GOLD CANYON — After almost nine years in the planning stages, Pinal County officials broke ground Feb. 17 on the 498-acre Peralta Regional Park east of Gold Canyon.
The anticipated opening date is January 2023, but if construction proceeds smoothly it could be sooner, Kent Taylor, Pinal County open space and trails director, told PinalCentral. Pinal County is planning for attendance of between 1,500 to 2,000 people a month, based on traffic to existing nearby attractions.
Pinal County officials, Open Spaces and Trails Committee members and others celebrated the future park with a groundbreaking Feb. 17, and a video of the event can be seen on YouTube.
The new park, off Peralta Road, will be similar to the nearby Lost Dutchman State Park in a more remote, primitive setting. There’ll be no power or water, but there will be picnicking, multi-use non-motorized trails, overnight camping and simple restrooms similar to what could be found in a remote U.S. Forest Service location, Taylor said.
“You’re not going to find your neighborhood amenities in the park. It’s more to highlight the Sonoran Desert landscape, views of the Superstitions and definitely access points to the Superstition Wilderness.” It will be a prime star-gazing area, and eventually a rock-climbing area.
“It’s just a really tremendous Sonoran Desert setting, tons of saguaros, some really neat views, pretty stunning views.” There will only be about 9 ½ miles of trails, but there should be a good variety for different skill levels, Taylor said. There will be a small handicap-accessible trail loop off the main parking area with interpretive signs, and several other kiosks in the park offering background information and interesting educational material.
The property, which has a long history of both ranching and prospecting, is federal land that the county is leasing from the Bureau of Land Management. It offers “a diverse palate of wildlife watching opportunities. … We’ve seen bighorn sheep on the site a couple of times,” Taylor said. The park also has habitat for the Sonoran Desert tortoise.
Eighteen picnic sites and two large group picnic areas are planned. There will be about 30 campsites, including a site for a volunteer host to assist park staff during busy times of the year. The park is big enough that there will be some campsites at which the only people seen will be adjacent campers. “You may not be able to see the parking lot or much of anything else besides what the natural terrain gives you.”
The deliberately limited infrastructure, primitive setting and a special “stargazing node” for setting up telescopes will offer great opportunities for night sky viewing. There will be some solar lighting around the restrooms, but minimally invasive lighting overall for dark sky conditions.
Future plans include developing and promoting the park as a rock-climbing area. “We see an opportunity for some entry level rock climbing. There’s a pretty decent rock face.” This is a phase two plan, mainly due to the need to develop a separate operating plan for rock climbing, Taylor said.
The county awarded a $5.3 million construction contract in December for the park. It’s being paid for with the county’s development impact fees and a Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant from Arizona State Parks.
Taylor said, “Staff is pretty excited and obviously we’re grateful for the opportunity that the Board (of Supervisors) and senior leadership have given us to bring this park to life.”