On Stands Now
June 2024

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Photo by E. Wilde, Meeting starting talks of establishing potential Climbing areas associated with Trail plans at the Questa Public Library 3/27/24

Enchanted Circle Trails Association Presents Trail Plans

Enchanted Circle Trails Association (ECTA) Director Loren Bell presented to the Questa Village Council seeking further cooperation with the Village in pursuit of plans to revitalize our network of nature trails.
The ECTA has been working since 2017 on their Enchanted Circle Trails Plan that would primarily:

  • Identify new priority trails for a variety of outdoors enthusiasts at all skill levels
  • Identify the most active transit routes, both urban and back-country, to further connect different communities across the landscape
  • Engage communities to facilitate cooperation between land managers, the public, and other stakeholders

An important priority of the ECTA is to connect the communities of Questa and Red River through the construction of a new trail starting at the west end of Red River, continuing to Eagle Rock Lake. Characterized by wide pathways and low incline angles, the trail aims for easier accessibility.

In explaining the need for a new trail between Questa and Red River, Bell described a recent experience he had near State Highway 38. He saw two elderly women walking too close to the highway for comfort. While nothing happened, he was concerned for their safety, walking so close to the highway.

“Where we are in this initial planning…ECTA has taken the lead in the development of the Q2RRT and we’ve worked with Red River to find funding for… an environmental assessment,” said Bell in his presentation. “The funding for that is coming from a capital outlay grant that Red River secured as base funding and a federal Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant through the New Mexico Department of Transportation. We use the capital outlay to match with the RTP grant; the capital outlay is $220,000, the RTP is $295,110.”

To clarify, the Recreational Trails Program is a federal reimbursement program that distributes funds through the state government of New Mexico.

The Q2RRT will likely involve new infrastructure for trail heads as well as river crossings. ECTA is contracting with SE Group to make sure everything will be compliant with the United States National Environment Policy Act (NEPA).

The capital outlay funds combined with the RTP grant will cover the NEPA assessment and some initial engineering, but ECTA will be looking for additional sources of funding.

“What do you think about the final cost for this project?” inquired Councilor Jason Gonzalez as the presentation moved to questioning.

“I imagine somewhere within the $1.5-2 million range in order to construct,” replied Director Bell.
“Have you begun the construction of the trail, or is it still in the planning stages?” asked Councilor Louise Gallegos.

“We’re still in the planning,” answered Bell. “The biggest hurdle is this environmental assessment… the Forest Service has to go through that before they can do any new development on federal land, to make sure to mitigate any potential impacts to wildlife and such.” Construction cannot begin until the NEPA environmental assessment has been completed.

ECTA has also been working on a plan to develop more recreational trails throughout Largo Canyon to the southeast of Questa (near MolyCorp Field). This project was the product of brainstorming done by the Questa Economic Development Fund (QEDF) and a non-profit called Public Land Solutions with the goal of assessing the economic potential of Questa’s recreational sector. Largo Canyon was identified as high in value.

“It’s a pretty exciting project, but we are in the very beginning stages of coming up with conceptual ideas,” explained Bell. “We’ve had three public meetings so far.” Once the Largo Canyon plan is conceptualized and presented to the U.S. Forest Service, it will then need to go through the same NEPA environmental assessment.

ECTA hopes to revitalize the Questa area’s recreational economy with both of these plans.