the onset of the project, all members of the integrated team worked together to achieve the vision set forth for the park. Input from residents and nearby stakeholders was essential to creating a park that would be embraced by the neighborhood. A series of public workshops allowed residents to provide input throughout the early design phases and coordination with neighbors continued through construction. As a result of this collaboration, the original name of the park was changed to George "Doc" Cavalliere Park, honoring a founding member of the Scottsdale community, whose family still owns and operates Greasewood Flat next door.

Maintenance + Stewardship

The City of Scottsdale will utilize in-house maintenance staff who can insure that the project is maintained as intended. Staff from the Parks and Recreation and Maintenance departments were included throughout the design process. This allowed the design team to communicate the goals and make adjustments based on feedback to facilitate the long-term maintenance of the park. Additionally, a site specific Maintenance Manual and Integrated Pest Management Plan were generated to provide additional direction to the maintenance crew.

Faced with an ever shrinking operations and maintenance budget, the City of Scottsdale and the design team engaged several design strategies to reduce the cost of long-term park maintenance for Cavalliere Park. A large part of that strategy involves using native species which naturally require little regular pruning, fertilization, or watering. Additional strategies, such as the elimination of painted surfaces and installation of artificial turf, reduce the long-term input required for the park. Taking these measures ensures that the City will have the capacity to maintain this park as designed.

Scottsdale desires to be a leader for sustainability in the valley and Cavalliere Park has established a new standard for sustainability. Many of the techniques pioneered on the project are already being adopted on other projects.

Site Challenges

One of the greatest challenges for this site was integrating nearly 50 acre feet of stormwater detention volume into a sloped site, while minimizing overall site disturbance. This was accomplished by utilizing over 4,000 rock filled gabions to form a structural retaining wall system. The steeper slope increased storage capacity and limited the need to extend grading into undisturbed portions of the site.

As the site was to maintain the functionality of a stormwater detention basin, it was important to program site elements to maintain Cavalliere Park as an active community park even during storm events. Through detailed coordination with the engineering team, and thoughtful selection of materials, many park elements maintain their usefulness during periods of inundation.

Project Goals + Successes

The vision for Cavalliere Park was to create a new standard for sustainable public park design in an arid environment. By combining a strong modern design aesthetic and utilizing regionally appropriate material, the design successfully integrates the program elements into a topographically challenging site. Through the process the team had to balance neighborhood input, the technical demands of stormwater retention, and a decreasing operations and maintenance budget.

Initial strategies discussed by the design team included: preserving native plant communities, reducing the impact of impervious surfaces, limiting construction disturbance, and utilizing efficient technologies.

Cavalliere Park was already under construction when it was selected to be a SITES Pilot Project. Neither LEED nor SITES certification was initially a goal of the project, since it would not have qualified under LEED, and SITES Guidelines had not yet been released. Even without the certification goals, the project was designed to be a demonstration project for sustainability. When the SITES Pilot Program was announced the City of Scottsdale elected to pursue certification honoring their commitment to be a leader for sustainability in the valley.

Project Team

Landscape Architect: JJR|Floor
Christopher Brown, FASLA, Principal in Charge, Landscape Architecture
Naoto Kumazawa, Project Manager, Landscape Architecture
Kaylee Colter, SITES Coordinator, Landscape Architecture

City of Scottsdale:
Gary Meyer, Project Manager, City of Scottsdale
Joe Mannino, Construction Coordinator, City of Scottsdale
Tim Barnard, Parks & Recreation Manager, City of Scottsdale

General Contractor: Markham Contracting, LLC.

Consultant Team:
Weddle Gilmore Architects, Architecture
Argus Consulting, Hydrology
Kland Engineering, LLC, Civil Engineer
Bakkum Noelke, Structural Engineer
Woodward Engineering, Electrical Engineer

Certification Level:

Project Size:

Site Context:

Former Land Use: