Celebrating 25 Years at Hassayampa River Preserve

Many changes over the years, with big plans for the future

Phoenix, Arizona | April 03, 2012

The Nature Conservancy’s Hassayampa River Preserve, south of Wickenburg, celebrates its 25th anniversary on Saturday, April 7 from 8a.m. – 2 p.m. The public is invited to attend the celebration which includes interactive lessons, wildlife, nature walks and cake. As the preserve celebrates its past, it looks ahead to a bigger and brighter future. 

The 770-acre Hassayampa River Preserve is an oasis in the desert with lush forest, marshlands and flowing water. When the Conservancy bought the land 25 years ago, it looked much different. The property had been worn down by off-road vehicles use and unmanaged livestock grazing. 

The Nature Conservancy values a healthy river which supports wildlife, people and businesses. “A lot of love and hard work made Hassayampa what it is today,” says Pat Graham, state director of the Conservancy’s Arizona chapter. “Now, the willow and cottonwood forest, one of North America’s rarest types of forest, thrives along the river, making a perfect home for nearly 300 kinds of birds.” 

In addition to its beauty, serenity and benefits to birds, Hassayampa offers a variety of educational outreach programs designed to get kids and families excited about nature, including walks, a citizen science program and hands-on classes. An estimated 8,000 people visit the preserve every year. 

Moving forward, Hassayampa has an opportunity to become part of an even more far-reaching conservation effort through a proposed new management plan with Maricopa County’s Parks and Recreation Department. The plan, still in its early stages, is for the Conservancy to retain ownership of most of the preserve, but to transfer ownership of its visitor center, a small portion of the river channel and Palm Lake to the County. Both the Conservancy and County Parks and Recreation Department will have on-site staff. 

The plan involves more closely integrating management of the preserve and the future Vulture Mountains Regional Park and Recreation Area, a 71,000-acre regional park west and south of Hassayampa. 

“We see this as a win-win,” says Graham. “We bring great conservation work to the table while the County has expertise in public recreation. Through this plan, The Conservancy will continue to focus on the health of the river and wildlife and expand the education and recreation opportunities by partnering with the county.” 

“We manage one of the largest regional park systems in the country,” says R.J. Cardin, Maricopa County’s Parks and Recreation Department Director. “Our hope is that we can grow and strengthen a new generation of stewards among our residents and visitors.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

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Tracey Stone

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