Oro Valley Mayor Joe Winfield and town councilmembers countdown at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 15, at the Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve. From left are, Kristy Diaz-Trahan, director of parks and recreation; Mike Ford, TCF Nevada and Southwest director; councilmembers Josh Nicholson and Harry “Mo” Greene; Mary Jacobs, Oro Valley town manager; Mayor Joe Winfield; councilmember Melanie Barrett; Gayle Mateer, president of Preserve Vistoso; councilmember Timothy Bohen; and Matt Wood, members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. (Katya Mendoza/Staff)

The town of Oro Valley held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve on July 15 in celebration of communitywide efforts to buy the property.

Held behind the former golf clubhouse, the event saw more than 50 community members in attendance along with Town Manager Mary Jacobs, Parks and Recreation Director Kristy Diaz-Trahan and Mayor Joe Winfield.

Winfield, who is up for re-election this coming August, became emotional during the ceremony, citing his love for the outdoors.

“It really is a capstone for me, to see this 202 acres preserved in perpetuity,” Winfield said.

Formerly known as the Vistoso Golf Course, the property changed hands from The Conservation Fund (TCF) to the town this week. The environmental conservation nonprofit that initially acquired the property back in February, worked with a landscaping company to clean up the abandoned golf course. The town is now in control of maintenance and operations.

TCF was involved in buying the former golf course in the past, according to Mike Ford, TCF Nevada and Southwest director.

“Our initial efforts failed. We just couldn’t come together on a reasonable proposal to acquire this property that was in the public interest,” Ford said. “Dial it forward to September or October (2021), we went back to work.”

A display of cooperation and patience, the effective community effort represented the “best of a public private partnership,” Ford said.

The nature preserve is the latest addition to the parks and recreation amenities and will include improved ADA accessibility and restrooms this fiscal year, Jacobs said.

“Using the final plan, we will budget for improvements in the coming years and also take advantage of available grants and additional generous contributions on the part of Preserve Vistoso,” Jacobs said.

Preserve Vistoso is the nonprofit organization founded in 2019 that helped raise almost $2 million in support of preservation of the former Vistoso Golf Club, which closed in June 2018.

Preserve Vistoso president Gayle Mateer recalled the “emotional rollercoaster” of a race against time which started over four years ago, when locals started looking for a feasible buyer.

“Over 260 species of animals, plants and reptiles have been observed on this property; almost 1,200 observations have been filed with a naturalist. We have a diverse ecosystem here,” Mateer said.

In closing, event emcee Diaz-Trahan said she couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate National Parks and Recreation Month than having a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The town will begin a “master planning process” for the property during the fall, after gathering community input about further improvements.

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