Nearly $500K will help fund new Aztec trail

The city of Aztec and Aztec Ruins National Monument have been awarded a federal grant to build a new pedestrian-bike trail that will follow the Animas River and connect the ruins with downtown Aztec. Enlarge photo

Jon Austria/The (Farmington) Daily Times

The city of Aztec and Aztec Ruins National Monument have been awarded a federal grant to build a new pedestrian-bike trail that will follow the Animas River and connect the ruins with downtown Aztec.

AZTEC (AP) – Soon, visiting 900-year-old pueblo structures from downtown Aztec won’t require a car.

Aztec Ruins National Monument and the city of Aztec were awarded grant money this month to develop a trail that will allow pedestrian and bicycle access between the two.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced $12.5 million in grants to 20 states to improve access to America’s national parks, forests and wildlife refuges. Aztec Ruins and the city of Aztec will receive a total of $454,828 in grant funds. They developed the trail project and wrote the application together.

“America’s Great Outdoors has always been about making the government a better partner to communities across the country,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, whose department includes the National Park Service and Aztec Ruins. “The grants are an excellent example of how the department is working with other federal agencies to align funding with priorities in support of improving access to our nation’s parks, refuges and national treasures.”

The pedestrian trail was selected because it will invite greater numbers of visitors and residents to the monument. The funds are provided through the Federal Transit Administration’s Paul S. Sarbanes “Transit in Parks” program.

The trail will encourage visitors to the monument to leave the car behind and head out on foot or by bike. It will run from historic downtown Aztec, across the planned “north pedestrian” bridge over the Animas River and to the park visitor center and archaeological site.

The trail route will lead visitors from North Main Avenue across the Animas River to the southeastern boundary of the monument. The path follows a section of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, the 1,000-mile course that pack-mule trains followed from Santa Fe west to Los Angeles in the 19th century, according to a Park Service news release.

“This funding gives the monument and the city tremendous opportunities for growth, both economically and recreationally. We look forward to providing visitors a safe, environmentally friendly, and scenic walking and cycling route into the park,” said monument Superintendent Larry Turk.

The new trail will provide residents a more enjoyable route to Aztec Ruins. Students can avoid boarding a bus for an easy walk from their classrooms to Aztec Ruins for field trips.

“These are key grants for this community,” said City Manager Joshua Ray. “The city has already secured state funding for a pedestrian bridge that will link the two sides. Now we have the means to schedule a summer 2013 project that will give residents, visitors and tourists a spectacular new avenue to the Animas River’s riparian ecosystem and the ruins.”

The trail also will help encourage health and fitness by offering park-and-walk options, Ray said.

The request for trail funding had three tiers: minimum, preferred and optimal, said Ed Kotyk, projects manager for the city.

“We received the minimal funding we requested,” Kotyk said. “But we’re excited to finally be able to connect the ruins with the city by trail.”

The 8-foot-wide trail will be Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible and use a “technisoil” material that allows drainage and lasts longer than asphalt, Kotyk said.

Construction on the new trails and bridge is expected to start this summer.