Construction of Payson’s Green Valley Lake system of three bodies of water began in 1993 and finished in 1996.
Gary Abrahamson, Gary Dashney, Joel Goode, Craig Swartwood, and Buzz Walker were all key players in making this happen. The initial purpose was to improve the quality of water discharged into American Gulch by the sanitary district, and with that clean water, provide for recreational fishing.
The Payson Town Council led by Mayor Swartwood acted by passing an ordinance which stated that three percent of the value of land purchased by the developers within the town of Payson, in any land exchange, would finance the construction of Green Valley Park.
Then, the voters of Payson approved the measure by an overwhelming majority. The impact of this town park has been amazing as its reputation for fishing, hiking, and nature walks has spread throughout the state of Arizona.
Payson has become a destination for Valley residents wanting a quick day getaway to the mountains of Rim Country.
Over the last quarter century, the park has expanded to include the Museum of the Forest, which is an excellent snapshot into the heritage of Payson and the surrounding area. Also, the reconstruction of the Zane Grey Cabin, destroyed by the Dude Fire, is a true tourist attraction for all ages.
North of the lake provides the summer concert stage, a children’s park, and picnic area which bustles with activity, especially during the summer months. The Independence Day celebration on July 4th is unmatched by any community of its size throughout our nation. Every year, it seems to get better, and the crowds have grown beyond expectations.
The focus of the park is the three lakes, which cover 45 acres of surface water. The lakes have been a part of the Arizona Urban Fishing Program since its beginning.
There are frequent stockings of trout when the waters are cooler which usually starts in October and continues until early May when the wildlife fair happens at the park.
Rainbow trout and catfish were the initial fish stocked into the waters, but recreational anglers were soon also catching crappies and bass. Anglers from nearby lakes added these two species. Today all four species of game fish are caught frequently by shoreline anglers or those cruising the waters with kayaks or small aluminum boats.
On any day, anglers occupy the shoreline wanting to catch trout that are stocked every two weeks during the cooler months of fall, winter, and spring. These rainbows are from a private hatchery in the state of Colorado and will range in size from 10 inches to five pounds.
Longtime friend and Payson resident Joe Spear fishes Green Valley five days per week and has figured out how to catch the big ones. Being retired, he enjoys the convenience of being just a couple of minutes from home and wetting a line. Joe is always willing to share his tips on catching trout with all newcomers who may stop by one of the lakes.
If you are retired and want a leisurely activity to occupy some of your time, try fishing. Who knows, you may catch the big one. Purchase an Arizona fishing license, buy an inexpensive rod and reel combination, and head to the waters.
There is no better place to get started than Green Valley Lake, a true visionary success story. This weekend, take a friend fishing in the Rim Country, God’s creation.