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Preserve Vistoso and The Conservation Fund successfully reached their $1.8 million fundraising goal to purchase the defunct Vistoso Golf Course from Romspen Vistoso LLC, a Canadian non-bank mortgage lender.

“We are thrilled to share that we’ve accomplished our fundraising goal of $1.8 million, with more than 400 donors contributing,” President of Preserve Vistoso Gayle Mateer said in a press release. “We could not have accomplished this so quickly without the involvement and generosity of so many people.”

Nevada and Southwest Director of The Conservation Fund Mike Ford said they will take the next 30 days to complete the final steps towards closing a deal. They are expecting to close the deal on or before Dec. 30. 

The deal is the result of a collaborative effort by The Conservation Fund, Preserve Vistoso and the Town of Oro  Valley for more than 18 months. After some ups and downs in the negotiation process, the Town of Oro Valley asked Ford to come back in April 2021 to resume talks and seal the deal. This time around, they were successful.

The Conservation Fund will place a conservation easement on the property after purchase. A conservation easement is a legal agreement that permanently protects property from development. 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. After the Vistoso Golf Course closed in 2018, community members formed the nonprofit Preserve Vistoso in 2019. Preserve Vistoso and its supporters made it abundantly clear they wanted the neglected golf course to be protected from development as a nature preserve.

Widespread community support produced a successful fundraising campaign. Ford said they were able to raise $1.8 million in about five weeks.

“This monumental milestone will now allow us to acquire and protect the former Vistoso Golf Course property,” Ford said in a statement. “The key to the fundraising success was attributable to the financial support and generosity from the entire community.”

Ford’s statement explained donations will be converted into cash and transferred into an escrow account. Those who donated will receive acknowledgement from The Conservation Fund to use as a deduction when filing taxes.

“We are also grateful to Oro Valley Mayor Winfield, Vice Mayor Barrett, the Town Council members, and the Town staff (particularly Town Manager Mary Jacobs and Town Attorney Jonathan Rothschild) who listened to the voices of our community and made this deal happen,” Mateer said.

Oro Valley Town Manager Mary Jacobs said the Town Council would discuss the deal in an executive session at the Dec. 2 council meeting and she was “cautiously optimistic” the town would move forward with taking ownership of the property from the Conservation Fund once the purchase was completed.

The conservation easement 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.

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