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Thu, Jan. 23

Albins donate 27 acres for community park

If it weren't for two hungry javelinas and one generous couple, Black Canyon City residents might still be wishing for a community park instead of building one.

"I came home from the store and found two javelinas eating the fish food in the storage shed," Jeane Albins said. "I called Game and Fish to come and take them out of there."

That was 18 months ago.

Two weeks ago, Jeane and Phil Albins signed a warranty deed donating 27 acres of pristine riverside land to the Black Canyon City Community Association. The Albins' entered one clause in the donation ­ the 27 acres must be used for a community park.

"There was no doubt about that," said Bob Cothern, BCCCA president. "A public park for the town is the only thing we wanted to do with that land."

Seated around the Albins' dining room table July 10, Jeane handed keys to Cothern and Stacie Priest. The keys represented opening the land to the public.

The name of the park is the Black Canyon Heritage Park.

"I wanted to do the exchange at this table, because for a year-and-a-half we have spent so many hours and days sitting around this table figuring out this park deal," Jeane said.

"I just can't tell you how much this means to the people in this town," Priest said. She handled the deed transfer, pro bono, through her office at Squaw Peak Realty.

"I am really honored to be here and be part of this history."

Rewind to the hungry javelinas.

"The Game and Fish man that came out to tranquilize the javelinas was such a nice fellow," Jeane said. "We got to talking and one thing led to another and I told him Game and Fish ought to have that property."

That nice fellow is Joshua Hurst, G&F wildlife manager.

"I got a call to go dart and remove two javelinas," Hurst said. "I commented to Mrs. Albins on what a nice piece of property she had by the pond. She said she would gift it to Game and Fish if we wanted it."

Word traveled up the Game and Fish ladder and back down to the Albins. Game and Fish would love to have the property but they did not have the staff to manage it.

"Josh said if we gave it to a non-profit group that had a 501(c)3, then Game and Fish could help us out with a park," Jeane said. "So I called Bob Cothern and Dick Forsythe of the community association and told them about it. They were all for it."

Unbeknownst to them, the community association did not have a 501(c)3 status. After months of paperwork and dining room huddles, the non-profit application came back approved.

"That was the big hurdle. Once we got that, things started rolling really fast," Cothern said.

About 18 acres of the 27-acre park is in the Agua Fria River flood zone. A 3/4-acre pond teems with catfish, carp, minnows and frogs.

The pond is the focal point of the park. Like moths to a light, people gravitate towards it.

Cattails ring the pond shore halfway around. Multitudes of birds provide a constant chorus of lilts and sounds. A row of pine trees provides shade.

"Years ago, that pond used to be a gravel pit," Phil says. "And for awhile we had a 17-space RV park near the pond."

The pond became a pond by accident.

"There was a big pipe sticking up out of the pit, and one day Phil turned on some valve and it started filling up," Jeane said. "Like so many other things in Black Canyon City, it happened by accident."

In 1930, when Black Canyon City was called Black Canyon, Phil's father, Dimitri John Albins, settled there along the banks of the Agua Fria River. Locals refer to D.J. as Black Canyon City's first philanthropist.

Jeane and Phil carried on his philanthropy. Virtually every community entity ­ from the school to the fire department to the civic center to the water company ­ owes its existence entirely or in part to the Albins.

The community association has big plans for Heritage Park.

"Jeane wouldn't have it any other way," Cothern says.

Plans include a nature conservation area with a riparian habitat along the river, re-designing the pond as a native fish habitat and viewing area, nature trails with interpretive signs, educational programs and a museum.

"Riparian habitats are vanishing in Arizona, there is a serious shortage of them," Phil says. "It's worth spending money for one right here in town."

An exhibit center at the park will include information areas for the Agua Fria National Monument, the Bureau of Land Management, the Arizona Game and Fish, and regional points of interest.

"If it weren't for the Albins donating the land, we would not be able to do this," Cothern says.

"And if it weren't for some serious help from Game and Fish and other organizations, we couldn't have done this whether we had the land or not."

Jeane and Phil barely hide their excitement at the park becoming a reality.

"Everyone involved with this did a good job," Jeane said. "A lot of people are here for this town. It's a good town and you can tell by the help that's given."

"My dad always said he wanted this to be a park," Phil said. "And now it is."

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