Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Winfield Sets Path For Vistoso Trails: Focus on Restoration and Start Now

Winfield: Focus Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve on restoration to desert now…
At the April 17 council meeting, Mayor Winfield drove a “stake in the ground” when he introduced a motion on what to do regarding creating the Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve. His motion essentially put aside the master plan created by Sites Southwest. This is the firm former town manager Mary Jacobs and former town Parks and Recreation Director Kristy Diaz-Trahan hired. Together, they crafted an elaborate, expensive dream vision of a destination theme park.

With a desire to turn the course back into its natural state
Winfield, having heard enough, ended it all with his motion which we present in its entirety in the panel at left. Winfield’s rationale:

“Let me begin by just simply explaining that I certainly understand that there are a variety of opinions about this project.

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And I think it is important that we move forward. We've certainly heard from constituents to keep this simple. I believe that the pond, like the tees, greens, fairways, is a feature of the golf course and is not representative of the natural Sonoran Desert that we all love and that surrounds us.

The cost to restore the pond, I believe, would undermine efforts to revegetate and to begin the restoration of the 202 acres. And that's going to take time. It's not going to happen overnight.

But I believe that this is the best course of action. I believe that the overall intent is to restore the land back to what it was before the golf course was built. And I believe that for the preserve to be resilient, to be sustainable, that as much as we can mirror the Sonoran Desert that surrounds us, the greater success we'll have.

And so that's my reasoning, rationale, for making this motion.”

2025 budget support is an imperative
Council Member Bohen noted that budget support this year is imperative: “I think it's excellent motion from the Mayor. The council needs to follow up at budget time. Grant funding for this is going to be difficult but it's going to be necessary….What needs to be in the fiscal year 24-25 budget in order for us to mobilize the funds to pursue meaningful grants?” Vice Mayor Barrett agreed that funding the work for the 2025 budget is critical.

No water feature
There was some council sentiment to make some sort of water feature using the empty pond. That pond is a remnant of the old golf course. It was used to support the irrigation system. Vice Mayor Barrett noted: “Although I share many of your feelings…the desert garden is probably the more realistic option for this site, and more consistent with the nature preserve.”

Residents win! Two years of uncertainty over!
The motion passed unanimously, ending two plus years of discussion of what to do with the land. In the end, the residents of that area get what they originally wanted: A nature preserve that will keep the land forever vacant. Yes. There will be a apartment units as “collateral damage” on a small parcel of land. This was part of a three-way settlement agreement between the Town, The Conservation Fund (TCF) and local developer Ross Rulney with Romspen Vistoso LLC. This parcel had been zoned for high density residential housing since the inception of the Rancho Vistoso PAD in 1987.  Otherwise, the residents have won.
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