After 18 months of collaborative efforts between The Conservation Fund, Preserve Vistoso and the Town of Oro Valley, most of the defunct Vistoso Golf Course will be purchased for $1.8 million from Romspen Vistoso LLC, a Canadian non-bank mortgage lender.
Conservation Fund Southwest Director Mike Ford said they have until the end of the year to raise $1.8 million through community donations.
Ford said they would go back to community members who previously pledged $1.6 million last October when initial negotiations fell through.
“The long and short of it was there was a disagreement with respect to value at that time, what they thought it was worth, and what I was willing to pay or was able to pay,” Ford said.
Ford told Romspen he was happy to revisit the deal if they changed their mind. The Town of Oro Valley asked Ford to come back in April 2021 to resume negotiations and seal the deal. This time he was successful.
“Once we secure the property, once we purchase it and close on it, the community is assured it will be protected in perpetuity,” Ford said “We would never sell it, we would never develop it under any scenario.”
TCF will place a conservation easement on the property after purchase. A conservation easement is a legal agreement that permanently protects property for conservation. Ford said this guarantees the $1.8 million given by community members isn’t wasted.
This protection is exactly what community members in Oro Valley have been working towards. When the Vistoso Golf Course closed in 2018, community members later formed the nonprofit Preserve Vistoso in 2019. Preserve Vistoso and its supporters made it abundantly clear they wanted the golf course to be protected from development.
In March 2020, Romspen filed a general plan amendment with Oro Valley to rezone the property to sell to developers. This is when Rosa Dailey, a founding member of Preserve Vistoso, sought out Ford’s help. With the help of Ford and TCF, the community can now look towards raising $1.8 million to purchase the golf course.
Preserve Vistoso Board Member Patricia Sturmon is optimistic about the current fundraising campaign.
“When we had the first bid from The Conservation Fund last year, we had a very active fundraising campaign and we raised a lot of money,” Sturmon said. “We are going back to a lot of the same people and asking others to donate.”
Ford said he was “urging everybody—we’ve got to raise the $1.8 million.”
Purchasing the property will preserve Vistoso’s Sonoran desert habitat and provide a recreational space to 30 neighborhoods adjacent to the golf course. The property has six miles of paved trails, restrooms, trail underpasses, and petroglyphs. The property is currently open for recreational use.
Find more information about donating to Preserve Vistoso at: preservevistoso.org.