This week, city officials and local organizers met with National Park Service (NPS) staff to begin planning the work associated with the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program grant that the city recently received. While largely a “meet and greet” session, the group reviewed the process and results of a previous trail project, the Healing Waters Trail in downtown T or C, and discussed possibilities while touring Rotary Park.
The full scope of the project is not yet defined, but will include a pedestrian bridge at Rotary Park intended as a downtown connector to the nearby Rio Grande Trail. The possibility of a second bridge in Williamsburg was also discussed as a way to create a hiking loop.
The full vision will be developed with ideas and feedback from the local community over the next year. At the end of the one-year assistance program, the resulting planning document could describe amenities, signage, and plans for hiking, fishing, trail running, kayaking, horseback riding, mountain biking, birding, etc, as well as identifying phases and components that could be pursued by different stakeholders sequentially or concurrently.
With city, county, state, federal, and private land potentially being affected, the role of the NPS staff will be to assist in the management of the planning process and provide the technical expertise necessary to navigate the legal and regulatory hurdles the project will encounter.
Proponents point out that making nearby public lands more accessible could play a significant economic development role. Better access to outdoor recreation opportunities will help attract travelers in search of adventure and relaxation in T or C’s hot springs. This could in turn attract entrepreneurial investment and new jobs in T or C to provide additional goods and services to these visitors.
The National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program is intended to help communities access their nearby public lands. More than 350 communities nationwide have taken advantage of it, including Tucumcari, Silver City, and Socorro.