Payson's Green Valley Park was recently named Best Public Improvement Project for Arizona Main Streets at the Governor's Rural Development Conference in Nogales.
Winners in 12 categories in the 2001 Main Street Awards competition were selected by a panel of judges who reviewed 75 entries. Payson's other finalist, the Mogollon Grille, lost out to the Yuma McDonald's building in the Best Interior Renovation category.
"It was really nice for Green Valley Park to win this honor," Main Street Manager Karen Greenspoon said. "Mayor (Ray) Schum accepted the award, which represents a major milestone for our Main Street."
While Green Valley Park opened to the public Oct. 19, 1996, projects that take several years to complete are allowed more latitude in the competition, Greenspoon said.
The state did not designate the Town of Payson as an Arizona Main Street Community until Sept. 2000, making this the first year local projects were eligible to participate in the annual competition.
A $6.5-million project, Green Valley Park turned an unusable flood plain into a popular community gathering place at the end of Main Street.
The 45-acre park features three lakes that use reclaimed water in the form of high-quality effluent from the Northern Gila County Sanitary District to replenish the ground water supply.
Part of the Arizona Game and Fish Department's urban fishing program, the three lakes receive plants of rainbow trout from October to May.
Picnic ramadas and a grassy amphitheater where town-sponsored concerts are held under the stars complete the park's family atmosphere.
It is also home to the Rim Country Museum and offices of the Parks and Recreation Department.
While the park has been open for a number of years, the panel of judges also was impressed by future expansion plans for Green Valley Park, according to Greenspoon.
"We're trying to acquire the Garcia property to do a linear park down Main Street," she said. "We are in negotiations to buy the land and it is in the budget," she said.
Streetscape renderings produced by a seven-member state resource team show the park running the entire length of Main Street from Green Valley Park to Highway 87.
"A design for the park is being done right now," Greenspoon said. "We're looking at whether water retention or a channel would be feasible, but regardless of whether we have a water feature, the state resource team recommends pedestrian paths and bike paths through it."
Other Payson Main Street projects nominated in the competition include the Main Street Office for Best Interior Renovation, the Young & Burton Construction Office for Best Facade Renovation over $10,000 and Best Interior Renovation, and Kaibab Industries Sawmill Crossing for Best Public/Private Partnership.