Originally Published: February 22, 2018 5:57 a.m.
Prescott-area trails just made it onto the map of trail systems nationwide that deserve help with maintenance.
Late last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the 300-mile Greater Prescott Trail System had been named to a list of 15 “priority areas to help address the more than $300 million trail maintenance backlog on national forests and grasslands.”
Prescott National Forest Trails and Wilderness Manager Jason Williams said the national designation is a step in the right direction for local trails.
“It’s the best news I’ve gotten on trails in years,” Williams said. “We’ve been waiting nine months to hear this news.”
The Prescott National Forest and its numerous local partners put together a large packet of information and endorsement letters in a bid to get on the priority list, Williams said.
In fact, he credits the local cooperation for the success in getting on the national list. “We got chosen because we’re already doing it; we’re the model for partners and volunteers,” Williams said.
Prescott, Prescott Valley, Yavapai County, Chino Valley, and Chino Valley all signed onto the effort, as did Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Prescott College.
Local groups that added their support included: Back Country Horsemen of Central Arizona; Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance; AZ Wilderness Coalition; International Mountain Bicycling Association; Prescott Outings Club; Prescott Hiking Club; Prescott Trail Riders; AZ Trail Riders; and Yavapai Trails Association.
A news release from the USDA refers to the Greater Prescott Trail System as “a demonstration of work between the Forest Service and multiple partners.” It added that the system “is integrated with all public lands at the federal, state and local level to generate a community-based trail system.”
While the local trail system continues to grow, Williams said the resources are not always available to keep the routes adequately maintained.
“Generally, I would like to address 20 percent of the trails each year,” Williams said, noting that such a schedule would result in each trail receiving maintenance attention every five years. “But I haven’t been able to do that.”
Rather, Williams said, his department and volunteers are able to get to only about 10 percent of the trails each year.
Although Williams was uncertain about the specifics of how the USDA designation would help the Prescott-area trails, he was hopeful that it would bring more maintenance money to the local scene.
Jim Higgs of the Back Country Horsemen of Central Arizona was among the locals to send a letter of support.
“The Prescott National Forest and its partners believe this project will improve the trail system in the Prescott Basin and neighboring areas by providing additional trail opportunities, trail connections, and reasonable access points while reducing trail user conflicts and safety concerns and limiting resource damage from soil erosion,” Higgs wrote.
He said he hopes the priority listing will help the Prescott National Forest to get the funding it needs to continue its trail maintenance and improvements.
Other areas in the country that made the list include:
The Sedona Red Rock Ranger District Trail System; the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex in Montana; the Northern California Wilderness, Marble Mountain and Trinity Alps; California’s Angeles National Forest; the Colorado Fourteeners; and the Superior National Forest in Minnesota.
“It feels good to be recognized nationally,” Williams said.