The City has now posted the Phase III trail alternatives on its web site. Phase III will extend the City's trail from Campbell Road to Montaño. You can find maps showing the "no action" alternative, alternative 1, alternative 2, and alternative 3 at the links. There may be new alternatives or variations that are available before the public meeting at the City web site or at the August 11 public meeting.
Unsurprisingly, the Administration has not presented alternative trail designs, but has only presented a crusher fine trail, presumably a six foot wide trail. It is disappointing that the Administration continues to ignore the comments and the requests from the BAT and from so many of you to consider other trail designs.
The alternatives are alternative routes for the trail. Some of the trail routes go through environmentally sensitive areas that should be avoided, and all have issues because they go through the heavily used part of the Bosque adjacent to the Nature Center.
PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR WRITTEN COMMENTS ON THE ALTERNATIVES. Comments should be submitted to the City at ParksandRecreation@cabq.gov no later than August 18.
AND PLEASE ATTEND THE PUBLIC MEETING ON THE PHASE III BOSQUE TRAIL CONSTRUCTION! The meeting will be held on August 11 at 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the Los Duranes Community Center, 2920 Leopoldo Rd. N.W.
Following are some of my conclusions about the alternatives and the trail building. After that, for those of you that are interested, I have included my more detailed evaluations of the alternatives.
Thank you for continuing to care about the Bosque and for continuing to show up and write to protect the nature we all love!
Here are my conclusions and points that I think need to be made to the City:
The thing that what makes the Bosque the place that we all love is that it is an unsurpassed urban space for the enjoyment of nature. Any project should not diminish that experience of nature. Environmentally sensitive areas should be identified and avoided.
The "no action" alternative is the best of the City's alternative. The increased usage that will result from a developed trail will have a negative effect on birds and other wildlife. The trails in the vicinity of the Nature Center get heavy use, including heavy use by school children, and adding increased bicycle traffic into this mix will inevitably result in accidents. The City has refused to offer alternative trail designs that would blend in better with the natural surroundings of the Bosque.
If a trail is constructed, the trail should be on the paved Paseo del Bosque Trail on the levee through the busy Nature Center area. If the trail must be in the Bosque, bicycles should be required to dismount in the Nature Center area, and the City should adopt the Alternative 2 route, modified by use of the asphalt Bosque trial. Alternatives 1 and 3 have sections of their routes that are in sensitive areas, which are the riverbank area north of Campbell and the loop trail south of Montaño. Trails through these areas are unacceptable and must be avoided.
The City should, as part of the Phase III project, design projects to compensate for the loss of good, useable habitat that will inevitably result from the construction and from the increased usage of the trails. The City should ensure full implementation of the GeoSystems restoration plan for the Central to Campbell stretch by committing to fully funding it out of the $2.9 million 2013 appropriation. The City should take other steps to mitigate the environmental harm, for instance, shrub planting and the creation of brush piles, to provide shelter for birds to prevent stress and abandonment of the area as a result of the increased traffic from a developed trail.
The City should devise and consider alternative trail designs. An obvious, developed feature such as a six foot wide, uniform width, crusher fine trail diminishes the feeling that you are in s natural space.
The City should ensure good access for wheelchairs. A primary justification for the developed trail is to provide wheelchair access, yet the access over the levees and into the Bosque is not adequate for all wheelchair users. The Phase III area has more variation in the terrain that might be difficult for wheelchairs, and the trail should be planned to avoid these areas.
Here are more detailed comments on the alternatives. I have first described the route for those of you that are familiar with the area, and I then evaluate the routes.
The Administration has included a "no action" alternative. Brian Hanson surveyed usage of earlier developed sections of the trail and found that usage of the developed trail was about 3.5 times the prior usage of the undeveloped trail. This increased usage will inevitably affect wildlife and visitors' experience of the Bosque. "No action" is also supported by the City's refusal to consider alternative trail designs that would blend in better with the natural surroundings of the Bosque, and the problems (described below) of increased traffic in the crowded Nature Center area.
Alternative 1 takes a route in the middle of the Bosque north from Campbell. This is the most easterly of the three trails proceeding north from Campbell (unless otherwise stated, all of the routes are along existing trails). The trail would then connect to the Nature Center's return Bosque Loop Trail, connect to the existing asphalt trail, create a new trail bypassing the first segment of the Aldo Leopold Trail along the river, and then follows the Aldo Leopold Trail. The trail ends with a loop south of Montaño.
