Dec 052012

By Nick Worth
A community fishing park could be in store for the City of Holbrook, said City Accounting Assistant Ron Eisele.
According to Eisele, a recent visit by several Arizona Game and Fish Department (AG&F) directors and managers resulted in the suggestion that the water pond at the city’s re-use facility could be developed into a fishing spot under the AG&F’s Urban Fisheries Program.
The idea began with Norm Freeman, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission chairman, who is also doing the telemetry work for the city’s new water well system. Eisele said Freeman was impressed by what he saw at the re-use facility and invited a delegation from the AG&F to visit the site.
Along with Freeman came Lawrence M. Riley, the assistant director of the AG&F Wildlife Management Division; Bruce Sitko, the Region I Information & Education Program manager; John Cooley, the regional supervisor in Pinetop; Larry Voyles, director; and Eric Swanson, the Urban Fisheries Program manager.
Eisele said the consensus of the group was that the re-use facility has a lot of potential. He said Swanson checked the water and found ample natural food present to support a population of fish.
The pH of the water is held near a neutral balance of 7.0, which, according to Swanson would support cat-fish, bluegill and bass.
According to Eisele, AG&F would stock the lake for free with the three species mentioned above. A pH of 8.0 or above is needed to sustain trout.
The stocking would occur once or twice a year, depending on demand.
“There are still a few more tests to run,” said Eisele. “They said our spot was perfect, and Eric Swanson said our horizons are unlimited for what the city can do with that land.”
Development at the site is also unlimited, according to Eisele. He said it could be something as simple as a fishing pier and weed abatement along the banks to allow access to anglers, which would be required under the Urban Fisheries Program.
Other options open to the city could include construction of ramadas, picnic tables, barbeques, a parking lot and possibly a playground.
Money for the projects would come from grants, Eisele said, noting that grants are available from the AG&F, including Wildlife Management, Urban Fisheries and Game Unit Management grants.
Eisele said the city could also have the option of designating the city-owned land at the site as a game management unit that could be opened up to hunting from Sept. 1 through Feb. 28 each year.
He said since the land is owned by the city, it would require an amendment to the firearms ordinance to al-low for weapons discharge on the Holbrook Ranch facility. Hunting would most likely be limited to shotguns shooting shot shells and archery hunting. No shotgun slugs or rifles of any kind would be allowed.
“A lot of game animals are using the property as a pathway,” said Eisele. He added that a watchable wildlife program is also a good fit for the property, and that the spring through early fall of each year could be restricted to watchable wildlife viewing.
Other funding for the upkeep of the project could come from revenues generated by rental of fishing rods, tackle and bait from a vending machine. There is also the possibility the city could get a share of the money from the sale of urban fishing licenses and hunting licenses.
“We’re not sure of that yet,” said Eisele. He said that along with the testing of the lake’s water, there are a lot of other details to work out.
“We’d like to incorporate the golf course, the Petroglyph Park, watchable wildlife, fishing and hunting within one destination,” Eisele said. “It could draw people from I-40 and give them a good destination for a family vacation.”
He noted fishermen and hunters need hotel rooms, gasoline, food and other necessities, and that the project would prove to be good for the city’s economy.
“The city would be blind not to get involved with this,” Eisele said. “It would be a big draw.”
Eisele said he, Holbrook City Finance Director/Assistant Manager Randy Sullivan and City Manager Ray Alley were going to be looking into funding, grants and details of the proposed project.
“It’s all still on the drawing board,” Eisele said.