Juniper Basin Recreation Space is 93-acre undertaking on north facet of metropolis

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  • The land the park will sit on came to the city in two parts — first through an 80-acre donation and later through a 13-acre purchase.
  • It is adjacent to Bureau of Land Management land and the existing Kinsey Trailhead.
  • The first phase of the project will include a parking lot, a bicycle recreation area and a nearly 800m long single track path.

FARMINGTON — City officials in Farmington have secured nearly $100,000 to fund the first phase of construction of a 93-acre bike and walking park in the city’s North Quadrant.

The proposed Juniper Basin Recreation Area, located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Foothills Drive and Hood Mesa Trail in Farmington, is adjacent to Bureau of Land Management land and the existing Kinsey Trailhead. There are plans to create trails to eventually connect the park to Lake Farmington.

Warren Unsicker, the city’s economic development director, said the land the park will sit on came to the city in two parts — first through an 80-acre donation and later through a 13-acre purchase.

On Jan. 9, officials from the New Mexico Department of Economic Development’s Outdoor Recreation Division announced that they had awarded $2 million in infrastructure funding to 19 projects statewide through the Trails+ grant program. A grant of $99,999 was provided for the Juniper Basin Recreation Area project.

Unsicker said the money will be enough to allow the city to begin construction on 10 acres of the project, including a parking lot, a bike recreation area and nearly half a mile of single-lane path.

Work on the project began about a year and a half ago, Unsicker said, when city officials conducted a public submission process and created a blueprint for the park with the help of officials from the International Mountain Biking Association, a Boulder, Colorado-based nonprofit organization that dedicated to creating, enhancing and protecting great places to mountain bike.

“We wanted to create our own version of a bike park and recreation area for our community,” Unsicker said.

The park aims to appeal to both local outdoor enthusiasts and those from abroad visiting the Four Corners area, he said. Its creation coincides with the creation of a 133-acre bike park to be built on San Juan College’s property just south of its main Farmington campus, a project that will benefit from the passage of a $500,000 bond issue.

The two projects are unrelated, but together they will significantly improve the county’s inventory of mountain bike facilities.

“This was before this project even started,” Unsicker said, noting that work on Farmington’s bike park came just before the San Juan College project.

But he said the two parks are likely to attract increasing numbers of cycling enthusiasts from other areas to San Juan County, something local government leaders have been aiming for in recent years as they attempt to build a more robust outdoor recreation economy.

“We’re already a huge draw for the bike enthusiasts who come out of Colorado, especially during the shoulder season and winter,” he said, noting that many cyclists from that state cross the border to ride in New Mexico when their own Trails are buried in snow. “It’s a great blessing to draw people here. And with the connection to Lake Farmington, we hope to create more of that family tourism experience.”

The first phase of the project is designed to be used by beginners, Unsicker said, but as the park develops, it will become more challenging. Eventually, the park will feature a dead track, pump track, skill courses, drop jumps, adaptive trails for wide-base bikes used by riders with disabilities, and concurrent hiking trails and restrooms.

Unsicker declined to give an estimate of when work on the project might begin, stating that more engineering work would need to be done before that could happen. But he said the overall pace of the park’s development will depend heavily on how much additional funding city officials can secure.

Farmington is also awaiting news of a recently requested grant from the Federal Land Water Conservation Fund that would help the city complete the first phase of the project, he said.

Unsicker said the investments made in outdoor recreational facilities in San Juan County have already paid off in attracting bike shops to support that rider market.

“We have bike shops popping up all over town to serve that customer base,” he said. “It really helps create that full-service atmosphere for tourists who come to the area.”

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or at [email protected] Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.