Public input sought on amenities for proposed Peralta Regional Park

Members of the Superstition Area Land Trust Board of Directors admired the generous stands of saguaro cactuses during a tour of the proposed site for the Peralta Regional Park led by Anne Coe, center. Ms. Coe is the conservation committee chairperson and co-founder of SALT, an Apache Junction-based nonprofit educational corporation. (Courtesy of Cyndi Ruehl)

Members of the Superstition Area Land Trust Board of Directors admired the generous stands of saguaro cactuses during a tour of the proposed site for the Peralta Regional Park led by Anne Coe, center. Ms. Coe is the conservation committee chairperson and co-founder of SALT, an Apache Junction-based nonprofit educational corporation. (Courtesy of Cyndi Ruehl)

 

Will Pinal County’s first regional park open near Gold Canyon? County officials are inviting the public to comment on the matter during two open houses scheduled this summer, the first of which will take place June 23 in Apache Junction.

The Peralta Regional Park is the first of seven proposed regional parks in the county’s Open Space and Trails Master Plan, according to a press release.

At 480 acres, the site about a mile east of Peralta Road north of U.S. Highway 60 in Gold Canyon on Bureau of Land Management land is the smallest of the proposed regional parks, according to information released by Superstition Area Land Trust. SALT is an Apache Junction-based nonprofit educational corporation that was created in 1993, according to its website.

Depending on public input, the proposed park could offer open space and non-motorized outdoor recreation opportunities that might include hiking, equestrian riding, mountain biking, rock climbing, dark sky watching, picnicking and camping, according to a press release.

The first open house is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, June 23, at the Superstition Mountain campus of Central Arizona College, 805 S. Idaho Road in room 126. The second is scheduled for 5-6 p.m. Tuesday, July 14, in the Emergency Operations Center of the Pinal County Complex, 135 N. Pinal St. in Florence, according to the release.

The meetings will be hosted by the staff of the Pinal County Open Space and Trails Department to present information, concepts and maps for the master plan proposed Regional Park No. 5, also called Peralta Regional Park, and gather public input on proposed master plan elements, such an mountain biking, rock climbing and hiking, Pinal County Open Space and Trails Director Kent Taylor said during a phone interview.

“The meeting will involve more of a discussion than a presentation, which is one-sided. We plan on doing a lot of listening to what people have to say,” Mr. Taylor said.

The meeting will include a very brief introduction during which the park’s concept plan will be introduced, Mr. Taylor said. It will be followed by public comment.

“We want to know if we’re headed in the right direction. Is there something we’re missing?” he said.

The idea of a park was proposed by SALT members in 2007, when the county was developing its open space master plan, SALT Executive Director Cyndi Ruehl said during a phone interview.

The idea picked up momentum in July 2013, when the Pinal County Board of Supervisors created an Open Space and Trails Department, Mr. Taylor said. With the economy improving, the county in December 2013 was able to begin implementing portions of its master plan, Mr. Taylor said. It formed a working group comprising area citizens, organizations such as SALT and governmental agencies whose members were tasked to review issues, opportunities and options, among other things, according to the SALT website.

After evaluating the seven proposed parks in the Open Space and Trails Master Plan, county staff members determined Peralta Regional Park was one of its priorities, Mr. Taylor said.

“Size didn’t have anything to do with it. Part of the reason was need, such as a natural resource that might be threatened by overuse or growth,” he said. “Next was that we had existing partnerships in place, which we did with SALT, and that it was close to a regional trail — the Lost Goldmine Trail — that the county already owns and manages.”

In addition, the park location is unique in that its entrance will be about one mile east of the Peralta Trailhead on Peralta Road, one of the more popular wilderness access trailheads in the U.S., Mr. Taylor said. It provides a jumping off point for activities in the Superstition Mountains, he said.

Ms. Ruehl said she is excited about the proposed park.

“Having the county step in will help keep the land open for people to use rather than it being sold,” Ms. Ruehl said. “As a regional park, its resources would be managed. The open spaces would not be degraded as we often see. It would protect the natural resources there, such as the washes and riparian area.”

She also said the new park might alleviate some of the foot traffic on the Peralta Trail.

Ms. Ruehl, who has been exploring the area for about 35 years, called the land on which the park is proposed “absolutely gorgeous.”

“There are stands of saguaro forests. The Saguaro National Park has nothing on this area. There are gorgeous views of the mountain peaks and rock outcroppings and animals. It’s a pristine example of the Sonoran Desert,” she said. “It’s a very, very special place.”

For more information about the proposed park, including photos and maps, visit the Pinal County website. Mr. Taylor may be reached by e-mailing kent.taylor@pinalcountyaz.gov or by calling at 520-866-6910.

News Editor Wendy Miller can be contacted at 480-982-7799, via e-mail at wmiller@newszap.com or on Twitter at WendyNewszap123. Sign up for the Independent’s free newsletter on our website.

If you go
What: Open house to comment on proposed Peralta Regional Park
When: 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, June 23
Where: Central Arizona College’s Superstition Mountain campus, room 126, 805 S. Idaho Road in Apache Junction
For more information: Visit the Pinal County website or call 520-866-6910.

Reach staff writer Wendy Miller at wmiller@newszap.com

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