Project providing safe walking path along Navajo Route 365

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NENAHNEZAD — Michael Duncan was using a hand tool Thursday to level sand placed on top of river rock as part of his work to develop a walking trail near the Nenahnezad Chapter house.

"There are a few patches where the rocks are, so I'm filling in those areas," he said.

Duncan is among 18 young adults who are members of the New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps under Capacity Builders Inc., which collaborated with the Nenahnezad Chapter to construct a trail in the community.

Capacity Builders, a Farmington-based nonprofit organization, administers finances for the project and coordinates classes for corps members.

The purpose of the trail is to provide a safe route for walking along Navajo Route 365, a paved road that travels to the chapter house. It is also part of the chapter's effort to promote exercise in the community.

Duncan, 20, joined the program alongside his girlfriend, Jaime Smith, who was working nearby.

"I think it's a good idea because it's kind of scary how people drive on the road," Smith said about the project.

"Instead of walking on the road, people can walk on the trail," she said.

The Farmington couple view the effort as a contribution to the community and as a way to gain experience for future goals — for Duncan, that means working toward a GED diploma while Smith, 19, wants to add the skills to her résumé.

"I think it's a good project. It'll also make the chapter house look a lot better. It'll be good for the community," Duncan said.

Josh Southerland is one of three group leaders for the project, which the corps members began last week and expect to finish by October.

Southerland said the group is using sand and river rock from the location, as well as removing some vegetation and debris.

Pink survey flags marked where the trail would run, and rakes, tampers, wheelbarrows and shovels were scattered throughout the work area.

Xavier David, a corps member from Farmington, said the group worked with the community services coordinator for the chapter to design the trail and determine what material was needed for the project.

"I'm not from here, but I hope these kids will come out and use this trail. …You got to have stuff like this," David said.

This is not the first trail Shiprock resident Nisha Talk has built as a corps member. She helped construct a 4-mile trail near Diné College's south campus in Shiprock in 2016.

"We're trying not to bother nature but recycling what's here," she said about the effort to use the natural material available at the project site.

Talk returned to the program because it emphasizes community building and offers courses and certificates in programs such as first aid and youth mental health.

"I like helping our reservation, our communities," Talk said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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