By Scottsdale Pinetop —
Whether it is swinging on the playground, little league on the ball fields or playing tag in-between the trees, some of our fondest childhood memories originate at local parks. For Scottsdale, it’s Chaparral and McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. For many Phoenix residents, it’s Encanto Park.
And for the White Mountains, it’s the beloved Woodland Lake Park. Considered the gem of the White Mountain and “crown jewel” of Pinetop-Lakeside, Woodland Lake is the shining centerpiece of the community and enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
And finally, after 33 years of dreaming, the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside is able to own and control the use of 107-acres of Woodland Park thanks to the efforts of local citizens.
Unlike many local parks, the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside did not own Woodland Lake Park. Rather, the Town held a permit with the U.S. Forest Service for recreational uses and charged with maintaining the facilities. That meant the U.S. Forest Service has the ability sell the land, if permitted, to developers at market value.
In an effort to educate, preserve and acquire the park, a group of local citizens established the Save Our Park (SOP) non-profit organization in 2007 and have been fighting for the park ever since. The mission of SOP is to purchase the entire 543 acre park over two Phases. Phase 1 included the immediate purchase of 107-acres of developed Park at the appraised value of $1.635 million.
While the SOP has many loyal supporters and donors, it has been an uphill battle raising enough funds to reach the $1.6 million goal. That was…until one family came in to help save the day.
In April 2020, the Peter and Nancy Salter Family Foundation generously donate the entire amount for the valued purchase price. Shortly thereafter, a unanimously council unanimously approved and accepted the donation and agreed to move forward with steps to purchase the land.
“The family has been supporters of this initiative for several years and we are very grateful for this donation,” said Keith Johnson, Town Manager. “The Salter family have had a home here for years and desire to leave a legacy that will benefit the community for generations to come.”
This is an incredible accomplishment for the citizens of Pinetop-Lakeside that have long feared that the park may not exist in 10 to 20 years. It’s a perfect example of a private-public partnership cohesively working together to achieve a common goal for betterment of the community. Other cities in Arizona should take note.
But the fight isn’t over yet.
Now Save Our Park is faced with the task to raise funds for Phase 2, which includes the additional undeveloped acreage. Encouraged by the recent success, local businesses are stepping up to help raise funds for Save Our Park.
One of the leading businesses is the Blue Apron Cooking School which committed to matching any donation given to the organization up to $10,000.
“Pinetop has been our home for many years, and we feel VERY strongly that this Jewel of the Mountains should belong to our community,” said Liz Turner, owner of Blue Apron Cooking School. “It is not only a great facility for local residents, but also an important asset for tourism that bring revenue to the area.”
As famously said by James M Barrie, “Dream do come true, if we only wish hard enough.” Save Our Lake is a testament to a community that never gave up on its dream to preserve Woodland Lake Park.
If you would like to donate to Save Our Lake, please visit woodlandlakepark.org.