Farmington gets nearly $100k state grant to begin construction of new recreation area

Juniper Basin Recreation Area planned for 93-acre site on city's north side

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The land the park will be located on came to the city in two parts — first through an 80-acre donation and later through a 13-acre purchase.
  • It is located adjacent to Bureau of Land Management land and the existing Kinsey Trailhead.
  • The first phase of the project will include a parking area, a bike recreation area and nearly a half-mile of single-track trail.

FARMINGTON — City officials in Farmington have secured nearly $100,000 to help fund the first phase of construction on what eventually will be a 93-acre biking and hiking park in the north quadrant of town.

The planned Juniper Basin Recreation Area, located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Foothills Drive and Hood Mesa Trail in Farmington, is adjacent to Bureau of Land Management land and the existing Kinsey Trailhead. Plans call for creating trails to connect the park to Lake Farmington eventually.

Warren Unsicker, the city’s economic development director, said the land the park will be located on came to the city in two parts — first through an 80-acre donation and later through a 13-acre purchase.

On Jan. 9, officials with the Outdoor Recreation Division of the New Mexico Economic Development Department announced that they had awarded $2 million in infrastructure funding for 19 projects around the state through the Trails+ grants program. Funding in the amount of $99,999 was included for the Juniper Basin Recreation Area project.

A concept plan for the Juniper Basin Recreation Area, which has received a grant from the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

Unsicker said the money will be enough to allow the city to begin construction on 10 acres of the project, including a parking area, a bike recreation area and nearly a half-mile of single-track trail.

Work on the project began approximately a year and a half ago, Unsicker said, with city officials conducting a public input process and drawing up a design for the park with the help of officials from the International Mountain Biking Association, a Boulder, Colorado-based nonprofit organization devoted to creating, enhancing and protecting great places to ride mountain bikes.

“We wanted to create our own take on a bike park and recreation area for our community,” Unsicker said.

The park is designed to appeal both to local outdoors enthusiasts and those from out of state who are visiting the Four Corners area, he said. Its creation dovetails with the creation of a 133-acre bike park that is being created on land owned by San Juan College south of its main campus in Farmington, a project that is benefiting from the passage of a $500,000 bond issue.

The two projects are not related, but, together, they will greatly enhance the county’s inventory of mountain biking facilities.

“This came about before that project got started,” Unsicker said, noting that work on Farmington’s bike park narrowly predates the San Juan College project.

But he said the two parks likely will draw more and more biking enthusiasts to San Juan County from other areas, something local government leaders have been aiming for over the past few years as they try to build a more robust outdoor recreation economy.

Warren Unsicker.

“We already are a big draw for the bicycle enthusiasts coming down from Colorado, especially in the shoulder seasons and winter,” he said, noting that many cyclists from that state cross the border to ride in New Mexico when their own trails are buried in snow. “It’s a great boon for drawing people down here. And with the interconnectivity to Lake Farmington, hopefully we’ll create more of that family tourism experience.”

The first phase of the project is designed to be used by beginner cyclists, Unsicker said, but as more of the park is developed, it will become progressively more challenging. Eventually, the park will feature a tot track, a pump track, skills courses, drop jumps, adaptive trails for wide-base bikes used by riders with disabilities and concurrent walking trails, along with restrooms.

Unsicker declined to provide an estimate of when work on the project might begin, explaining that more engineering work needs to be done before that can happen. But he said the overall pace of development of the park will depend heavily on how much additional funding city officials can secure.

Farmington also is awaiting word on a federal Land Water Conservation Fund grant it applied for recently that would help the city complete the first phase of the project, he said.

Unsicker said the investments that have been made in outdoor recreation facilities in San Juan County already have started paying off in terms of attracting bicycle shops to support that market of riders.

“We’ve got bicycle shops popping up around town to serve that customer base,” he said. “It really helps create that full-service atmosphere for tourists coming to the area.”

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 ormeasterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.