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FARMINGTON — Local outdoors enthusiasts who prefer to do their exploring over the roar of an engine will have a new, easy-to-access option soon as an off-highway vehicle park is being constructed in the Brown Springs area of the Glade Run Recreation Area.

The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees Glade Run, is constructing the park using a $600,000 contribution from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish's Trail Safety Fund. The park will feature a small riding track for young people, a skills training track, primitive camp sites, toilets and a pavilion.

Doug McKim, an outdoor recreation planner for the BLM's Farmington field office, said work on the project has begun, and officials hope to have the campground completed and ready for use this summer.

Other aspects of the approximately four-acre project will take longer to complete, he said, and the timetable for those depends on the weather and the availability of the funding. But the goal is to finish all the work by the end of the year, McKim said.

He said the skills training track will serve as a place where state officials can offer OHV training classes, something they have long wanted to do in the Farmington area. The training track will feature varying degrees of difficulty with a boulder field and log climbing sections, among other obstacles.

The project is a manifestation of the goals outlined in a Glade Run Recreation Area management plan that was developed after a series of public meetings. McKim said the plan went into effect in May 2015, and the construction of an OHV park was one of the higher priorities identified in that plan.

But the park isn't the only new feature planned for the 19,000-area recreation area northeast of the city. A variety of new trails and staging areas appropriate for hiking, mountain biking, four-wheeling and equestrian activities are in the works, as well.

McKim said funding for much of that work will come from a Recreational Trails Program grant that San Juan County applied for and received through the New Mexico Department of Transportation. That grant is expected to amount to $700,000 and should be available by 2018 or 2019.

"That's money that San Juan County is going to get through the award, but it's a cooperative effort (with the BLM)," McKim said.

McKim and fellow BLM outdoor recreation planner Stan Allison say the new projects correspond with what they describe as an apparent uptick in outdoor recreation interest in the area.

"Recreation in the area is booming," McKim said. "We've noticed a big increase in mountain bikes. On our trails north of Aztec, usage is much higher within this last year."

The number of visitors to the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness south of Farmington and the Angel Peak Scenic Area south of Bloomfield has increased in recent years, as well.

"I think it may be a combination of a lot of things," McKim said. "There's a lot more recreation use in general, so the organic compound may be a part of that."

But BLM officials have made a greater effort in recent years to coordinate with user groups, he said, and it may be that word is finally getting out to a broader audience about the rugged outdoors attractions that are available in San Juan County. Many of the visitors who would have made a one-day visit to the area to see Chaco Culture National Historic Park a few years ago are now spending two or three days in the area, sticking around to explore the Bisti Wilderness or Angel Peak, as well, McKim said.

And San Juan County remains a popular outdoors destination for Colorado hikers or mountain bikers during the shoulder months of early spring or late fall, he said — a time when snow usually covers the ground of their home state.

As for the new project, the parking lot at Brown Springs will feature plenty of room for trailers, Allison noted, and there will be no user fees required. The game and fish department's Trail Safety Fund receives money from OHV vehicle registrations and user fees collected throughout the state.

"We're building this whole thing with money people pay for OHVs," he said.

McKim encouraged visitors to Brown Springs over the next several months to be aware of the construction and to watch out for heavy equipment in the area.

Mike Easterling covers education, health and the environment for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

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