By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
A physician from Estancia and an engineer from Santa Fe Thursday talked about the details of establishing walking or bicycling trails to promote community fitness.
Their audience was a committee that is working to establish such trails in Tucumcari.
Dr. Linda Stogner, an Estancia family practice physician, and Tim Rogers, an engineer who consults in walking and cycling path design, addressed a community committee that is working on ways to increase fitness levels among county residents, chaired by Brenda Bishop, a county agricultural extension agent.
Stogner talked about establishing a network of walking trails in Estancia, which covers roughly a square mile of Torrance County in the middle of the state.
Trails must have names, she said. The trails in Estancia are named for bears, after the Estancia Bears high school teams.
The Tucumcari committee has named and designated two trails in its planning so far, the Rail Trail which follows streets around Tucumcari’s Rail Depot downtown, and the Wailes Park Trail along Route 66 near the park on Tucumcari’s east side.
Stogner’s next focus was on signage. The signs, designed for walkers, not drivers, don’t have to be large, she said. The Estancia bear trail signs feature a bear claw and are color-coded to differentiate different trails in town. Along each trail are markers that show distance from trail origin in tenths of a mile.
It’s also important to know who is going to use the routes, she said, and to make sure the route has wheel-chair ramps and other facilities for persons with disabilities.
Sponsorships, she said, can help with funding signage and special events.
Estancia held several walking-oriented events to launch its trail system.
The launch, she said, featured prizes for completing walks along some paths.
To measure trail use, Stogner said, cameras were installed to record pairs of feet walking past particular points.
Stogner said the trail system has made generous use of volunteer time and as a mentor for medical students, she has been able to use medical students in training to coordinate trail system developments.
“Walking even once a week for 20 minutes is good,” she said, “and it promotes behavioral health, too.”
Rogers talked about planning and design aspects of designating trails.
Trails, he said, should lead to destinations and the destinations should be marked. They should be conveniently located to transportation. Signs on the trails should specify distances to destinations.
In planning and engineering, he said, it’s important to work with the New Mexico Department of Transportation when trails include or cross state highways to ensure signs comply with state regulations.
Sidewalks, he said, should ideally be separated from streets to encourage walking. Crosswalks should be very clearly marked, he said, using multiple stripes parallel to the path of vehicles.
In planning, he said, “public involvement is critical.”
It is also important to ensure city and county public works departments are on board with the trail planning, he said.
At the implementation stage of establishing trails, he said, design and follow-through on receiving funds and making sure regulatory requirements are followed are very important before any construction begins.
Questions of liability also should be answered before trails are constructed, he said.
The Tucumcari health committee is working with a $10,000 grant from the Presbyterian Health Services to establish walking trails in the city.