Maricopa County Parks and Recreation

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Board Unanimously Approves Agreement with The Nature Conservancy for Hassayampa River Preserve


Board Unanimously Approves Agreement with The Nature Conservancy for Hassayampa River Preserve


March 31, 2016 - PHOENIX – Plans to integrate The Nature Conservancy’s 770-acre Hassayampa River Preserve into the Vulture Mountains Recreation Area, a 71,000-acre regional recreation area west and south of the preserve, will soon begin moving forward!

“The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a Cooperative Agreement between The Nature Conservancy and Maricopa County’s Parks and Recreation Department. This agreement allows the Conservancy to transfer a portion of the Hassayampa River Preserve property to the County,” said Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Clint Hickman, District 4.  Hickman went on to note “adding the Preserve to the county park system was one of my priorities as Board Chairman, and I will continue to support the Vulture Mountains Recreation Area project in coming years.”

This agreement enables the Conservancy and the County to partner in ownership and management of the Hassayampa River Preserve. The Conservancy plans to retain ownership of most of the preserve, but will transfer approximately 77 acres, including the visitor center, a portion of the river channel, and Palm Lake to the County.

“The Conservancy will place a conservation easement (also called a voluntary conservation agreement) over the property that is transferred in order to ensure that the preserve’s natural values are forever protected and that the Conservancy remains a long-term partner,” said Heather Reading, director of land and water protection for the Conservancy in Arizona.

The agreement outlines mutual objectives between the agencies to achieve management of the lands while preserving the natural, cultural, historic and wildlife resources. In addition, the sustainability of traditional uses, while embracing compatible passive recreational, educational and commercial visitor services has been considered. The agreement also plans for:

  • the development of a master plan;
  • the Conservancy to transfer a portion of land to the County for a visitor center;
  • the Conservancy to hold a conservation easement over the visitor center property that is transferred to the County, ensuring long-term oversight;
  • an outline of responsibilities of each party including management and facilities development by the County; and
  • the Board to delegate to the director, or designee, the ability to make administrative decisions under the agreement.

“We had hoped to transition the property over in 2015; however, funding issues put a temporary hold on the project,” said R.J. Cardin, director for Maricopa County’s Parks and Recreation Department.

During this time, the Parks Department continued to move forward on the Vulture Mountains Recreation Area project by:

  • Working with the Bureau of Land Management and Maricopa County Department of Transportation to refine the roadway design for the day-use, camping and off-highway vehicle areas in the Vulture Mountains.
  • Initiating an environmental assessment required by BLM prior to leasing land for recreation facilities in the Vulture Mountains.
  • Developing the Hassayampa River Preserve’s new master plan, trails and business plans in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy.

“The agreement and transfer of the Hassayampa River Preserve are major stepping stones in the development of the Vulture Mountains Recreation Area - which will be the first park added to the County’s regional park system in over 15 years,” added Cardin.  The County’s Parks System Master Plan, adopted in 2009, indicated that the public place a high priority on continuing to add open space parkland to the County park system for quality of life, environmental and economic benefits.

“This partnership is a win for the public and nature,” says Patrick Graham, the Conservancy’s state director in Arizona. “The preserve is a rare oasis for wildlife and visitors. By working together, we can improve the experience for visitors while preserving the unique habitat for wildlife and migratory birds.”

The Nature Conservancy purchased the preserve’s initial acreage in 1986 from Norman and Dorothy Lykes. In 2004, Dorothy Lykes donated additional lands, expanding the size of the preserve. Under the Conservancy’s ownership and management, Hassayampa has become a hub for nature hikes, bird banding and other events for kids and families.

To learn more about the project, visit maricopacountyparks.net/park-locator/vulture-mountain-recreation-area/ or contact (602) 506-2930. Or, visit nature.org/hassayampa.



The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have helped protect 130 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at nature.org/arizona.
The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.
Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department’s vision is to connect people with nature through regional parks, trails and programs, inspire an appreciation for the Sonoran Desert and natural open spaces, and create life-long positive memories.
Our mission, through responsible stewardship is to provide the highest quality parks, trails, programs, services and experiences that energize visitors and create life-long users and advocates. Visit our website at www.maricopa.gov/parks.



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