Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Improvements to the Santa Fe Urban Trails System

The start (or ending point) of the Santa Fe Rail Trail at the Railyard Plaza
Santa Fe voters recently approved a second parks-and-trails bond measure to fund continued improvements to the city's growing urban trails system.

The system includes three main east-west alignments - the Santa Fe River Trail, the Acequia Trail, and the Arroyo Chamiso Trail - and the north-south alignment of the Santa Fe Rail Trail which intersects the other three.

The three east-west corridors will remain in progress for several years with planned extensions all the way out to NM 599 with connections north to the city soccer field complex in the Caja del Rio, and south to NM 14.

Trail descriptions and maps of these trail corridors are as follows:
      - Arroyo Chamisos Trail
      - Santa Fe Rail Trail
      - Santa Fe River Trail
      - The Acequia Trail, and

The new system is in addition to the area's hiking and biking recreation trails which include the Dale Ball Trails, the Winsor Trail System, La Tierra Trails, Arroyo Hondo, and the Galisteo Basin.

A total of $6 million from the most recent bond sale will be allocated for priority urban trail projects over the next few years. This new capital follows an initial $9 million in funding approved by voters in 2008, both specifically allocated to city trails and road-sharing projects.
arroyo chamisos trail sign
Arroyo Chamisos Trail

Funds were used to acquire the necessary easements and build out trail extensions for the Santa Fe River Trail and the new Acequia Trail west of St Francis Dr, as well as extend the Arroyo Chamisos Trail west to the Santa Fe Place Mall (via a new underpass at Rodeo Rd), and now east with access to the Gail Ryba Trail and Christus St. Vincent Hospital (via an underpass at St Francis Dr). The 2008 investment was nicely complemented by state and federal funding for the Santa Fe Rail Trail in conjunction with the construction of the New Mexico Rail Runner Commuter Train.

santa fe rail trail
Santa Fe County Rail Trail
The end result of this flurry of planning and investment is a new framework of paved multi-use trails within city limits. Beginning with the first few miles of the Arroyo Chamisos Trail in 1997, the system now includes four main trails anchored by the 17mi Rail Trail which connects them all. Really, really good stuff.

The Santa Fe Metropolitan Planning Organization (SFMPO) has mapped out priority lists for planned trail extensions, improvements, and bike-share corridors which include shoulder widening along some streets and lane striping. Of the new $6 million in funding, priority trail work will include the following:

  1. $2M for a planned underpass of the Santa Fe River Trail at Alameda and St Francis Drive. This is a key link along the River Trail that's really going to tie together the stretch of new trail to the west of St Francis (extending to Frenchy's Field at Osage and Agua Fria), to the older section that passes through downtown up as far as Delgado St. Updated Here: 
santa fe acequia trail
The Santa Fe Acequia Trail
  1. Completion of sections of the Rail Trail between St Francis Dr. and Alta Vista, along Pen Rd. and along the South Capitol Rail Runner Station.
  1. Extensions and improvements to the Acequia Trail which now stretches behind the New Mexico School for the Deaf (west of the Santa Fe Railyard) to Baca Rd and a trailhead island at Ashbaugh Park that currently goes nowhere. Planned improvements will extend the trail through Ashbaugh Park and Osage Ave. to Harrison Rd near the county boundary.
  1. Extension of the Gail Ryba Trail along St Francis Dr (which will soon be connected to the Rail Trail and Arroyo Chamisos Trail via underpass), east to Botulph Rd and East Zia Rd.
  1. Construction of another mile extension to the W. Arroyo Chamiso trail section as it slowly edges its way toward Cerrillos Rd and an eventual linkup with the larger E. Arroyo Chamisos Trail section.
    santa fe rail trail
    The Santa Fe Rail Trail
  1. Construction of a new multi-use trail along the Arroyo en Medio/Arroyo Chapparal in south Santa Fe, connecting Ragle Park to the New Mexico Rail Runner station at Zia Rd, as-well-as to the intersection of the Rail Trail, Arroyo Chamisos Trail, and Gail Ryba Trails. I don't know whether to be happy or sad about this one since the dirt footpath that runs through this open space now is where I begin most of my runs. I'll be just another victim of progress it seems, albeit super-rad progress.
  1. Construction of the proposed Sarah Williams Trail along the Canada Ancha and lower Hyde Park Rd, connecting the Dale Ball Trails at Sierra del Norte to Gonzales Rd, and a eventual connection to the planned (now completed) Gonzales Rd Pedestrian Trail stretching down to Alameda St. and the Santa Fe River Trail.
  1. Additional and improved bike lane striping on city streets, including the widening of shoulders in some locations. If you do a lot of commuting and getting around by bike - like myself and a growing group of other bikeys around town - this is important work that will get its fair share of use. 

santa fe botanical garden
 - Further details of the bond funded trail improvements can be found at the Trail Improvements Tab (above).
 - Additional info here at the City of Santa Fe website
 - A bit about the new St. Francis underpass and Gail Ryba Trail extension from  the Santa Fe New Mexican.
 - A bit about the new connector trail to Museum Hill and the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens from the Santa Fe New Mexican (left).

