Community leader Rosa Dailey invited The Conservation Fund (TCF), a U.S. nonprofit, to view the Vistoso property for potential purchase and conservation in May 2020.
In June 2020, 18 members of the community spoke to Council in support of Town involvement for preservation. Council voted unanimously to direct the Town Manager to work with The Conservation Fund and Romspen on the potential preservation of the open space that was formerly the Vistoso golf course, and to work with The Conservation Fund to help identify possible funding, including grant funding, to acquire the property for a green space to be gifted to the Town.
By July 2020, TCF was under contract to purchase the entire 208-acre Vistoso golf course contingent on a fair market value appraisal that was conducted by CBRE. Romspen rejected the offer in September.
Despite the online Zoom format for Council meetings used throughout 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, residents continued to express their concerns monthly during the Call to Audience portion of the meetings.
In the November 18 Council meeting, Councilmember Solomon presented a plan to preserve the failed Vistoso Golf Course through a “working group.” The group – set up by Solomon & Romspen – had already worked out the framework for a deal. His plan proposed adding several Town departments, Preserve Vistoso and the Vistoso Community Association to the working group. The motion failed.
Instead, Council unanimously approved that the Town initiate conversations with Romspen & other third parties to negotiate for the purchase of the 202 acres of recreational open space for fair market value on or before April 1, 2021.
Negotiations began in January 2021 & in April, local developer Ross Rulney agreed to buy the 6.3 acre former parking lot to build apartments, contingent on obtaining an easement agreement that would allow limited use of an additional 1.5 acres. Note: The parking lot was already zoned high density residential. In exchange for the agreement, Rulney agreed to limit his multi-family development to two stories.
Rompsen ordered a new appraisal in May to meet the federal appraisal standards required by TCF to purchase the 202 acres of the property.
In September 2021, Council unanimously approved providing “consideration” to resolve any monetary disputes to assist with the purchase.
TCF signed a contract with Romspen in late October/early November 2021 to purchase 202 acres of the former Vistoso golf course for the appraised value of $1,615,000. A fundraising effort in the community raised $1,800,000 toward the purchase, clean-up, and Conservation Easement endowment for the property.
Ross Rulney agreed to purchase the 6.3-acre former golf course parking lot for $1,750,000.
The Town and Romspen resolved all remaining financial disputes with a Settlement Agreement signed by all parties to the sale in December 2021. The Town agreed to an $885,000 settlement with Romspen. With the Town’s settlement, the total value of the Romspen deal was $4,250,000.
TCF finally closed on the 202-acre acquisition property on February 16, 2022.
A naming contest was held & after reviewing the choices & community preferences, Council voted to select Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve as the new name of the former Vistoso golf course property.
In July 2022, TCF donated the Vistoso property to the Town of Oro Valley. An easement agreement was issued between the Town of Oro Valley and Ross Rulney. It provided him with access to 1.5 acres of land for certain accommodations related to his development of 132 apartment units on the 6.3-acre parking lot.
A ribbon cutting was held July 15, 2022 to celebrate the effort that went into the acquisition of this property by the community & TCF & the subsequent donation to the Town. TCF had worked with a landscaping company to perform initial site cleanup around the path and underpasses and remove the thistle overgrowth. Control of maintenance and operation responsibilities for the Preserve were then transferred to the Town.