Ten years ago, at the intersection of Country Club Drive and Green Valley Parkway, there was a piece of land the U.S. Forest Service was using as a pasture for mules.
Today, that piece of land, known as Green Valley Park, is more widely used for picnics and by fishermen.
Buzz Walker, director of Payson Public Works, said in the late 1980s the sanitation district was looking for a place to discharge treated water.
He said they were releasing it into the Verde River, which ended up flowing into the Salt River Project.
"That did not make much sense," Walker said.
He said the light came on one day to find a place for the water to be stored in Payson for groundwater purposes.
He said almost everyone agreed the pasture was a good location and thought the town could get control of the land.
The belief was confirmed by a feasibility study by Gary Dashney.
Walker said the idea of making the pasture into a park began.
"We thought if we made it a park, it could be good for the economy," Walker said. "When we broke the idea (of the park) we decided to make this sexy. Bells and whistles were attached to this water conservation program."
A $450,000 grant from the State Lake Improvement Fund allowed the town to do the engineering design.
The land was free.
The park, with a price tag of $6 million for construction, was funded in part by a $1.5 million grant.
In addition, the water department purchased two private parcels on the land for $150,000.
The balance of $4.35 million was paid through a bond voted for by 70.2 percent of the voters in Payson.
The first things that happened in the construction phase was the relocation of sewer lines.
The town contracted out with FNF Construction to do the work, and the contractor spent several hours each day hauling off the dirt to make the lake, which at its deepest end is 20 feet.
Once the construction was completed, the town had to determine how they were going to utilize the water that was in the lake.
The town decided to work with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to become part of the Urban Fishing Program.
Under this program, the Game and Fish Department stocks the lake with fish for a nominal fee.
Walker said Payson was the first rural community in the state to be part of this program.
He said the project's magnitude did not surprise anyone.
The agreement with the sanitation district was that Payson would store the water if the sanitation district would fill the lake.
The sanitation district agreed to keep the lake at a full level and give the town all the irrigation it needed for the park. In return, the sanitation district would use the lake as its distribution point.
The Green Valley Park is, as it was supposed to be, a leisure park.
"We wanted to keep our promise to the public that it would be a leisure park," he said, mentioning Rumsey Park was to be the location for activities.
Walker said everything worked out perfectly with no major problems in the past 10 years.
"It's fun to have a partner like the sanitation district," he said. "It's perfectly safe for the use it has, which is fishing."
The town will celebrate the park's tenth anniversary from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The day's events include the fresh stocking of rainbow trout with fishing instruction, courtesy of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, as well as free hot dogs and a birthday cake.
-- To reach Michael Maresh call 474-5251 ext. 112 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.