Submitted by Jim Snitzer, TRACKS Board Member
Oil and water don’t mix. That has been even more true for the two major types of forest trail users: motorized and non-motorized. The White Mountains area is unique because the two groups represented by WMOTA (motorized) and TRACKS (non-motorized) have joined forces in an effort to dramatically expand our local trails. Their goal: Make us “the best place in the state for outdoor family fun.”
The effort began in Pinetop-Lakeside with the identification of 19 new non-motorized trail access points from the town to the White Mountains Trail System. Those 19 new points would be added to the existing 11 trail access points located in and around town, and each access point would have directional signage from Hwy 260, a parking area, and a kiosk with trail information.
Most of the 19 new points require the Forest Service to complete a study of the location and the route for a connecting trail to link up with the main trail system, and those studies are underway.
The first new trailpoint is usable now but the official opening will be in mid-August. The Old Hatchery trailhead is located in the parking lot at Arizona Game and Fish in Pinetop. You start at the viewing area for the brand new White Mountains’ species exhibit, then a shady trail winds down the slope past the old fish hatchery runways, takes you across Billy Creek on a wooden footbridge, and then on through the forest to connect with the Springs trail—for a total distance of 0.8 mile.
WMOTA—White Mountains Open Trails Association—has joined the effort and has plans to expand the motorized Maverick Trail to the east into Springerville/Eager in Apache County and to the west to Heber/Overgaard. The current Maverick Trail has five trailheads and runs almost 50 miles between Pinetop and Clay Spring along a trail dedicated in 2010. There is also a loop trail around Porter Mountain accessible from the Maverick Trail.
Recently, Show Low also joined in the effort and is developing plans to link their urban trails and forest trails with the rest of the White Mountain Trail system. That will include bringing in trails on the far west side (Los Caballos, Ghost of the Coyote, Buena Vista, and Juniper Ridge) and linking them with the rest of the 200-mile trail system.
Discussions are planned with the other communities in the region to see if the effort can be expanded to provide linked trails all across the region.