Volunteers clear parts of Arizona Trail

About 10 Arizona Trail Association volunteers worked to clear part of the Arizona Trail on the Kaibab Plateau over the Memorial Day weekend.

They focused on a short stretch of trail along Passage 42, which runs south from the Winter Road (BLM Road 1025) to U.S. Highway 89A a few miles east of Jacob Lake.

Michael Carr of Flagstaff, and Dick Wertz of Wickenburg, led the way, sawing and removing downed trees from the trail.

Anna Pfender, chief trail steward of the Arizona Trail Association, said that Carr had come up several times prior to the work event to map the location of trees that needed to be cleared.

The rest of the volunteers, led by Passage 42 Steward Pat Smillie of Mayer, Ariz., followed with picks, shovels and rakes to clear the tread.

"The tread was so covered with grass and pine needles that you couldn't find it in some places," Smillie said. "We only cleared a couple of miles, but I really feel like we accomplished something."

Volunteer Andrea Michaels was happy to make the trip from Scottsdale to help maintain the trail.

"This part of the Kaibab Plateau is so beautiful and varied. It's a shame that most people just go to the North Rim (of the Grand Canyon) and back and never see it," Michaels said.

Smillie noted that all of the volunteers for this work day came from Flagstaff and points further south.

"Getting people to come up from the Valley (Phoenix metro area) isn't easy," she said. "We'd like to partner with organizations in the local area."

Pfender agreed.

"We really want to recruit more local volunteers," she said. "After all, this is their recreation area, and they most appreciate its beauty and importance."

Pfender said that the Arizona Trail Association is especially eager to recruit a new steward to oversee maintenance of Passage 41A, which runs from Murrays Lake to Telephone Hill.

That part of the trail is currently closed pending removal of hazard trees from last year's Warm Fire, but should reopen next spring, said Kevin Larkin, recreation staff officer for the North Kaibab Ranger District.

"Even after the hazard trees are gone, there will be plenty of restoration work to do along that passage," Larkin said. "For someone who really wants to make a difference in the Warm Fire area, it would be a great undertaking."

Larkin praised the efforts of volunteer groups like the Arizona Trail Association.

"We wouldn't be able to offer a quality recreation experience on the Arizona Trail or anywhere else on the district without the efforts of our volunteers," he said.

Several other groups also contribute to meeting the district's annual trail maintenance goals.

Sierra Club volunteers cleared a section of the Ranger Trail in the Kanab Creek Wilderness this past spring, while Wilderness Volunteers cleared part of the Nankoweap Trail in the Saddle Mountain Wilderness.

A Coconino Rural Environment Corps crew will come to the North Kaibab Ranger District later this summer to clear backcountry camping sites and parts of the North and South Canyon Trails in the Saddle Mountain Wilderness.

The dream of Flagstaff, Ariz., teacher and hiking enthusiast Dale Shewalter, the Arizona Trail will eventually be an 800-mile non-motorized trail that traverses the state, highlighting Arizona's topographic, biological, historic and cultural diversity.

A 1993 agreement between Arizona State Parks, the Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management allowed for the cooperative development of the Arizona Trail. The Arizona Trail Association became an "Arizona Trail Partner" in 1995.

Arizona Trail Association President Kent Taylor, a volunteer at the Kaibab Plateau work event, said that the group logged about 26,000 volunteer hours last year, including trail maintenance, administrative and interpretive work.

For more information about the Arizona Trail and volunteer projects to maintain and improve it, call the Arizona Trail Association at 602-252-4794, or visit www.aztrail.org.

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