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Nenahnezad welcomes recreational trail along San Juan River

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

NENAHNEZAD — The sound of birds and views of the San Juan River can be found while walking on a new recreational trail in the community here.

Nenahnezad Chapter sought to enhance the area, located east of the chapter house, for outdoor recreational use through a partnership with the Navajo Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Department.

The trail starts east of the chapter house then descends along the river. There are four fishing spots that provide access to the river before connecting to another trail by a staircase made from railroad ties.

Arthur Bavaro, the chapter's community services coordinator, envisions families using the trail to spend time together or to connect to nature.

Community members walk on the new recreational trail on Dec. 9, 2020 in Nenahnezad.

"A lot of people here — even though they live here — they see the river when they drive across the bridge, but they never actually come down here, wash their hands in it. So, this gives them an opportunity to interact," Bavaro said.

The trail is the result of work by the Navajo Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Department, which was completing environmental cleanup and reclamation of two abandoned coal mines at the site.

Last November, the department submitted an emergency project request to the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to conduct maintenance and reclamation work at the location, according to a press release from the department.

The area was known to have been disturbed by previous underground mining operations and used for illegal dumping, the release states.

Arthur Bavaro, community services coordinator at Nenahnezad Chapter, stands on Dec. 9, 2020 on the staircase that is part of the new recreational trail in Nenahnezad.

Among the items removed from the site were 10 vehicles and other solid waste comprised of tires, household garbage, electronic items and materials used for gardens and construction.

"The abandoned coal mine features have been reclaimed using basic earthwork practices used for mined lands reclamation where it was backfilled using screen rock material with a geotextile filter fabric on top then was backfilled with finer fill material," the release states. 

In addition to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, the project received help from the Navajo Transitional Energy Company, Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife and Clawson Excavating Inc.

Since the trail opened in late November, Bavaro has seen people using it and the chapter could also decide to add amenities later.

Geese are seen on Dec. 9, 2020 from the new recreational trail in Nenahnezad.

"How far we should go as far as adding benches and tables, we're kind of debating on that. We don't really know we want to intrude on that because there's ducks and geese down here," he 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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