Rio Rico Golf Course

A worker drives a plow around the former Rio Rico Golf Club on Wednesday afternoon to level off the ground at the property.

Heavy machinery has begun leveling the former site of the Rio Rico Golf Club after the property was sold last month, but it’s unclear what the new owner has in store for the land.

Documents filed with the county show that a buyer identified as the Rio Rico Country Club, LLC, with an address in California, purchased the property at the south end of Pendleton Drive on May 19 for $730,000. An affidavit of property value specifies the property type as agricultural.

The address listed for the Rio Rico Country Club, LLC, is that of a commercial real estate intermediary called Asset Preservation, but the document specifies that tax bills for the property be sent to Baca Float No. 3, LLC, of Mesa, attention Andrew Jackson.

Jackson and his Baca Float No. 3 company operate an alfalfa and barley farm along the Santa Cruz River in Rio Rico and Tumacacori.

Calls to Jackson this week went unanswered, and a person who picked up the phone at a number associated with his hay sales operation said he was out of the country.

New Mexico-based company Heritage Hotels and Resorts put the golf course and affiliated Esplendor Resort in southwest Rio Rico up for sale last fall. CEO Jim Long told the NI last October that the resort was originally put on the market for $2.5 million and the golf course at $1.5 million, and that they could be purchased together or separately. 

On Wednesday, heavy machinery could be seen parked near the entrance of the former golf course, while workers drove front-loaders around the property. A crew member at the site said the team was working on leveling the ground, but had not yet received any orders to knock down trees.

However, one neighbor expressed concern about the work that she can see from her backyard and said that trees are, in fact, being removed.

“I’m up above the golf course and a big machine just goes out there and knocks all the trees over and piles them up,” Lynne Nelson said, adding that she noticed workers starting to cut the trees down early this week.

Rio Rico Golf Course, cut-down trees

A view from Lynne Nelson’s backyard shows piles of chopped-down trees at the former Rio Rico Golf Club on Pendleton Drive.

Nelson is worried about the environmental impact the changes might have on the area, she said, adding that there used to be a significant wildlife presence in the area where the trees were removed.

“When I golfed there, we had a little band of coyotes that were in that wildlife area and there were pups that would come out and play tag on the course while we were golfing,” she recounted. “I don’t think we can do anything about it, but it’s just sad that all that won’t be available anymore.”

Mary Dahl, interim director of community development for Santa Cruz County, said she had no information about the new owner’s plans for the land, and added that it wasn’t necessary to report a sale to the planning and zoning department unless the property owner had questions about development on the property.

“There’d be no reason to hear about it unless someone came in and wanted to talk about future plans for it, but sometimes they don’t do that, they just buy it,” Dahl told the NI on Tuesday. “I haven’t talked to anyone specifically about the golf course.”

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