More than 20 volunteers hiked up the side of a peak just south of The Box with pickaxes and shovels in tow Saturday morning. Their goal was a new path for hikers, bikers and horseback riders.
They swung at rocks and shoveled clear stones. Their labor was rewarded by a new mile of trail climbing up the side of the peak.
“If you’re a trail user, you should help build them, I think, and help maintain them,” said volunteer Kirsten Arnell, who is a regular trail runner.
The volunteer effort was one of many National Trails Day events. Conducted the first Saturday of June, National Trails Day encourages people to service and advocate for public lands and trails.
“I think that New Mexico, with the abundance of public lands, is just such a treasure for the American public,” said Nick Tenorio, vice president of New Mexico Volunteers for the Outdoors, one of several organizations who worked on Saturday’s trail build. “Other states don’t have as much wonderful, beautiful public land as we do. I think coming out here and providing access to those wide-open public spaces is really important for recreation, hunters, the conservation people, fire folks. Nobody doesn’t like trails. It benefits everybody.”
The work Socorro volunteers put in Saturday was part of a broader effort to build a larger trail system in the Box Recreation Area, something that could bring more visitors to town.
“The general idea is we want to build a trail network that will serve locals for starters,” said Rob Selina, faculty advisor for the New Mexico Tech Bike Club, another organization behind
the trail build. “So, a place for us to have outdoor recreation opportunities, hiking biking and horseback riding — keep Socorro a nice place to live for those of us that are here.”
But a larger trail network could also be an opportunity for economic development, by attracting out of town or even out of state visitors to the area, said Selina.
One long term goal is to develop trails with significant elevation changes, that could take a hiker or mountain biker from the forest, through the high desert and end in the bosque at the Rio Grande, said Selina.
“They’re the kind of places people go on vacation and stay for weeks. It’s like a bucket list. There’s not such a thing in the state of New Mexico,” he said.
The change in elevation lets travelers traverse the distance and terrain more easily, because losing elevation is easier on the lungs. Examples of such trails are the Palisade Plunge in Colorado or the Whole Enchilada.
He believes that goal is two parcels of land away from possible. If the city of Socorro and the County of Socorro agree to lease those parcels of state land from the Bureau of Land Management, such a trail could be built locally. Those state lands are already in use for ranching, but multi-use permits mean they could additionally be used for recreation without displacing ranchers.
Some of the same Socorro organizations, New Mexico Tech Bike Club, the Tech Climbing Club, Striders and Riders and the Bureau of Land Management who secured legal routes, came together last summer to begin work on the now complete 4.5-mile Blue Canyon Trail from the Box Canyon recreation area to the Socorro Sports Complex and Rodeo Grounds. Some of the same volunteers also braved the heat last summer too, like Jim Sells. He’s been back to the Blue Canyon Trail with his family, who were very impressed and he’s looking forward to bringing them out to the new trail.
The New Mexico Volunteers for the Outdoors conduct trail building and maintenance projects all over the state, including recent trail building in San Lorenzo.
“We’re trying to serve these underserved areas, which are just fantastic areas for recreational opportunities that have been neglected since the trails have first put in,” said Tenorio.
They’ve been using partnerships with organizations like the New Mexico Tech Bike Club, Back Country Horseman and the Continental Divide Trail Coalition to accomplish that goal. To learn more about NMVFO and find trail building opportunities across the state, visit nmvfo.org.
To find out more about local trail building opportunities, you can also attend a New Mexico Tech Bike Club meeting, Wednesdays, 4 to 6 p.m. at the New Mexico Tech pool, or email Selina at [email protected].
As new trails are built, they will be added to the BLM trail maps. Local Socorro trail maps can be found at blm.gov/office/Socorro-field-office.