River Reach Foundation earns $19,000 grant for signage on San Juan, Animas rivers

Signs designed to alert river users about hazards, put-in and take-out sites

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Rafters make their way down the Animas River in Farmington on May 29, 2021 The River Reach Foundation plans on installing signage on the river before next spring alerting river users about hazards.
  • The grant is part of the Outdoor Recreation Trails+ program.
  • More than $500,000 in grants was awarded to 25 organizations across New Mexico.
  • Grant recipients are required to secure a one-to-one match for the funding from other sources.

FARMINGTON — Regular users of the river parks trails system through Farmington likely will see some changes next year when several signs go up, courtesy of a New Mexico Economic Development Department grant that has been awarded to the nonprofit River Reach Foundation.

The grant, which is for slightly more than $19,000, will cover the cost of signage that is designed to educate parks users about river access, water safety and appropriate skill levels in various areas of the Animas and San Juan rivers.

The Economic Development Department awarded more than $500,000 in grants to 25 organizations across New Mexico through the Outdoor Recreation Trails+ program, according to a news release.

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Cottonwood trees along the banks of the Animas River show autumn leaf color on Oct. 9 in Berg Park in Farmington.

Grant recipients are required to secure a one-to-one match for the funding from other sources. The grant to the River Reach Foundation will be matched by in-kind support from the City of Farmington, which will cover the cost of installing the signage, said D'Ann Waters, president of the foundation.

The signage will be posted over several miles, Waters said, noting that the project extends from the Penny Lane area to Westland Park. She said the foundation has two years to finish posting the signs, but she anticipates it will be done by spring 2022 in time for the rafting and tubing season on the rivers.

Waters said the signs will alert visitors about put-in and take-out points along the rivers, the mileage between those points, areas where public access is not permitted because of private land ownership and dangerous features on the waterways.

She said plans call for the installation of eight signs, with six of them being installed on bridges across the two rivers. Foundation board members will meet in the days ahead to design the signs, she said.

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The Animas River flows adjacent to Berg Park in Farmington on Sept. 10.

Waters said board members will study the signage created by San Juan County that is being installed at an Animas River put-in site at Cedar Hill to make sure the new signs are compatible with that.

She said a preliminary design for the signs featured text that was printed only in English. But after foundation officials attended the recent New Mexico Outdoor Economics Conference in Farmington and heard about the experience of other communities and organizations, they realized they needed to add text in other languages. She said the redesign will feature text in Spanish and perhaps Navajo.

"We realized a lot of people might have problems reading it if it's only in English," she said.

Waters said foundation officials pursued the grant because they hope to keep inexperienced river users from encountering problems at certain locations.

Rafters enjoy a trip down the Animas River during the inaugural Animas River Jam on May 29, 2021, in Farmington.

"Unless you know the rivers really well and you don't know where those areas are, you can get into trouble," she said, referring to sections of the Animas and San Juan that feature white water or have natural or man-made obstructions.

She cited a diversion dam on the San Juan River near Westland Park as being one such area of concern.

"Our purpose is to let the public have a safe experience on the river and be able to watch out" for such hazards, she said.

The signage project is just one item on an increasingly busy River Reach Foundation agenda. Waters said the organization is planning the return of its Riverglo event on Dec. 3 in Berg Park after the event was cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The foundation's signature event, Riverfest, is expected to return in May 2022 after having been cancelled the last two years because of the pandemic. Waters has said the foundation is working with New Mexico tourism officials and a large event planner to bring several new elements to the festival.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.