Pinetop-Lakeside, AZ has Woodland Lake Park, “The Jewel of the White Mountains.” This park belongs to the Forest Service, but the town needs to buy it so it can be kept as a park. The town has built baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, picnic ramadas, and a handicap-accessible fishing dock as well as a paved one-mile trail around the lake.
Save Our Park is a nonprofit organization dedicated to securing the area around Woodland Lake Park in order to preserve its natural beauty and habitats and prevent development.
Walk for the Woods is a fundraising event organized by Save Our Park. These funds are currently being collected in order to enable the town of Pinetop-Lakeside to purchase the land surrounding Woodland Lake Park.
Established in 2003, the White Mountain Nature Center is a tax-exempt, nonprofit educational organization located on 10 acres in Lakeside, next to the Big Springs Environmental Study Area, with 5 acres leased from the town of Pinetop-Lakeside on its Mountain Meadow Recreation Complex.
We started WMNC, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, in 2005 and purchased the land for the Nature Center in 2007. After years of planning and tremendous community support, the Nature Center complex is scheduled to be fully functional as soon as 2012. We are excited about the continuing development, and we are certain that the communities we serve will be, too!
We are a valuable resource for sponsors and donors to exhibit goodwill and concern about the future of our natural resources.
The White Mountain Nature Center is dedicated to saving Woodland Lake area as well and assists by collaborating with the Save Our Park organization on the Walk for the Woods fundraiser. As a sponsor of the event, donations to the Walk for the Woods event are split 50/50 with the White Mountain Nature Center—but this is an exception. Other donations to the Save Our Park initiative are not split.
The Show Low Irrigation District owns the water of Woodland Lake. The town of Pinetop-Lakeside has an agreement with the irrigation district that, to the extent possible, they will only withdraw water from Woodland Lake to satisfy the irrigation customers between Woodland and Rainbow Lakes.
Pinetop-Lakeside is also attempting to buy water shares in the area with the intent to leave the water in Woodland Lake. Of course, there are no guarantees—if our area suffers an unusually dry year, there just may not be enough water to keep Woodland Lake full. The Show Low Irrigation District now recognizes Woodland Lake has recreational uses—not just irrigation—and will endeavor to keep as much water in it as they can.
In the future Rainbow Lake may have less water in it due to the retention of water in Woodland Lake, but Rainbow Lake is large enough, this difference would be measured in inches, not feet.
The recent Certified Forest Service Appraisal placed the price of the land purchase at $1,635,000. We need to raise this money in order to purchase the land surrounding Woodland Lake Park. A GoFundMe page has been created to accept online donations. Collection boxes have been placed at many businesses around town—every bit of small change helps!
This is a huge amount for such a small town to raise by the end of this year. Your donation could help us attain the goal of purchasing all 107 acres of the park. The cost works out to just 35 cents per sq. ft. or $35.00 for a plot 10-feet x 10-feet. Please visit the GoFundMe page to help, or send a check to Save Our Park, Inc., P. O. Box 2375, Lakeside, AZ 85929.
CAPITAL FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN UNDERWAY FOR WOODLAND LAKE PARK
In February 2019, the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside (Town) received a long-awaited appraisal of the cost to purchase its 107-acre developed Woodland Lake Park (WLP) parcel, with recreational improvements exceeding $4 million in replacement value. Compared to a 2009 appraisal done before the recession with a purchase price of $61,890 per acre, the new appraisal came in 75% lower, at $15,380 per acre to acquire WLP from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
The new appraisal was requested by the Town Council in 2015 at the urging of Save Our Park, Inc. (SOP), the nonprofit formed to assist the Town with WLP acquisition. SOP had anticipated a reduction in the acquisition cost due to the recession, and covered the full cost of the appraisal and a survey of WLP, totaling nearly $35,000.
Town efforts to acquire WLP began in 1987, with the filing of a Townsite Act application with the USFS. The Town has long struggled with requirements to pay full fair-market value. Efforts centered on having the price reduced or the land gifted have consistently failed. In 2007, the Town formed a task force to evaluate acquisition options. The task force’s efforts culminated in ordinances passed in 2010 to raise the sales tax rate to purchase WLP, then appraised at $6.05 million. In spite of the high level of public support, the ordinances were referred and rejected by voters in 2011. Perceptions then that WLP was not at risk due to the remaining term on the Town’s USFS Special Use Permit contributed to this rejection by voters. However, this permit now expires on 30 June 2020, indeed putting the parcel’s long-term future into considerable doubt. For this reason, along with the now-affordable price, the Town has an unprecedented opportunity to finally acquire WLP. Unfortunately, it lacks funding to commit to the WLP acquisition before the appraisal lapses in February 2020.
SOP is fully committed to the acquisition of WLP, and President Barbara Teague stated that “this is our best and perhaps last opportunity to make the acquisition of our developed park a reality.” SOP recently contracted with a professional fundraising organization, the Phoenix-based Cagney Company to lead SOP’s capital campaign to purchase WLP. They have extensive experience across Arizona in successfully raising funds in support of conservation, parks, and natural resources. The WLP capital campaign is now underway, with SOP having committed the first $100,000 to the campaign. Even though faced with a significant challenge and a looming deadline to raise the $1.635 million purchase price, SOP is confident that our community is up to the challenge and will seize this “last and best” opportunity to finally acquire WLP.
Join the effort by sending a check to Save Our Park, Inc., P. O. Box 2375, Lakeside, AZ 85929.
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