Gila River Linear Park and Trail
Through the sunbaked rock formations and sandy plains of southwestern Arizona flows the iconic Gila River. With headwaters above 10,000 feet, this Colorado River tributary is one of the largest rivers in the West, supplying critical water to ecosystems and communities along the way, including the adjacent rural communities of Safford and Thatcher, Arizona. However, residents’ ability to enjoy and experience the Gila River is very limited since most of the land along the river is in private landownership, blocking access to the river and the recreational opportunities it provides. Access to the outdoors is especially critical to these two communities, where as few as 35% of residents have a park within a 10-minute-walk of their home.
Working hand-in-hand with the community, Trust for Public Land is creating a plan to make the vision for a 5-mile stretch of trail come to life. This community-based master plan reflects the desires of the people who live, work, and play along the Gila River. Construction of the trail will be possible with the donation of trail easements, a process overseen by Trust for Public Land. This 5-mile stretch of trails adjacent to the river will promote opportunities for hiking, running, biking, and horseback riding for these communities which severely lack close-to-home access to public parks. The multi-use pathway will be American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, promoting equitable access to this vital outdoor space. Additionally, the park and trail space will promote economic growth through eco-tourism opportunities. With the Gila River Linear Park and Trail, visitors and residents of Safford and Thatcher will be able to connect to their river and the countless health and community benefits that public parks and trails provide.