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Steinborn: ‘Stomps foot’ to keep momentum going with 500-mile-long Rio Grande Trail


State Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Doña Ana, said he “stomped my foot on the gas pedal” to keep momentum going on the development of the Rio Grande Trail.

The trail will be about 500 miles long when it is complete, stretching the entire length of New Mexico, from the Texas border to the Colorado border.

The trail already has designed sections in Doña Ana County and is building momentum in the state’s other counties that include parts of the trail, Steinborn said.

Then a state representative (he was elected to the state Senate in 2016), Steinborn introduced House Bill 563 and shepherded it through the New Mexico Legislature and into law in 2015. The law created a commission within the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to guide the trail’s development, defining it as “a recreation trail for New Mexico residents and visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of New Mexico and the Rio Grande and learn about the culture and history of New Mexico.”

The trail “offers a host of outdoor recreational opportunities for exercise, adventure and enjoyment,” according to RioGrandeTrailNM.com, which said users will be local walkers and runners; local and visiting bicyclists, mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians; and through hikers and touring cyclists, who are traveling the entire trail.

Signs and other infrastructure will make the trail more attractive to all users, Steinborn said, and through hikers and bikers will spend money on local lodging, food, gasoline and equipment.

Covid-19 slowed down the trail’s development, Steinborn said, which was already a slow process because the trail crosses so many different jurisdictions – towns and cities, counties, private landowners and even the International Boundary and Water Commission – that are dealing with “different challenges and opportunities,” he said.

“So much work has been done in (Doña Ana) County” on the trail, Steinborn said. In October 2016, the 4.5-mile La Llorona Trail between Las Cruces and Mesilla became the first segment of the statewide trail to be designated. Other segments of the trail have also been designated in the county.

Steinborn and other government officials and representatives of local user groups met in June to continue planning the trail in the entire county, including “quality campaign infrastructure to accommodate hikers and other users,” Steinborn said.

The Outdoor Recreation Division (ORD) of the New Mexico Economic Development Department has almost $300,000 “to invest in needed infrastructure along the Rio Grande Trail to help this vision become a reality,” ORD Director Axie Navas said. The money must be spent before June 30, 2022.

Contact Navas at 505-660-5992 and alexandra.navas@state.nm.us.

Both locally and statewide, “there’s great new momentum … to make good progress toward developing the planned statewide trail,” Steinborn said.

The Rio Grande Trail Commission continues to develop the master plan for the entire trail. Local leaders are being encouraged to tap into state and federal money available for trail development, Navas said.

It’s “a very unique trail,” Steinborn said, and a “crown jewel for New Mexico.”

The trail and the river

The Rio Grande Trail will cross four national wildlife refuges, six national monuments, one national heritage area, six state parks, nine of the state’s 33 counties, 22 towns and cities and multiple life zones, including the Chihuahuan Desert, national forests, deep canyons, pueblos and mesas.

The nearly 80 miles of trail that will exist in Doña Ana County, stretching from Sunland Park to Hatch and Garfield, will include: the historic Rio Grande and breathtaking views of the Organ Mountains; Mesilla Valley Bosque, Leasburg Dam and Percha Dam state parks; and Organ Mountain Desert Peaks National Monument.

The Rio Grande was likely first charted by a Spanish expedition in the New World in 1519. It appeared on a map of New Spain for the first time in 1536. The river is called Rio Bravo del Norte in Mexico. Before that, the Pueblo Indians and Navajos had different names for it, translating into “Big River” or “Great Waters.”

Contact the Rio Grande Trail Commission at riograndetrailcommission@state.nm.us.

Visit riograndetrailnm.com and www.emnrd.state.nm.us/ADMIN/riograndetrailcommission.html.

Rio Grande Trail