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Mon, March 25

Advocates work toward completion of Prescott Circle Trail

PRESCOTT - What started as a modest trails effort around local equestrian Jan Alfano's dining-room table more than 20 years ago appeared to gain steam this week toward its possible finishing point.

Although no decisions occurred on Tuesday, members of the Prescott City Council appeared receptive to a proposal to use about $120,000 of streets/open space sales tax revenue to lease about 6.6 miles of trail easements over Arizona State Trust Land.

The goal: a major step toward completion of the 50-mile Prescott Circle Trail.

Alfano, a founder and mainstay of the Yavapai Trails Association, was on hand Tuesday to introduce a video, "Circle of Cooperation" (see below), that includes pitches from a number of local trails advocates.

"This has been a collaborative effort that's just unbelievable," Alfano told the council.

Prescott Trails Specialist Chris Hosking noted afterward that while the bulk of the completed Circle Trail runs across U.S. Forest Service land, sections of it also cross Bureau of Land Management land, City of Prescott land, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University land.

Other entities also been have instrumental in the progress, Alfano said. For instance, she brought up the cooperation off the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the "untold hours of hard, hard work of the Over the Hill Gang (volunteer trail builders)."

The fledgling Yavapai Trails Association came up with the idea for the Prescott Circle Trail in the early 1990s, Alfano said, recalling meetings of about five people "tossing ideas around" at her Williamson Valley home.

In 1993, the effort received a $9,000 Heritage Fund grant from the state to complete the first section of the circle - the 2.75-mile Turley Trail in the Government Canyon area.

Several of the trails advocates on the video mentioned the tourism potential that would come with the completion of the Circle Trail. They predicted that hikers, cyclists and equestrians would travel to Prescott for the challenge of completing the 50-mile loop.

Prescott Parks and Recreation Director Joe Baynes explained that a "pre-appraisal" has already taken place on the state-land easements.

A meeting between city and state officials took place in January, Baynes said, and the city's application to the Arizona State Land Department is already in the process.

Meanwhile, the $120,000 city expenditure likely would go to the City Council for a decision in about August, City Manager Craig McConnell said.

"This (week's) presentation is viewed as an introduction," McConnell told the council.

In the preliminary 2012-13 budget, the city has allocated $500,000 toward open space acquisitions.

City Attorney Gary Kidd said the city could use its open space money for the trail easement lease.

"The money is there," McConnell said.

Council reaction to the idea was positive this week.

"The ball is bouncing; let's keep it bouncing," Councilman Steve Blair said. "The public needs to understand there is an economic benefit to the community, and it does pay for itself."

The 6.6-mile segment would run from the "P" Mountain area to the Peavine Trail area. The new stretch would connect to completed sections of the Circle Trail, which take in picturesque areas, such as Thumb Butte, Granite Mountain, and Quartz Mountain.

If the City Council approves the State Land leases, Baynes said volunteers and parks employees could have the trails built within about 10 months to a year.

That would leave about a one-and-a-half-mile stretch of unfinished Circle Trail through private ranchland west of Williamson Valley Road, near the Pioneer Parkway intersection, Baynes said.

George Sheats of the Over the Hill Gang said the Yavapai Trails Association and the Open Space Alliance plan to conduct a public meeting on the project 7 p.m. June 13 at the Founders Suite of the Prescott Public Library, 215 E. Goodwin St.

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