Photo by Nancy Nesbit
by Michelle Stacy-Schroeder, Recreation Services Administrative Supervisor, City of Prescott
Open space has long been a vital part of the small-town character and unique natural environment of Prescott, and for just as long, has been recognized as a key issue for maintaining a high quality of life for residents and visitors.
Since the 1980s, the Recreation Services Department has found opportunities to manage these open spaces, which are defined as appropriate for preservation, having outstanding or significant characteristics: biological, geological, scenic, riparian, recreational, cultural and/or historical.
Tourism (and its more responsible sister, ecotourism) can provide significant economic value to a community that protects open space, has an attractive and accessible trails system, encourages wildlife populations, and the like. Once open space is acquired, it costs very little to maintain it relative to the potential economic benefits.
The City can use open space as an enticement for visitation and as a destination virtue, which, together with historical and cultural amenities, can encourage longer stays.
Since the early 2000s, the City has increased the amount of open space to approximately 2,200 acres.
A main focal point in open space preservation has been the Granite Dells region. Through joint ventures with community partners, private sale acquisitions and bed-tax revenue here is a timeline of open space in the last decade.
In 2010, trail building began to expand through the Granite Dells area with additional trails throughout the Watson and Willow lakes areas. This continued for several years, along with improvements on the Peavine Trail, and connected trails to create loops around Watson and Willow.
By mid-2011 a total of 11 miles of trail were built through the Granite Dells. In 2019, the City purchased 160 acres of the Storm Ranch, which allowed for an additional 6 miles of trail. That same year, the City partnered with ECOSA, a program at Prescott College that studies the importance of design in shaping both natural and human environments, to build a ½-mile trail connection from Granite Dells to Willow Lake.
Fast forward to 2021; after nearly five years of negotiations, the City of Prescott and Arizona Eco Development reached an annexation agreement resulting in the City acquiring 474-acres of open space including No Name Creek and historic Point of Rocks. This acquisition is significant to the connectivity of the Peavine National Recreation Trail to the Chino Valley portion.