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Santa Rita Mountains/Cewi Du'ag (Long Mountain)

The Arizona Trail is Your Trail

When you think about the Arizona Trail, do you imagine walking along a paved road and having to jump into the shoulder as large trucks roar by? Or do you think about riding your mountain bike along a dirt road as a pack of OHVs fill the air with dust? NO! You envision sublime singletrack through beautiful landscapes, right? That’s why we are committed to removing the Arizona National Scenic Trail from paved and dirt roads, and our most important road-to-trail project is currently underway.

The Temporal Gulch Reroute Project will replace Harshaw Road, Temporal Canyon Road, and a portion of Highway 82 with 32 miles of freshly built trail near the town of Patagonia. This massive undertaking has been in the works for nearly a decade, and we are excited to have broken ground last year. We’ve still got 18 miles to build, plus dozens of gates and signs, and a new trailhead. Can we count on you to help?

This weekend marks the end of our Spring Fundraising Campaign in support of the Temporal Gulch Reroute Project. Every dollar you give is an investment in the enhancement and sustainability of the Arizona Trail, and greatly improves the safety of all trail users. Please donate by Sunday, April 4 to help us reach our goal. Honoring Ancestral Lands

One of the often overlooked elements of trail design and construction is tribal engagement. Although the majority of the Arizona Trail is on public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Arizona State Parks, it is all on the ancestral lands of Arizona’s Indigenous people. When the Arizona Trail Association first started to design this trail on what will soon be the Casa Blanca Canyons Passage, a number of factors were considered – grade (for sustainability); scenery (to fulfill the designation as a National Scenic Trail); and proximity to natural water sources (because water is life). Avoiding sensitive natural and cultural resources is also important. While biologists and archaeologists prepared to study what had already been identified in this area in the past, the ATA reached out to the Tohono O’odham Nation to ask for their perspective.

After all, the entire Santa Rita Mountains are a Traditional Cultural Property to the Tohono O’odham, known as Cewi Du’ag (Long Mountain). This cultural landscape is very important, not just for the archaeological resources found on the ground and the threatened and endangered species living there, but as a living landscape that has sustained people for thousands of years. Representatives from the Tohono O’odham Nation offered advice on areas to avoid and important considerations when designing the trail. Normally, a 32-mile trail project in Southern Arizona across a known Traditional Cultural Property would have resulted in impacts to nearly 100 archaeological sites. This would necessitate moving the trail, and a complete redesign in some areas. But with input from the Tohono O’odham Nation and our team’s commitment to minimizing impacts to cultural resources as a design consideration, only 1 site was discovered.

Usually, tribal consultation is the last step in a long process guided by the National Environmental Policy Act. But when organizations like the ATA work closely with our indigenous neighbors, land management agencies, and a wide variety of trail user groups, great things happen. The end result is a sustainable and scenic trail that can be enjoyed by hikers, runners, mountain bikers and equestrians, as well as native people who may utilize the trail for traditional activities. The new trail provides access into an area that has been relatively inaccessible due to private property on most sides, and is going to help connect (and reconnect) many people with this special place. Please support the Arizona Trail Association so we can maintain momentum on this important trail construction project on the ancestral lands of the Tohono O'odham. Then, plan a trip to hike, run, pedal or ride through this area as soon as trail construction is complete.

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