Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times A pedestrian crosses the Riverside-Hartman Pedestrian Bridge over the Animas River in Aztec. The bridge connects the
Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times A pedestrian crosses the Riverside-Hartman Pedestrian Bridge over the Animas River in Aztec. The bridge connects the Chaco-Main-Llano Walk to the Riverside Trails.
AZTEC — Members of the outdoor-awareness group, Aztec Trails and Open Space, met Tuesday to discuss projects for the New Year with the goal of connecting a series of trails and walkways that run through the city.
The all-volunteer group, which began unofficially 8 years ago to address the possibility of a recreational trail system in the city, now has nonprofit status and the vision to improve the outdoors experience for residents and visitors.
Conceived over 10 years ago to connect the Animas River with the city’s downtown with schools and parks through a system of trails and walkways, the current trail system along the river runs almost 12 miles total. The trail system features several trailhead-parking areas and accommodates pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
The city and the group are working toward building an additional 13 miles of new trails that would connect with existing trails in a triangle-shaped “loop.”
Sally Burbridge, Aztec’s mayor and founding member of the group, brings a long-term plan to encourage greater access to the city’s destinations without being forced to drive a car.
A plan is currently in the works to connect Aztec Ruins National Monument with the historic downtown area by way of a pedestrian bridge over the Animas River near Martinez Lane.
“Both the Aztec Ruins and the city have applied for funding to make this a reality,” Burbridge said.
Ed Kotyk, city projects manager, coordinates with the group on Aztec’s ongoing efforts to add miles to its trail system, with the ultimate goal of connecting them regionwide to neighboring cities like Farmington.
Planned construction of the proposed North Pedestrian Bridge has been delayed, Kotyk said.
“The original plan for a one-span bridge may have to be expanded because of the nature of flood zone in that area. We are now looking at a redesign using pylons. That work is currently slated for fall.”
The bridge would allow pedestrian and bicycle access between the Aztec Ruins National Monument, Ruins Road Trail and the Martinez Trail.
In 2009, the city last erected a 260-foot-long walking bridge that connects Riverside and Hartman Parks as well as the Chaco, Main, and Llano walkways to the Riverside trails.
Also discussed at the meeting was the upcoming Alien Run bike race, a fundraiser for the group.
Ed Strauss has overseen the annual mountain-bike competition for the last 13 years.
“I started the event because I always have loved mountain biking and the outdoors,” Strauss said.
The annual bike race is held at the locally famous - if dubious - UFO crash site in Hart Canyon. The track consists of a 9-mile loop roughly 12 miles northeast of Aztec. The race will be held on May 5 this year.
Today, the group will be at San Juan College with Attila Bality from the National Park Service, Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program in Albuquerque for its “Animas Paddle Trail” meeting at 11:30  Discussion will center on plans to apply for National River Trail status for the Animas River. Bality works with community groups like Aztec Trails and Open Spaces to help develop river access and use.
“Gaining that status would be a big plus for us,” Burbridge said. “To have the Animas River achieve official designation would further establish us as a desirable destination for recreation and tourism.”
The nonprofit group meets every third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at Cottonwood Cycles, 200 S. Main St.
Meetings are open to the public. For more information, contact the Aztec Chamber of Commerce at 505-334-7646 .