Related Posts:
 - Multi Use Trails Update (2014)
 - Arroyo Chamiso Underpass
 - Acequia Trail Underpass

View Acequia Trail - Santa Fe, NM in a larger map


  1. Wow. It must be nice to live in such a progressive city. Here in Albuquerque, our motto is: Why would you even want to walk or ride a bicycle when you can just drive there in your car? It's not even a very snappy motto. Everything here is drive through. We even have drive through massage parlors. We passed something too. If you see someone running to their car, it's OK to pull out a gun and shoot them.

  2. Something to note: the early planners and advocates for this shiny new trail system started their work in 1993. The majority of the trail construction has only been green-lighted and completed over the last four years. Ah, but what a fine little treasure we have left after all this work! A meaningful investment for decades to come.

    Albuquerque's Bosque Trail is a jewel of its own. Coveted by many competitive runners up here for its traffic-less miles, the lack of hills, and its unique position as the lowest altitude attainable in northern New Mexico, right along the valley floor.

  3. I just saw this:

    An 60-year-old long distance runner, Micah True, missing in NM. Do you know him?

  4. Micah is a trail runner of certain celebrity in that he was prominently featured in the recent bestselling book 'Born to Run' by Chris McDougall, a book that has attained cult-fame (and somewhat controversial) status among mountain and trail runners. In the book he goes by the nom-de-guerre 'Caballo Blanco' due to his adventures and running exploits in the canyons of Mexico. The guy is supposedly the real deal, a trail-running equivalent of a lifer ski-bum, living in anonymity in Mexico (before the book at least) filling his days with miles of running and little else.

  5. Curious about what "somewhat controversial" might mean but not having heard of the book, I thought I'd read some reviews. There were more than 900 at Amazon alone, and dozens in running and related magazines. I'm not qualified to attempt to wade into all that so I read a couple what you'd call more literary type reviews in, I think, the NY Times and the Independent, from the UK. These dealt with the literary value of the book as a work of non fiction and were pretty complimentary. Aside from some question about whether or not McDougal might have rearranged the timeline of some events to fit his narrative, I didn't see any mention of controversy.

    I did notice, though, that he recommends running barefoot. In the past couple of years or so, in looking up things about running (what kind of socks to buy, how you might train for a marathon) I've noticed that there is an ongoing debate about this in the running world.

    Is this the controversial part? If so, I'd appreciate your take on it. If there is something else, I'd be curious about that, too.

    Also, I've never heard about running those kind of distances. I just assumed the marathon was about the limit. What are the physical ramifications of running that long? The benefits? How many people do that? Are there actual sanctioned races? Is it safe enough for there to be sanctioned races?

    In one of the reviews, I read about one of those Indian dudes, after a night of drinking, jumping up and running for two days straight.

    A. What was he drinking?
    B. How about the next time you have a few spare days, you and me doing that?

  6. Right, considering the sad news surrounding True I could probably have left the editorializing about Born to Run out of that last comment. The book is in large part behind the recent barefoot running movement which has generated much debate among runners. The book has also helped fuel the booming ultra-scene: 50km-50mi-100km-100mi trail races. Marathons and now ultras are the overwhelming growth areas in the sport right now. I find marathons to be quite long, and generally do not venture much farther in one go. But the effort of completing an ultra in some cases may mimic sleep-deprivation and induced hallucination like the Tarahumara in Mexico. A transcendental experience out in the wilderness. True successfully made this his lifestyle for several years and was widely revered and respected because of it.

  7. Thanks, Desert, spending time on at least one of these trails every day in SF, I was curious whether anything else was in the works. There is also work on the Lamy rail trail. I was dodging bulldozers out there last week. The prospect of a good paved trail along Hyde Park Rd. is exciting. As for Gonzales, it seems unnecessary. I also worry that they'll put in a curvey sidewalk that is trecherous in the dark. What they need to do on that road is just mow the curbside vegatation that makes one invisible to traffic and pushes one into the lane. - M.E.

    1. Hello and thanks for the comment. Yes the new and expanding trail options are really quite exceptional. Can't wait for more. To answer your questions, it sounds like most of the planned work for the urban trails are the extensions noted above in addition to several connectors and bridges to tie-in the neighboring streets. The planned Sarah Williams Trail connector from Gonzales to Dale Ball on Sierra del Norte will be soft-surface, not paved. The Arroyo Chapparral Trail is really the only new addition to the city system, although it is more of a point-to-point trail than a transportation route.

      The current Rail Trail work is being managed by the county. I have something written up about it that will go up shortly but the plan is to regrade and re-route the trail in five sections by order of priority. The Rabbit Rd to Spur Trail section is the first. The county also plans to do a fair amount of work on the Arroyo Hondo Trail out by NM14 which will eventually tie into the Arroyo Chamiso Trail off Cerrillos Rd. The planned additions with the highest potential for awesomeness are the Piedra Connector at work now up on Dale Ball which will tie into the Little Tesuque Trail and the wider Santa Fe National Forest trail system (Winsor), and a four mile soft-surface connector from Rancho Viejo to Eldorado along the old NM Central Rail Line. The south county trails will then be looped into the wider area trail system rather than being limited only to the out-and-back route on the Rail Trail. We won't be at the level of Durango, CO for some time but we will have made a lot of progress in a few short years.

      I should add that all of these details come from the recently drafted Santa Fe Metro Bicycle Master Plan, available online at . The guys to contact with questions are Keith Wilson and Tim Rogers who are tasked with planning and managing area trails and bike-ways on the city side of things. Real good guys, knowledgeable, and ride their bikes to work.



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