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Safer and more attractive Granite Creek corridor goal of new effort

Kyle Littleton, left, and Tristan O’Neill of the TerraSole landscaping firm work to remove non-native trees along Granite Creek Wednesday, Dec. 19. The two were among the workers who local firms TerraSole and Prescott Landscape Professionals volunteered to help with the City of Prescott project near Goodwin Street. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

Kyle Littleton, left, and Tristan O’Neill of the TerraSole landscaping firm work to remove non-native trees along Granite Creek Wednesday, Dec. 19. The two were among the workers who local firms TerraSole and Prescott Landscape Professionals volunteered to help with the City of Prescott project near Goodwin Street. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

The first rule of creekside trails: Users need to feel safe.

And that is a driving force behind a multi-tiered effort that is underway in the Granite Creek corridor.

This past week, the city’s Recreation Services Department worked with two local landscaping companies to clear out some of the undergrowth that has been obscuring visibility along the Greenways Trail between Goodwin Street and Granite Creek Park.

Local landscaping firms TerraSole and Prescott Landscaping Professionals both volunteered their employees’ time to help remove hundreds of non-native trees along the creek.

The clearing work is just the start of what is expected to be a comprehensive overhaul of creeks and trails that run through the downtown area.

Earlier this month, the Prescott City Council accepted a $79,401 grant from the Arizona Water Protection Fund to create a master plan for the Granite Creek Corridor.

The aim of the master plan will be to create a guide for implementing “substantive changes to the corridor,” according to a city memo on the grant.

The clearing work that took place Wednesday, Dec. 19, was an early step toward making the Greenways Trail more usable for the public.

“I think this will open it up and make it more inviting,” Baynes said.

Along with removing non-native species that can crowd out the more desirable native cottonwoods, willows, and ash trees, the project will also serve to heighten safety.

One of the common community complaints about the Greenways is that the trail — with its thick undergrowth and obscured underpasses — can look foreboding from the street level.

“More visibility is always good from a public safety standpoint,” Baynes said.

Oren Thomas, the city’s stormwater specialist, was on hand to oversee the tree removal on Wednesday. He said the removal work would focus on non-native Siberian elms and the tree-of-heaven species — both of which can overwhelm the native trees.

“They tend to compete for space and resources that the native trees need,” Thomas said.

Baynes and Thomas say the effort will not remove all of the non-native trees. Some of the older, larger elms will remain, they said, but with the smaller trees removed, the undergrowth will be more manageable in the future.

Josh Crothers, owner of Prescott Landscape Professionals, said he volunteered his crew to help with the process because of his interest in trails and mountain biking.

“The No. 1 reason is I love trails,” Crothers said. “I’m an avid mountain biker, and I coach mountain biking.”

The Greenways Trail could use some improvements, he said, noting, “This area is kind of sketchy.”

Along with making the trails safer and more attractive, Baynes said the master plan is expected to come up with ways of improving the access to the Greenways.

Another of the common complaints about the trails is that users sometimes have difficulties finding a way in and out of the trail system.

Handicap access is also quite limited, Baynes said, pointing out that Granite Creek Park, Aubrey Street, and the Mile-High Middle School area are among the only access spots for people in wheelchairs or scooters.

“We want to have better access,” he said.

Overall, he said, the master planning process is “a great opportunity to enhance an asset that we already have.”

He expects the plan to recommend ways of dealing with abandoned gas lines and old chunks of concrete. Then, he said, planners will “help us identify the scope of work.”

Tyler Goodman, assistant to the city manager, said the city will be working with the Arizona Water Protection Fund, which will assign a project manager to work with the city.

Goodman expects the master plan to be underway by about May 2019, and be complete by April/May 2020.

At that point, he said, the city could look to apply for capital-project money to do improvements suggested in the master plan.

Along the way, Goodman said, several public meetings will take place to get feedback from the community.

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