NavajoYES seeks to create outside alternatives, envisions 80-mile path from NGS | Navajo-Hopi Observer


Joe Giddons, Navajo Hopi observer

Originally published: October 19, 2021 8:37 am

PAGE, Arizona – Where the Black Mesa and Lake Powell Railroad once carried coal to the Navajo Generating Plant, NavajoYES, a local outdoor recreational group focused on indigenous youth, sees an opportunity to increase recreational opportunities for the Navajo nation.

Founded in 1995, Navajo Youth Empowerment Services (NavajoYES) is a nonprofit group that has become a driving force behind major trail infrastructure projects across the Navajo nation.

A recent win is the designation of the Chuska Mountain Bike Trail by Navajo Parks and Recreation, Office of the Navajo President, and other tribal organizations.

The route is an 80-mile traverse over the Chuska Mountains in eastern Arizona that leads to New Mexico. The route offers a challenging excursion over the 9,000 foot mountains, with a number of campsites and signposts along the way.

Over the summer, NavajoYES invested hundreds of hours of work improving the Chuska Route as well as the Window Rock Arch.

“It’s one of those places … where there is no path, there may be 10 paths, but there is no officially designated path,” said Tom Riggenback, executive director of NavajoYes. “Our mission was to get all pedestrian traffic on a few specific routes and that worked really well. It is a beautiful area and now you can walk really peacefully on a designated path. ”The customer review has been automatically translated from German.

Paths to rails

NavajoYES has another major project in the works, “The Navajo Rail-Trail. The group envisions converting the former 80-mile railway line from the disused Peabody Energy Kayenta Coal Mine to the former site of the Navajo Generating Plant in Page into a hiking trail.

The Rails-to-Trails project, while still in its early stages, has seen public contributions from all of the local chapters and communities of LeChee, Copper Mine, Kaibeto, Tonalea, Cow Springs, Black Mesa and Shonto, according to Riggenbach.

“If we have the green light (from the Navajo Nation government) and that seems to be the direction things seem to be going – if that happens we would do some polls in the next few months and then hopefully be able be, actually to come A certain infrastructure will be created by next spring and summer, ”said Riggenbach.

Riggenbach imagines the railway line to be similar to the Chuska mountain bike route, which is essentially a route that is open to the public. This would be accomplished by removing the railroad tracks to provide a route for walking, cycling, or running.

“It will be a little difficult to find your way around and be able to provide entertaining public spaces while at the same time respecting the rights and privacy of local land users,” Riggenbach said.

The route is one of several rail corridor scenarios that have been discussed since the last train left the Navajo Generating Station in August 2019 – the right of way was given to the Navajo Nation by the Salt River Project.

The discussions ranged from converting the route into a tourist train to using it as a priority route, but Riggenbach is confident that some routes will be expanded in the next few years.