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Tue, April 13

Tusayan to progress with 13 miles of trails

TUSAYAN, Ariz. — The Tusayan Town Council voted to reinvigorate capital improvements in anticipation of capital funds, approving a motion to proceed with phase 2 of a Community Trails Plan with Trails Inspire LLC.

The Trail Plan will complete design, permits and the environmental review to improve 13 miles of trails in and around Tusayan, once capital funds become available.

The plan has been held up since 2019, after failure of both Home Rule and the one-time, one-year override elections prevented the town from setting its own budget limits. The town has had to operate under the state-imposed spending limit of $1.4 million and does not have the ability to spend the $9 million in savings. The town is pursuing a $2 million loan to fund capital projects, which is allowed by state law to ensure capital projects can continue even during the state-imposed spending limit.

Despite recent economic challenges because of COVID-19, council members determined that supporting capital improvements now would enhance economic recovery in the long-term. Tusayan Town Manager Cynthia Seelhammer proposed that beginning work on the project once capital funds are available would help the town

“To be prepared, when the economy turns around, to take the next step,” she said.

The completion of the Trails Plan will take a year before any actual construction.

The town has been working with Trails Inspire LLC to design an improved trails system in Tusayan, which would include improvements to existing trails, enhanced signage, an interpretive/ADA accessible section with information relating to historical aspects of the area, and would potentially also include additional construction of a trail around the school site and sports complex.

In moving forward with phase 2 of the project, council members discussed aspects of the plan with Trails Inspire LLC’s Sirena Rana Dufault, who expressed the idea that the trails as a destination could enhance the town’s appeal to visitors, giving them the option to have something “specific to do” after visiting Grand Canyon, especially since many consider trails in the Grand Canyon intimidating.

The plan will begin with prioritizing development agreements with private landowners and ensuring proper easements are in place regarding use of land for the trail’s development. It would also include filing a 299 proposal with the U.S. Forest Service, which would lay the path for evaluation, and pending approval, begin the process of conducting a biological survey, required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), to protect indigenous plant life as part of the trail’s overall design. In addition, a signage plan would be devised, and would include a committee with members of the Intertribal Council to assist with the interpretive history section.

As the town continues to pursue the trails project amid the COVID-19 crisis, Mayor Craig Sanderson remains hopeful.

“We do have a good community support for the project,” he said.

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