One of the most popular fishing spots in the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Urban Fish Program -- Green Valley Park -- will continue to be stocked with catchable-sized trout for another year.
The OK came last week in the form of a recommendation from UFP manager Eric Swanson who said "the agreement (will) be renewed and the trout stocking program continued as established."
During a one-year trial period from Feb. 1, 1998 to Jan. 31, 1999, Arizona Game and Fish officials stocked the Green Valley Park lakes, making them winter angling respites.
But the Intergovernmental Agreement between the AG&F Commission and the Town of Payson to include Green Valley Park in the Urban Fish Program was set to expire at the end of May.
With stockings to cease soon, town officials and Rim country fishermen were anxiously awaiting a decision on the future of the program.
Swanson's okay to continue brought a sigh of relief from many who have whiled away leisurely hours at the lake.
Probably few have enjoyed the opportunities offered by the park more than Payson High School basketball coach Randy Wilcox. During the past season -- after school and before game time -- he and his son, 13-year-old Michael, often visited the lakes for a bit of camaraderie.
No matter what the fishing success, Wilcox said, the opportunity allowed him precious time with his son and to enjoy a break from the hectic schedule of a varsity head coach.
Last spring, Tucson resident Pat Derksen visited GVP with his two children. Both youngsters walked away wide-eyed, boasting of their first catches.
It was an experience the two will never forget, Derksen said.
Green Valley has become especially popular during the late winter months when snow closes access to Mogollon Rim lakes at Woods Canyon, Willow Springs and Chevelon.
Swanson says voluntary creel surveys were done last winter to determine fishing success but results have not been compiled.
But, he says, indications are that levels are high.
In his first anniversary report, Swanson concluded that the UFP program at Green Valley Park was "a big success as evidenced by the high participation levels by both licensed and juvenile anglers and a budget operating in the black."
The total cost for the Arizona Game and Fish Department to stock the lakes was $15,541. Revenues from the lake were $18,518. Most of the income was derived from the Town of Payson Partnership fee of $8,450. Another $7,068 was generated from almost 600 urban licenses sold at 11 local dealers.
At the onset of the program last year, game officials estimated 400 licenses would be sold and an additional 100 youths would fish free at the park.
Observations by both the Parks and Recreation Department and Game and Fish personnel, estimate youth participation was 30-40 percent of adult use.
"Participation has exceeded the predictions for both license sales as well as juvenile anglers," Swanson said.
The overwhelming acceptance of the program in Payson has caught the eye of Swanson and other game officials who originally sponsored such stockings only in large city park lakes.
"It (the success) is especially significant in that it is outside the major metropolitan areas of Phoenix and Tucson and it is stocked only with trout on a seasonal basis," Swanson said.
The manager labeled it "a customization of the Urban Fishing Program to a more rural community (that) has been well received."
Officials label GVP a "put-and-take" fishery in that trout are not stocked in the summer months due to high water temperatures and evidence indicates few survive from spring to fall. From October to early May, the lake is stocked about every three weeks with 32 pounds of fish per acre. That works out to 11 stockings for a total of 4,550 pounds of trout.
The exact dates of the stockings are not made public by game officials but the sight of the fishery trucks at Green Valley Park last winter usually sent anglers scurrying for fishing gear.
While rainbow trout are the only fish stocked in the lake, they are not the only species that exist.
An electrofishing and gill netting survey conducted in September of 1998 discovered there were sunfish, bluegill, largemouth bass and yellow bullhead in the waters.
No catfish were found, but less than a year ago, a young angler pulled one from the lake.
Game officials say the foreign species are accidentally introduced into Green Valley Park when anglers clean their live wells in the water after visiting other Rim country lakes and streams.
Green Valley Park was completed in the late summer of 1996 and within its boundaries were three connected lakes of one, two and 10 acres. The water for the lakes is supplied mostly with treated effluent from the Gila County Sanitation District.
Prior to accepting the lakes into the Urban Fishing Program, the water quality was monitored by both town and game officials for one year.
After the lakes were accepted, the Parks and Recreation Department applied for and received money from the state Heritage Fund to construct signs listing fishing regulations and other information.
Late last summer, the Parks and Recreation Department offices were relocated to the park.