The former Vistoso golf course to be transformed

TUCSON, Arizona – The 202 acres that were once the old Vistoso Golf Course are primed for new life and are poised to once again become a staple in the Oro Valley. Finalized payment for the property by The Conservation Fund was completed in February.

Today, the Conservation Fund leads efforts to clean up the reserve by backing brush five feet out of the way and removing invasive plant species. Mike Ford of the Conservation Fund said this property is now completely protected from further development through a document called a conservation easement.

“We want to make sure this can never be used for anything other than open, unspoiled space,” he said. “So we’re putting in a conservation easement that will be owned by the conservation fund or a qualified third party to ensure it’s never developed and for anything other than open space and parkland.”

The Conservation Fund will then donate the property to the Town of Oro Valley on or about July 1. Ford said that from negotiating with previous owners to working with Pima County, this was definitely a complicated purchase.

“We were openly able to buy it at fair market value, as a good faith appraisal stated, so that was the first challenge,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 24 years for the fund and I can safely say that I’ve put more effort into this transaction than any other project in the last 24 years.

Mayor Joe Winfield said the easement was essential to keep it safe and the city can already start enjoying the land.

“It was important for the residents’ conservation fund and important for us as a council to ensure that this property going forward will remain open space in perpetuity,” Winfield said.

Approximately 6.3 acres of parking and the former golf course pavilion were sold to a local developer. Community activist Rosa Dailey first contacted Ford to help with the property in 2020. Since then, she said it has been a journey to protect this land and the community has certainly come together to help.

“He went through this journey,” she said. “It became a golf course, it became prime real estate and now it’s going to be back to what it was. I mean, it was indigenous land at one point.”

The community rallied together to raise approximately $1.8 million to help purchase the property. And Dailey said there was always a steady stream of people walking the path.

“I’m thrilled to see this come to life with people,” she said. “I mean, it was a golf course for many years, but now people from all walks of life can enjoy it.”

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