Federal Grant for Santa Fe River Trail (NM)

Santa Fe, NM, 4/28/03 — U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman’s (D-NM) office contacted the El Camino Real River Connection (CRRC) and the City of Santa Fe with the news that a $151,000 federal Scenic Byways grant has been awarded for a one-mile educational, pedestrian, bicycle and horse trail on Santa Fe’s southwest side. The trail will extend east for approximately one-mile along the Santa Fe River in the village of Agua Fria starting at Constellation Drive near the NM 599 bypass route.

CRRC, in partnership with the City of Santa Fe, and with the support of Santa Fe County, New Mexico State Land Office, and The Trust for Public Land (TPL), applied for federal Scenic Byways funds for construction of trails, trailheads and parking areas, interpretive signage, and educational brochures for this section of the river.

In addition to funding for trail construction, Scenic Byways funding will support educational signs and brochures for a self-guided tour highlighting the history of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro along the Santa Fe River and describing the river restoration projects completed by the New Mexico State Land Office over the last three years.

The El Camino Real River Trail and related open space is an important resource for the adjacent neighborhoods and all Santa Feans. It provides an opportunity to teach residents and tourists about the historic Spanish route, the ecology of the river, and the riparian restoration and environmental projects that are beginning to protect the river. Planned interpretive signage will highlight the historic and cultural resources of the region, including the archaeological sites documented on this stretch of the Santa Fe River.

Located in one of the fastest growing areas of the city (the Southwest sector of Santa Fe), this property will provide much-needed open space and recreational opportunities to residents who are presently woefully under-served in parklands.

The History of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro

The historic Spanish route that connected the two capital cities of Mexico and Santa Fe was known as El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, which means “The Royal Road of the Interior Land.” Juan de O?ate led a Spanish expedition along the trail in 1598 using parts of existing American Indian trails. Travelers followed the trail along the Santa Fe River from the Rio Grande into Santa Fe. They stayed close to the river to be sure of water and food for their animals. Their wagon ruts are still visible along some parts of this route. In October of 2000, Congress formally designated the El Camino Real as a National Historic Trail.

Project Background

Using Santa Fe County’s open space acquisition funding, established through the voter-approved and TPL-supported bond measures in 1998 and 2000 which generated $20 million, Santa Fe County Commissioners, under the recommendation of COLTPAC (County Open Land, Trails, Parks and Advisory Committee), acquired this trail, recreation and conservation easement on approximately 46 acres of river corridor in December 2002. This easement provides public access to the river and the growing trail network. New Mexico State Senator Nancy Rodriguez helped acquire necessary matching funds for this acquisition through the State Legislature’s Capital Outlay funds.

This County-owned segment of the Santa Fe River trail connects to a City-owned trail easement. The City of Santa Fe purchased a similar trail easement from the State Land Office to access the Municipal Recreation Center (the baseball and soccer field complex) via an underpass created in the construction of the NM 599 bypass route. By connecting with the City’s trail, the El Camino Real River Trail will allow residents and others living in the area to safely walk or ride to the MRC and along the Santa Fe River.

Protection and celebration of the Santa Fe River and its history has been championed by CRRC since 2000. CRRC is a coalition of representatives from associations, non-profits and public entities collaborating to protect the Santa Fe River by preserving it as public open space dedicated to the history of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and promoting river restoration. To find out more about establishing the Santa Fe River as a protected corridor contact Karyn Stockdale at the New Mexico State Office of the Trust for Public Land at (505) 988-2939.

CRRC affiliates include 1000 Friends of New Mexico, Bosque del Rio del Santa Fe, Bureau of Land Management, City of Santa Fe, National Park Service, New Mexico State Land Office, Old Santa Fe Association, Santa Fe Conservation Trust, Santa Fe County, Santa Fe Land Use Resource Center, Santa Fe Watershed Association, and the Trust for Public Land.