The principal problem with this alternative is the loop south of Montaño. The east part of the loop is on the existing trail. However the west part of the loop, the part closest to the river, would essentially create an entirely new trail. There is a foot path in this area, but it is little used and barely exists. It is overgrown with grasses and coyote willow at points. This trail could not be constructed without removing native vegetation.
There is a good amount of bird activity in this area. I was concerned with any developed trail at all in this area, but a loop trail, which is essentially two developed north-south paths, is definitely excessive. The loop is not, in my view, acceptable from a conservation point of view.
Alternative 2 uses this middle trail of the three trails that proceed north of Campbell. This trail is near the river, but not along the river bank. It then connects to the Nature Center's return Bosque Loop Trail. From there, it proceeds diagonally through the Bosque toward the river on what is now marked as the "return trail only" for a northerly Nature Center loop. This section of the trail is already crusher fines and about six feet wide. The trail then proceeds on a trail close to the river, but again not along the bank, until it connects to the Aldo Leopold trail. The trail exits the Bosque about quarter mile south of Montaño and does not include the loop at the north end that is part of Alternative 1.
Alternative 2 avoids what appear to me to be the most environmentally sensitive areas. However, it does have a major construction-related problem, because it goes though the high flow channel near the intake of the channel. As its name indicates, the high flow channel brings water into the Bosque during periods when the river is high. A bridge will be required over the channel, since there will be water in the channel at times, it will be difficult to maintain a crusher-fine trail in the channel because of water, and the slope into and out of the channel may be excessive for wheelchairs.
The trail could, instead, take the Alternative 1 route through this section. This route utilizes the existing asphalt trail in the Bosque. An issue with use of the asphalt trail is that it is apparently used at times by people who need a smooth surface to walk on, people who are elderly or who use walkers, for instance. Bicyclists should be required to dismount on this section of the trails and the other sections through the Nature Center area. On balance, the asphalt trail, with safety measures, appears to be the preferable route.
Alternative 3 proceeds north from Campbell along the river bank trail. It the connects to the western leg of the south Bosque Loop trail, returns to the river west of the Nature Center entrance into the Bosque, proceeds north along the river, connects to the Aldo Leopold trail, proceeds on the bare footpath discussed in Alternative 1, and exits the Bosque right at Montaño.
Alternative 3 is the least acceptable of the City's alternative routes and is the worst of all worlds. It has three major problems. First, the trail proceeds north of Campbell along the riverbank trail. A good portion of this trail is on what is now a narrow trail right along the river bank, and it proceeds through an area dominated by grasses that is habitat used by large numbers of birds, butterflies and dragonflies. This area should be avoided.
Second, from the river overlook west of the Nature Center entrance into the Bosque, the trail proceeds north along the riverbank. This is a trail that does not get much use. It is a narrow trail with overhanging vegetation from the surrounding Bosque. It creates the same kind of intimate spaces as the trail along the riverbank south of Campbell that people were anxious to preserve. This is also an area that would be better to avoid.
Third, the northern part of the route is along the bare footpath near the river described in Alternative 1 discussion. This would essentially be building an entirely new trail in a sensitive area.
As alluded to above, the section of the trial through the Bosque in the Nature Center area is problematic, because the trails gets a great deal of use, probably more so than any other place in the Rio Grande Valley State Park. Many of the users of the loop trail are children.
Mixing bicycles in with such usage would seem to be a recipe for accidents. The Bosque Action Team's scoping comments recommended that there be an alternative that takes the trail out of the Bosque and onto the asphalt levee trail, the Paseo del Bosque Trail, in order to avoid this section. The Administration did not include this as an alternative. At the least, alternatives routed through the Bosque in this stretch should incorporate aggressive features to try to ensure that bike traffic proceeds slowly or dismounts in this section.
In summary, if a trail is going to be built, the best route appears would use the Paseo del Bosque trail through the Nature Center Area. If a trail must be built entirely in the Bosque, Alternative 2, modified by use of the asphalt Bosque trial, is the best route.