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Thu, Jan. 23

Prescott horsemen's group gets grant to continue forest trail work

Courtesy photo<br>
Clyde Griffith, Wayne Pitrat, Denny Murray and Kelley Schwartz of the Backcountry Horsemen of Central Arizona work on Almosta Trail.

Courtesy photo<br> Clyde Griffith, Wayne Pitrat, Denny Murray and Kelley Schwartz of the Backcountry Horsemen of Central Arizona work on Almosta Trail.

The Backcountry Horsemen of Central Arizona recently received an $8,000 grant from a Tennessee-based business to continue its work of extending the new multi-use Almosta Trail on the Prescott National Forest.

Tractor Supply Co. of Brentwood, Tenn., donated the money to the Prescott-based non-profit horsemen's group through an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) trail conservation program, which started in May.

Almosta Trail is located 13 miles up Williamson Valley Road. After taking a left on Almosta Ranch Road in Inscription Canyon, the trailhead and its parking area are about a mile down the road.

The trail goes through some Yavapai County land and private ranch land before winding through the forest. It extends to the north perimeter of the National Wilderness and accesses trails 320 and 308.

Backcountry Horsemen members are building two loop trails off the main trail, which are finished.

"It's gorgeous, with lots of variety of terrain and views," member Seana Von Henkle said. "We always see deer and elk out there."

The Backcountry Horsemen contingent continuously works to provide wilderness access while keeping existing trails open and safe for wildlife and people in central Yavapai County.

Members say they got the grant at just the right time since they recently finished the first loop of the Almosta Trail. When completed, it will feature 25 miles of non-motorized pathways.

The second part of the trail is tagged and ready to build. Construction is slated to begin in February 2010 on that portion and should be completed later next year.

The Backcountry Horsemen garnered the grant from AQHA and the Stewards for Trail, Education and Partnerships, or STEP. STEP is an environmentally and ecologically friendly AQHA program that bolsters trail stewardship across the United States.

The program allows groups and individuals to submit proposals for projects that pay for and generate awareness for trail conservation nationwide. A committee of officials from AQHA, Tractor Supply, Equestrian Land Conservation Resource and the National Forest Service reviews each proposal, selects the individual projects to receive money, and helps organize volunteers to complete approved projects.

Forms for submitting trail conservation projects are accessible via the Internet at

The Backcountry Horsemen made its request for grant money through STEP to increase trail-riding opportunities on the Prescott National Forest. The forest currently offers nearly 450 miles of trails that can be accessed year-round for horseback riding, hiking, backpacking or mountain biking.

With Tractor Supply Co. as a sponsor, the group was able to apply for grant money to improve existing trails, build new trails and promote trail-riding in general.

"We're very grateful for the partnerships we have with Tractor Supply and the American Quarter Horse Association," Gayle Higgs, Backcountry Horsemen's president, said. "Their support enables us to provide additional recreational opportunities for those who want to enjoy all of the scenic beauty that the Prescott National Forest has to offer."

Since 2002, the Backcountry Horsemen have partnered with the Prescott, Coconino, Kaibab and Tonto national forests, and the National Park Service, wracking up more than $558,000 in volunteer services, including hours worked, stock use, mileage and equipment used.

In 2008 alone, the Backcountry Horsemen contributed almost 4,500 volunteer hours. Members have built trailheads, new trails and helped maintain existing trails on the aforementioned national forests.

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