Open Space Specialist forges new trails

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By Jennifer Garcia

Craig Martin is a man of many trades. He’s a writer, a teacher, a husband, a father, an avid hiker and the go-to guy for trail maintenance in Los Alamos County.

Martin always knew he had a love for the outdoors. His interest became apparent to him when he was growing up in Philadelphia and was a Boy Scout.

“I thought it was neat. I’d never been out in the woods before,” he said.

His intentions were to become a park ranger when he grew up, but instead became an environmental educator and began teaching middle school science in Tucson, Ariz., where he taught for two years.

He said he and his wife moved to Los Alamos when she got her doctorate and took a job here. Martin said that as a science teacher, he taught his students, and himself, how to be environmental stewards and gave them a way to think about the scientific process.

“Trail work is a scientific experiment,” he said. “I did experiments all the time.”

After moving to New Mexico, Martin began writing about fly-fishing on a freelance basis. During this time, he also edited his first fly-fishing guidebook for the state of New Mexico.

“I invented the book project. Writing was a way to entertain others besides my kids,” Martin said.

The Cerro Grande Fire a few years ago changed many peoples’ lives and Martin was no exception. Before the fire, he was a freelance writer and a stay-at-home dad for 15 years.

After the Cerro Grande Fire scorched a large portion of the area, Martin and 60 recreational trail users formed a work party in an effort to rebuild the trails and do some after-fire clean-up.

He said they knew they couldn’t help those who had lost their homes, but he and the others wanted to do something to help out.

“In the first couple of years, we’ve rebuilt probably 35 miles of trail in the burned area,” Martin said.

He struck a deal with the forest service, which enabled him to run work parties. Martin says that since the Cerro Grande fire, his work parties have logged approximately 30,000 volunteer hours.

“My support base is citizens who use trails. Every time I'm out there, someone says ‘great job at the 10th tee,’ or something like that,” Martin said.

After his efforts in rebuilding the trails, the county brought Martin on board as a wild land firefighter. Since then, he has been named the Open Space Specialist for the Parks and Recreation Department.

Martin tries to build sustainable trails, which he accomplishes by making the trails, longer, windy and wiggly. “Some of the trails I’ve built in the past five years have needed no maintenance,” he said.

He gets help maintaining the trails he’s crafted from youth groups like the Tough Riders Mountain Bike Club, the Eagle Scouts, YMCA and the Sierra Club.

Martin said since the Cerro Grande fire, the kids have gone out under his supervision to help fix places where water has damaged the trails.

“(The kids) do great work,” Martin said. He said when a day of trail work is done and the kids look at their work, they are proud. “And they should be,” he said.

When Martin isn’t busy with his trail and bridgework, he works on various projects. One such project is helping an archaeologist build a townsite pueblo between Fuller Lodge and KRSN. He’s also devising a database of those who are buried in the cemetery. And if all of this wasn't enough, he also produced a trail map this past summer, which is available at the customer care center.

Martin said Los Alamos residents are fortunate to have so many trails surrounding them. “There’s a trail in your backyard no matter where you live in Los Alamos,” he said.

Martin is so dedicated to his work, that he says he often goes out on recreational hikes with his Pulaski, an ax and hoe combination used to hit the ground and loosen dirt, which enables him to form trails. “I look at the practical stuff,” Martin said. “I ask myself how I can make the most scenic route possible.” Because of the Cerro Grande fire, he said that he also builds trails that will function as fire lines.