Trail plan prioritizes projects

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Feedback > Residents show strong support for most suggestions

By Arin McKenna

A public meeting Wednesday on the Los Alamos Community Trail Plan drew 35 assorted hikers, dog walkers, runners, mountain bike riders, equestrians and residents living next to open space.

Long-time trail advocate Dorothy Hoard attended the meeting and liked what she saw.

“I was on the committee that set up the Trail Management Plan in 1994. We set up a trail network that was quite modest compared to this,” Hoard said. “Craig Martin is my hero.”

Attendees asked extensive questions during Open Space Specialist Craig Martin’s presentation and then dispersed to review and comment on 16 proposed projects.

Martin will use feedback from the meeting and an Open Forum discussion on the county’s website (losalamosnm.us) to prioritize projects toward implementing the plan.

Martin summarized attitudes toward broader trail plan issues.
• As the population of Los Alamos ages and as the town recruits more young families to live here, there is a growing need for easy-rated trails. However, respondents preferred building new trails rather than altering difficult trails to make easy ones.
• Improved signage received overwhelming support if it is done at reasonable cost and is non-intrusive.
• Whenever possible, trail construction and maintenance costs should be minimized by using volunteers, local youth employment programs and grant funding.
• The concept of a “Natural Area” where foot traffic is encouraged but not bicycle and equestrian use was not well-received, with the exception of Deer Trap Mesa, which most thought could be a “foot-traffic” area.

Most attendees did not believe that user conflicts between groups were much of an issue, although some hikers and dog walkers expressed concern of fast-moving bicycles. One wrote:

“I’ve used trails here for many years. I find the heavily increased use, particularly by bikes to be intrusive in what was once a peaceful wilderness…the canyons are no longer a place of peace and escape, either for me or wildlife. Why not designate parts of open space for bikes and other sections for walkers only?”
• Mountain bikers stated that “destination riders” seek out 25 to 30 mile trips and will not flock to Los Alamos unless trails on the Santa Fe National Forest are improved or new trails added.

Reactions to more specialized trail projects varied.

Connecting the two legs of Deer Trap Mesa to create a loop received strong support, along with a call to improve parking and trailhead information. Martin plans to use Youth Conservation Corps volunteers to build the trail this summer.

Participants also urged using volunteer help to build an easy-rated trail on the north edge of Kwage Mesa. One wrote, “A good near-term project. The views are great—it would be nice to have a trail that is nicer than the current bulldozer track.”

Building a connection between the Quemazon and Perimeter trails received high priority although there were differing opinions as to whether they should be connected by a bridge over Pueblo canyon or a trail through it.

One resident wrote, “I think this should be a top priority project because the bridge in particular would make this part of the county trail system considerably more accessible to a large portion of the population. Plus, implement both the bridge and trail crossing to create a wonderful short loop!”

There was a consensus that a safe crossing of Diamond Drive near North Road is necessary, but respondents acknowledged that it might be a difficult sell with drivers.

Construction of a family bike park was well received, but the suggested location along Olive Street was not popular.

The opposition tended toward, “Don’t ‘pave paradise and put up a parking lot.’ Love the open space here!”

Making an easy-rated trail out of the North Bayo Bench Trail split fairly evenly between those who wanted the difficult stretches to at least be optional and others who said it is the perfect spot for an easy trail. “The hard part of trails should be left untouched. This is what makes hiking fun and challenging” and “Let’s not dumb down Bayo Canyon,” were some of the comments.

In general, residents felt no need to organize braided trails, although they were open to organizing braided trails along the White Rock Canyon Rim into a rim trail.

“Having a real rim trail, lengthy and easy to navigate, would be a showpiece and provide a segment for snow-free winter hiking/biking” was one comment. Another suggested a paved trail.

Connecting Kwage Mesa with Bayo Canyon was very popular, especially with equestrians.

“In general for equestrians, providing a safe and easier route off North Mesa would open up a world of pleasurable rides.”

Participants universally supported connecting the new nature center with the trail network once it nears completion.

Additional comments on the Community Trail Plan are being accepted on the Open Forum through May 17.