Fires, trash, human debris mar trails for locals, tourists

VANDALISM MAKES TRAIL WORK HARDER: In a recent letter to the editor, Van Eldredge had an important follow-up to the news Albuquerque depends on a handful of employees to maintain 160 miles of bike trails.

“I can attest to the fact that our local bicycle/pedestrian multi-use trails are in horrible condition,” Van emails. “I will suggest, however, that a considerable amount of the damage hasn’t been caused by weather or normal usage but rather by criminal activity. There have been several arson fires both along the Bosque Trail and the North Diversion Trail.

“Illegal campers have left behind trash and human debris, making the Interstate 40 trail between Eubank and Tramway boulevards essentially impassable,” Van continues. “What was once a commuter trail for UNM students and hospital staff adjacent to University Boulevard has instead become a pathway for narcotics trafficking and human trafficking. Calls to 242-COPS and 311 have not resulted in any changes. Calls and emails to the Mayor’s Office have not solved the problem. Previous city of Albuquerque administrations utilized Albuquerque Police officers on bicycles to patrol the trail system and protect our citizenry. In the past, enforcement of laws prohibiting littering, drug and alcohol use, vandalism, theft and assault was prevalent. With only the limited amount of maintenance staff available to work on these trails, it seems like it would be fiscally prudent for the city to implement some preventive measures. It is counter-productive to have a crew repair the trail only for it to be damaged days later by criminals.”

And Van adds it’s bad enough locals have to bear this – but what impression does it leave on visitors?

“In a few weeks the masters road nationals will begin, and in October the Balloon Fiesta will return. These events have the potential to showcase our community trail system, but in their current state, unfortunately, it would actually serve as an embarrassment. … As someone who grew up riding my bicycle on the Hahn Arroyo trail in the late 1970s I will certify that the deterioration over the last three years is the worst I have ever seen. Something indeed has to be done soon or we risk losing this local treasure.”

Indeed.

APD/FCS ENFORCEMENT AND OUTREACH: Jessica Campbell, marketing and communications coordinator for Albuquerque’s Parks and Recreation Department, gathered information from the Albuquerque Police Department and Family and Community Services. She says Van “raises an important point: these trails are important to our department and those who use them and should be showcased to tourists and visitors to Albuquerque.”

And so the city combines enforcement and outreach. “The Southeast, Northeast and Foothills area commands send their bike officers out on patrols regularly on the trails,” Campbell explains. “In the NE they are often on the trails along the diversion channels, and in the SE they go out on the trails along I-40, near Jerry Cline Park, under the bridge along I-40 near Carlisle and west of Eubank along the Los Altos Golf Course. We feel it’s important to meet our community members who are unhoused where they are at.

“Our officers work closely with the Department of Family and Community Resources to make sure these folks are connected to resources that will get them off the street. Ultimately, people living in encampments need safe, affordable housing with supportive services – which is why the city has increased funding for supportive housing programs by 73% since fiscal 2018. The Gateway Center project is underway and will soon serve as a needed hub to connect service providers to those who need them most.”

In the meantime, cyclists now know that if they see a problem on the trails they can call 311, 242-COPS, Parks and Rec at 768-5353 or Family and Community Services at 768-2860. With limited people power to patrol and maintain 160 miles of trails, and burgeoning crime and homelessness, here’s betting our public servants appreciate specific – and courteous – heads ups.

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858; dwestphal@abqjournal.com; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.

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