Tim Rogers, SFCT Trails Program manager
Public trails are a central part of the Santa Fe Conservation Trust’s work. Not all land trusts emphasize trails, but SFCT pursues the development, maintenance and promotion of public trails as a high priority. Trails are a valuable community resource for recreation, health and economic development in our area. They also play an important educational role, directly increasing awareness of the value of preserved open spaces and acting as a shared tool for responsible land stewardship.
SFCT has been involved with public trails in Santa Fe since its inception in the early 1990s, when the Trust became engaged in the preservation of public access to Atalaya Mountain in the Santa Fe National Forest through privately owned foothill areas that were under development at the time. The preservation of a formal, public Atalaya Trail was a proud product of SFCT’s early work and a natural lead-in to further collaboration with private landowners, the city of Santa Fe, and Santa Fe County to create the adjacent Dale Ball Trails system in the 1990s. This year, working with the Santa Fe National Forest, the SFCT formally adopted the Atalaya Trail, also known as “FS Trail 170,” for purposes of maintenance and upkeep.
SFCT has also been integrally involved in the development of the Santa Fe Rail Trail, Spur Trail, La Tierra Trails, La Piedra Trail and Arroyo Hondo Open Space Trails. SFCT helped create the Trails Alliance of Santa Fe (TAOSF), which, along with the Santa Fe Fat Tire Society (SFFTS), has become a major source of volunteers for the maintenance of city, county and National Forest Service trails in our area. Through a contract with the city of Santa Fe, SFCT now directly coordinates the voluntary maintenance of all of the city’s soft-surface trails, in addition to collaborating on trail work days and related activities with the county and the Santa Fe National Forest.
SFCT’s contract with the city of Santa Fe has allowed the Trust to hire a Trails Program manager and to increase promotional activities as another major area of trail work for the SFCT. The contract provided support for our participation in the annual Bike to Work Week in May 2014, including two fun and educational community bicycle rides: the first-ever “South Side Community Cruise,” on the weekend before Bike to Work Week, and the “Eighth Annual Community Cruise,” starting at the Railyard the following Saturday. SFCT also celebrated “Dale Ball Day,” which honored Dale and Sylvia Ball at the Sierra del Norte trailhead in March and “National Trails Day” in June, including a ride on the city’s “M” bus and a group hike on the Dorothy Stewart Trail.
Beyond these special celebrations, the SFCT is programming regular activities to get young Santa Feans and their families out on our trails. Over the summer, the SFCT worked with the city Youth and Family Services Division to organize field trips to Dale Ball Trails for summer campers. Many of the children we met at the Cerro Gordo trailhead said they had never gone on any kind of hike. Very few had ever had the opportunity to visit the Dale Ball Trails, even though one does not even need to leave the city limits to do so. Two trips to the base of Picacho Peak in July were a universal hit with campers, counselors, SFCT staff and volunteers. (These trips are summarized along with other trail events this year at http://sfct.org/trails/sfct-trail-events-in-2014). A big “thanks” goes out to the city Summer Camps staff and kids, and especially to Karen Denison of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing, who provided interpretation of plants and geology along the way.
This fall, SFCT will ramp up field trips to city trails in collaboration with Santa Fe Public Schools, thanks to the support of a grant from the S.L. Gimbel Foundation, which will provide for the cost of transportation and promotional materials. If you are interested in getting your school signed up for these field trips, contact Tim Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Other opportunities to promote hiking and bicycling on our city trails will include collaboration with SFFTS on “Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day” at La Tierra Trails on Oct. 4 and publicizing “Walk and Roll to School Day” on Oct. 8.
Another area of interest to SFCT, TAOSF and the vast base of trail volunteers and users is the planning and construction of new trails. In the course of the next year, SFCT anticipates working with a wide variety of partners, including the city, the county, Santa Fe National Forest, The Nature Conservancy, TAOSF, SFFTS, International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), private landowners and other private partners. This enthusiastic group wants to improve access, maintenance and user experience on our trails; improve wayfinding (signage and maps) to help orient and guide trail users; establish new, special-use trails such as a “Flow Trail” being considered by SFFTS at La Tierra Trails; and assist partners with longer-range planning that is needed for the continued improvement of our urban, foothill and mountain trails.
Our public agency staff and our local volunteer base are critical resources for our trails. SFCT will work with SFFTS to see that as many as possible are able to participate in state-of-the-art trainings to be offered by IMBA’s visiting Trail Care Crew, including a training for land managers on Sept. 12 and “Trail Building School” for volunteers and staff on Sept. 13.
Wanna get involved? Trail work days and other upcoming events in our area are posted on SFCT’s online events calendar (http://sfct.org/events/calendar) and on the TAOSF website (http://trailsallianceofsantafe.org/calendar-2/).
Tim Rogers is the Santa Fe Conservation Trust’s Trails Program manager.