BY CORY STYRON
Community Services Department
Los Alamos County
During the past week, the County received several letters about the Pueblo Canyon Trail Conceptual Plan process.
First, regarding my comments at a January staff meeting about this project, I want to apologize for my poor choice of words. In the grander context beyond what was represented in the meeting video, those comments do not reflect my professional commitment to a public process for project decision making, respect for all feedback, and my inherent advocacy for improving our community’s recreational infrastructure and experiences. As with any project, stakeholders have disparate views and I strive to find win-win solutions whenever possible.
The community discussion about the potential of making mountain biking improvements in Pueblo Canyon is continuing, and there are upcoming hybrid meetings on May 5 and 10, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the Municipal Building or via Zoom: https://lacnm.com/PressRelease-PuebloCyn. This meeting will ask participants for a priority of 1 through 5 or no support for the project. These findings will be shared with the Parks and Recreation Board (PRB). If any projects receive support to move forward, the PRB will make that motion as a recommendation to the County Council for consideration.
In addition, I would like to offer more project information in advance of these upcoming meetings:
- There is a long history to this project dating back to the 2013 International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) study and subsequent resident project advocacy initiatives and fundraising efforts.
- This project is to further explore the only identified location to implement the requested mountain biking improvements, however, whether the project is prioritized and funded for implementation is unknown until this project process continues and is completed.
- Environmental and cultural protection is critical with any project and does already co-exist well with passive recreation in our community.
2013-International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) study
2014-2015- $500,000 allocated in Capital Improvement Funds to match a proposed Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) for a Mountain Bike Ride Center at Pajarito Mountain. Mountain was sold to private firm and this funding mechanism was no longer possible.
2016- A local resident worked with County Council to secure $50,000 for a pilot flow trail project in the Los Alamos townsite.
2017-2018- The four trails were identified (Bayo Canyon North Slope, Bayo Canyon South Slope, Los Alamos Canyon and Pueblo Canyon) for consideration, stakeholders were polled, additional options were reviewed. The outcome of this process was Pueblo Canyon was the only viable option. The project stalled since due to terrain the cost would exceed the $50,000 pilot project.
2019- Due to resident requests, funding was allocated in the County budget process for a skills park and pump track.
These funded initiatives were projects to be completed within the Community Services Department (CSD), and CSD proceeded to package these items into a project similar to the original ask in 2014-2015. A formal presentation occurred at the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRB) to support the request and a subsequent presentation to County Council to move the project forward with a Conceptual study of five items for $50,000 was approved on May 13, 2021.
The previous conversations and public feedback in the prior efforts were clear that Pueblo Canyon remained the only option if the project were to move forward. This project has had multiple touch points for the community since the pilot project was funded in 2014-2015. Public meetings were recorded and posted on the County website: https://lacnm.com/CSD-Projects.
The designation of color coding a trails difficulty is using IMBA standards that were derived from ski slopes. According to the IMBA definition we have 2 green trails, the balance of trails is a mix of blue and black. Most of the blue trails have elements within the route of black. These create safety concerns for users unfamiliar with trail. We do need to update the trail website with more accurate descriptions. This was echoed by other participants of the focus group meetings in January.
National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA Course)
There is an existing trail, however, to make a course that meets NICA standards, elements of trail such as additional width for passing lanes and safety zones, switchbacks, grade changes and a start/finish line will be required. Additionally the design shows temporary amenities for staging, pits, and spectators. These aren’t anticipated to be permanent infrastructure.
Environmental and Cultural Concerns
Bicycling is a passive activity on trails and with skills parks and can co-exist with protecting the natural and cultural environment. Consultant and staff are committed to preserving the spotted owl habitat and cultural sites within the canyon. There are multiple methods to protect both. Spotted Owl habitat includes pine stands and canyon cliffs. The intent of the trail design is to not disturb the owl habitat and any implementation of the improvements would not remove tree habitat. Recreational impact studies are limited, however one study focused on the distance a hiker walked before an owl exhibited a flush response. (Swarthout and Steidl, Journal of Wildlife Management, 2001). This study was used to inform the trail distance from the owl habitat during the design development.
Staff is also concerned with impact of the designated cultural sites and is scheduling meetings with the San Ildefonso Pueblo about not impacting any cultural sites.