Thanks to a day-long joint effort of Arizona Game and Fish, the U.S. Forest Service, the Mogollon Sporting Association and 10 Payson High School wrestlers, a pristine area near Black Canyon Lake has been renovated.
Among those who participated was MSA member Ray LaHaye.
"It was hard work but it was a good day in which everybody benefited," he said.
The project goal was to spruce up about a two-mile long creek bed area near a forest fire burn that is in the process of restoration. According to LaHaye, the bed was filled with debris and foliage which clogged it.
When spring runoffs began and water couldn't flow freely, the nearby restoration area was damaged by flooding.
With the project completed, that flooding should not be a problem next spring.
The joint restoration project is nothing new for the Forest Service, Game and Fish, MSA and local athletes. Since the inception of MSA 11 years ago, the organization has been funding similar improvement projects. Often they've included building or expanding elk guzzlers, controlled burns, tree seedings and erecting fences.
The MSA pays for materials and donates to the school team the assisting athletes represent. Those donations to sports clubs have helped send athletes to camps, sponsor tournaments and purchase equipment for needy youngsters.
MSA official Jack Koon estimates that through the years, the organization has donated about $230,000 -- or half of its earnings -- to wildlife and conservation projects in the Rim country.
The same amount has been donated to local youth programs.
Most of the money is earned at the annual MSA banquet, auction and raffle that have become a huge part of the Rim country's spring social season.
At the 11th annual banquet last month at Mazatzal Casino, the MSA netted about $50,000.
Those proceeds will be doled out by the MSA in the usual one-half for youth programs and one-half for conservation in early July, Koon said.
Requests for benefits were received by an MSA committee during a two-week period in May.
The committee will soon meet and mull over the requests.
"We want to see where the money will do the most good," Koon said. "We've had a lot of requests, one large one from the Forest Service and Game and Fish."
The committee will present its findings to the members of the association.
In past years, the MSA has purchased band equipment at both Payson High and Rim Country Middle School, team uniforms, baseball back stops, lighting for a school stage, playground equipment and other items not available in the tight school budgets.
In addition to the conservation projects, the MSA had purchased video cameras, metal detectors and other equipment for officers of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Officially, the MSA roster has about 260 members -- the number that attended the past banquet. Of those, only about 25 are active members.
"We need more working members to help out," Koon said.
For more information about MSA, call Koon at 474-1662.