NW Valley Land Will Shape Into Recreation Area

NW Valley Land Will Shape Into Recreation Area

By Michelle Ye Hee Lee
January 27, 2012 Arizona Republic

A 110-square-mile recreation area that eventually will include hiking and off-road-vehicle trails, campgrounds and wildlife-observation areas will soon start taking shape around the Vulture Mountains in the far northwest Valley. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors this week directed county parks and recreation staff to begin the $29 million, 30-year project, the first large-scale county-parks project since the 1990s.

The Vulture Mountains Regional Park and Recreation Area near Wickenburg will be the county’s 11th park. The park, to be managed by the county Parks and Recreation Department and the federal Bureau of Land Management, likely will be developed with county capital-improvement funds. Officials plan to complete the project in four phases.

The first is to develop a rest area near the Hassayampa River Preserve managed by the Nature Conservancy. The river mostly runs underground, but a 5-mile stretch of stream above ground has become an oasis for vegetation and more than 280 species of birds that nest in or migrate through the area. Subsequent phases include a campground at the Vulture Peak, back-country off-road sites, and day-use areas.

The project had been discussed since about 2005, said R.J. Cardin, county Parks and Recreation Department director. Wickenburg and county officials have been trying to come up with a way to preserve the vast open space and diverse natural attractions in the far northwest Valley, Cardin said. The area has a variety of features that attract diverse plant life and wildlife: mountainous terrain, riparian habitat and pristine desert.

The Vulture Mountains for years have attracted local hikers and recreational gold miners. The region also is popular with those who enjoy remnants of the Vulture Gold Mine that Henry Wickenburg developed after discovering gold there in 1863. Officials hope that the creation of a park and recreation area will attract more visitors and bring economic development to Wickenburg.

“It’s another place that they can go to that’s a part of Arizona. It’s a place to have a picnic or a place to climb a mountain, a place to see,” said county Supervisor Max Wilson, who represents the West Valley’s District 4. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. That’s part of our job in the parks system: to protect those for the future generations to enjoy.”

Moe Frenette, a Peoria resident recently hiking the Vulture Peak Trail, said he would support a recreation area around the mountains. He is a member of a hiking club that frequents the Vulture Peak Trail to enjoy the desert scenery.

Among other proposed recreational amenities are visitor and nature centers, ramadas and an archery range.

For more information see www.Maricopa.gov website.

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