Flagstaff Trails Initiative

Illustration courtesy of Flagstaff Trails Initiative

Flagstaff’s numerous trails meander through the city, shaping the town’s culture along with its landscape. Flagstaff’s reputation for parks and trails is recognized throughout the state as residents and tourists alike enjoy the tranquility they provide. However, there is a plan to improve the trail system.

The Flagstaff Trail Initiative (FTI) is a collaborative effort between the City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, the Forest Service and the National Parks Service to enhance the current trail system. According to Martin Ince, the multimodal transportation planner for the City of Flagstaff, they are trying to turn existing broad visions and plans into concrete action — better maintained trails, better education, fewer unauthorized trails, more resources for taking care of trails.

Ince said that the collaboration between these agencies predates the official initiative by a decade. Ince said that for years, representatives from each agency met about four times a year to ensure coordination regarding trails.

In Fall 2017, the City of Flagstaff received a technical assistance grant from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program to initiate FTI. The core team has been meeting monthly since then. Other organizations have since been included as well, such as the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, the Audubon club, and Coconino Trail Riders.

“We’ve tried to be as inclusive as possible to make sure that everyone who uses trails are represented fairly,” Ince said.

Adam Milnor, a community planner with the National Park Service, said that it is important for all of the agencies to work cohesively rather than having their own separate plan. Milnor said that they have gathered data to figure out how the trails are being used, which is beneficial to each agency. FTI sent out a survey involving 570 people. According to the survey, 71.9% of respondents use the trails for walking or hiking, and the biggest obstacle they faced was a lack of information about the trails they used. Additionally, the Flagstaff Visitor Survey showed that hiking, biking and other activities in the woods were a driving reason for 40% of visitors to Flagstaff.

Currently, the initiative is focused on creating the Flagstaff Regional Trails Strategy, which will be a comprehensive document outlining various approaches to improving the trails. Ince said there will be sections covering which ones require more maintenance and signage, if there are any unauthorized trails, and plans on how to educate the public about trails. It will include maps of the current trails along with maps showing the possibility of new trails. Additionally, there will be a section about how to finance their goals.

“It will be a launching point for implementing our strategies, we want this to be a sustainable guide for the future,” Ince said.

FTI will be hosting a public open house June 19 at the Flagstaff High School Commons from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to present their ideas to the community, receive feedback and see if their trail strategy is viable.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm in the community and we don’t want to lose that momentum,” Milnor said.

Debbie McMahon, a representative from the Audubon club, gave her explanation as to why trails are so vital to the Flagstaff community.

“Many of us need to be outside for peace of mind, for our health and to teach others the wonder of nature,” McMahon said.