By Janessa Maxilom
The New Mexico Rails to Trails Association is celebrating the inaugural opening of a historic trail in the Lincoln National Forest that was previously unavailable to the public.
A ceremony was held Saturday next to an old wooden cabin situated along the newly unlocked path that branches off from the Mexican Canyon Trestle Trail.
N.M. Rails to Trails president Grady Nicholson said the trail is a beautiful new addition to the Trestle Recreation Area Trails.
Nicholson said the section of the trail is unique because of its special connection to Cloudcroft’s past.
“It’s part of the original railroad bed, which came through here around 1899-1900,” Nicholson said. “It’s a really unique part of the railroad bed. It’s very obvious that it was a railroad bed coming up through here. It’s in pristine condition and there’s been very little use. This is part of the railroad that came up from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft.”
Nicholson said the railroad company that built the railroad up to Cloudcroft primarily transported lumber. He said the rails had an impact on the growing mountain community at the time.
“It certainly had a lot to do with Cloudcroft’s development as a town,” he said.
Nicholson said the Rails to Trails Association even built a new bridge to connect the new section of trail to the current Trestle Recreation Area Trails. He said the bridge cost $1,200 and took 19 days to build.
Nicholson said the money was generated by Rails to Trails to open up the path to the public. The new section of trail, he said, wouldn’t have been a reality without the generosity of property owner Bonnie Brooks.
Brooks said she bought the property in 1992.
“The property actually has been deeded over to Rails to Trails as part of what is called a life estate,” she said. “What that means is I have access and use of the property until I die or until I choose to give it over to Rails to Trails.”
Brooks said she has loved it ever since.
She said she enjoyed living in her cabin and envisioned the old locomotives that used to rumble through the mountains passing by her home.
“When we first moved here I would wake up in the middle of the night imagining the train was coming through the property,” Brooks said. “The property consists of this cabin, which is a two-bedroom, two-bath cabin and six acres of land that joins the national forest.”
She said she was inspired to give her property to Rails to Trails because of her strong connection to the trails.
“I was thinking about the future, and the whole time that I’ve lived here I’ve heard families and children and seen them and I’ve seen them on the trail and I thought this property belongs to the trail system,” Brooks said. “So that’s what motivated me. I’m a big supporter of Rails to Trails. I think they’re doing a wonderful job. I love the cooperation that exists between Rails to Trails and the U.S. Forest Service.”