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New trail section will complete 5-mile loop around Watson Lake

Chris Hosking, the City of Prescott’s trails specialist, looks out over a piece of land at Watson Lake that will complete a trail circling the whole lake Wednesday. (Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier)

Chris Hosking, the City of Prescott’s trails specialist, looks out over a piece of land at Watson Lake that will complete a trail circling the whole lake Wednesday. (Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier)

PRESCOTT - A half-dozen city trails already border various sections of Watson Lake. Soon, a new route over private property will link them all into one 5-mile loop.

Chris Hosking, the trails specialist for the City of Prescott, noted that popular trails such as the Peavine, the Lakeshore, the Over the Hill, the Discovery, the Flume, and the Explorer currently offer access to some of Watson Lake's most picturesque areas.

Even so, all of those trails currently do not satisfy one of the popular trends in hiking.

"It's all about loops," Hosking said. Most trail users prefer to complete a circle, he said, rather than going out and back over the same trail.

After Tuesday's unanimous approval by the Prescott City Council, the city has the right to build a recreational trail through Granite Dells land owned by Charles and Margaret Horsley.

The 0.6-mile stretch will link the area near the Watson Lake dam with trails near the old boat ramp and ramada (off Highway 89 and Willow Lake Road), effectively completing the circle.

Hosking expects work to get under way on the new trail section within the next several weeks. The project should take about three months to complete.

"There is a lot of rock work in there," Hosking said of the trail construction that he and volunteers with the Over the Hill Gang plan to do in the coming months. The project also likely will get help from community service and the county juvenile probation programs.

Along with considerable rock work, Hosking said the new trail section would require several bridges. "It is just as challenging as anything we've done," he said of the upcoming project.

Even though "social trails" already exist on portions of the property, Hosking said the new trail would improve the access.

"We have to make it sustainable and as good as it can be," Hosking said, noting that the new trail would be a primitive section that would be 24 to 30 inches wide.

When the proposed license agreement with the Horsleys first went to the City Council in December 2011, questions arose over the city's legal liability on the privately owned land - especially pertaining to the rock-climbing activities that occur on the nearby granite formations.

The council postponed the approval at that time, and asked city staff members to compile a risk assessment.

Parks and Recreation Director Joe Baynes said the process allowed his department to look deeper into how the city assesses risk. The plan the department presented to the city included language for signage that will let users know that they are "responsible for their own safety and preparedness."

Prior to the Tuesday vote, Councilman John Hanna questioned City Attorney Gary Kidd several times on the city's remaining liability with the trail.

"Do you feel we've done our due diligence?" Hanna asked.

Kidd responded: "I do. We've covered recreational immunity as much as we can. I feel we've covered the liability as fully as we can."

Because the trail construction will be done largely by volunteers and community service workers, Baynes said the costs for the city would be minimal. He estimated that signs and other materials would cost about $300 to $400, while maintenance would come to about $300 per year.

Hosking said the trail would culminate at least two years of discussions and planning.

"It's has been a goal of mine for a long time," he said, pointing out that the diverse terrain along the loop will include granite outcroppings, riparian areas at Watson Woods, and two crossings of Granite Creek.

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