PHOENIX –The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) signed a lease agreement allowing the Parks and Recreation Department to enter into a Recreation and Public Purposes (R&PP) lease with the BLM Hassayampa Field Office. Under the lease, the parks department will be responsible for managing approximately 1,046 acres of public lands near Wickenburg, Arizona.
The lease will allow for the construction and operation of recreation facilities, including an entry station, parking, picnic and campground facilities, nature playground, restrooms, ramadas, trailheads and trails, a nature center, an amphitheater, and an OHV staging area in the Vulture Mountains Recreation Area.
The BLM released the final Environmental Assessment (EA) for the lease on January 31, 2019. The final EA analyzes potential environmental impacts of the lease, as well as potential impacts of a right-of-way grant to the Maricopa County Department of Transportation, for modifications to Vulture Mine Road for public safety purposes and access into the new recreation facilities.
“The R&PP Act is a tool that State and local governments can use to apply for the leasing of public lands for purposes that benefit their local communities,” said BLM Phoenix District Manager Leon Thomas. “This R&PP lease is an example of how partners and the community have come together to create a vision for facilities that will enhance the recreation experience on public lands. The BLM is excited about this partnership and looks forward to a collaborative management approach to the Vulture Mountains Recreation Area.”
“Preserving and enhancing Maricopa County’s vast open space is a priority of mine,” said Chairman Bill Gates, District 3. “This agreement adds a valuable asset to what is already one of the largest parks systems in the United States while also allowing for future growth and transportation needs.”
Based on the analysis in the final EA, the BLM determined that the approved actions would not cause significant impacts. The BLM subsequently signed a Finding of No Significant Impact and issued a Decision Record. The approved EA and associated documents can be found online at http://go.usa.gov/xPkh6.
The BLM conducted public scoping in 2017 and completed public review of the draft environmental analysis, including an open-house style meeting at the Wickenburg Community Center, in December 2018.
“This agreement coupled with the addition of the Hassayampa River Preserve to our county parks system two years ago gives Maricopa County residents--especially those in the growing West Valley—incredible new opportunities to get into nature,” Supervisor Clint Hickman, District 4. “With cooperative management between Maricopa County and the BLM, residents can rest assured this area will be developed in a balanced, thoughtful way that improves access and prioritizes conservation.”
According to R.J. Cardin, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department Director, “This is not the first park we’ve managed with the BLM under an R&PP lease. They are great partners, and our teams have been planning for this day together since 2010. Given the feedback we’ve received from the public throughout the planning process, I am confident that those who recreate in the Vulture Mountains Recreation Area will be pleased with the recreational amenities we’ll be rolling out over the next several years.”
Out of the 1,046 acres of land to be leased, approximately 98 acres, or 9.5 percent of the total acres, will be developed. Development for the area has been divided into four phases according to the Preferred Alternative outlined in the Vulture Mountains Cooperative Recreation Management Area Master Plan and the Plan of Development submitted as part of the R&PP lease application:
- Park infrastructure and road improvements
- Vulture Peak day-use area
- Vulture Peak campground
- OHV area
The Maricopa County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is playing a significant role in phase one of the development by improving Vulture Mine Road and installing public roadways in the park. “MCDOT has been a significant partner in moving this project forward and is to be commended for their role,” added Cardin.
To learn more about what is planned for the area, visit https://www.maricopacountyparks.net/park-locator/vulture-mountains-recreation-area/master-plan/. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 to leave a message or questions pertaining to the Vulture Mountains Recreation Area. The FIRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Replies are provided during normal business hours.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $96 billion in sales of goods and services throughout the American economy in fiscal year 2017. These activities supported more than 468,000 jobs.
About Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department
Maricopa County is home to one of the largest regional parks systems in the nation with over 120,000 acres of open space parks that include hundreds of miles of trails, campgrounds, nature centers and the Desert Outdoor Environmental Learning Center at Lake Pleasant. Currently, there are 11 regional parks in the system which we're happy to report were visited by over 2.4 million people in 2018. Whether you're planning on hiking along a barrier-free trail, enjoying the scenic Sonoran Desert views on horseback, or peddling rigorously up a trail on a mountain bike, the parks offer a variety of opportunities for all types of users, ages and comfort levels. Best of all, Maricopa County's regional parks are all within a 45-minute drive from downtown Phoenix!