El Paso

50-mile hike and bike trail planned for El Paso County

Paso Del Norte Trail

EL PASO, Texas - The Paso Del Norte Health Foundation has a plan to help El Paso County residents get moving and get healthy while having fun.

The group is looking for public input on the Paso del Norte Trail master plan. The 50-mile hike and bike trail would run from the New Mexico state line to Tornillo. Organizers say it would loosely follow the Rio Grande Corridor across El Paso County.

"We really feel that trails and making active living easy for our community is really important to get us more active and less sedentary," said Tracy Yellen, CEO of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.

The group held a public meeting Thursday evening at Bowie High School. Organizers explained the project to a couple of dozen people and then asked for suggestions on what would make the trail a success.

Patsy McEntee, a member of the National Park Service, was also in the group.

"We see it all across the United States. It's really become a trend, especially for large urban areas, to try and integrate their regional trails into their urban fabric, into their urban streets,"  McEntee said.

The Paso del Norte Health Foundation got an award from the National Park Service. It includes McEntee and another employee from the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Program lending their expertise to the project. They will be helping the foundation determine the trail route from Sunland Park to the Chamizal.

It was the downtown stretch of the Paso del Norte Trail that was the focus of the meeting.

"We are trying to find routes that are easy for local neighborhoods to access in a way that is central to downtown. It also helps invigorate local economic development while also being as safe as it can be for the general public," said McEntee.

The big-picture plan is to connect the River Trail, near Country Club Road, to the Paso del Norte Trail and ultimately to the Playa Drain Trail near Ascarate Park.

"I think it's going to take many years to figure out how you fund it. But we begin construction on the Playa Drain Trail portion next month. So there will be shovels in the ground  and asphalt being poured so that 3 and 1/2 will be completed this year. So, you know, a mile at a time, until we get it all done," said Yellen.

The Playa drain, that will be turned into a hiking and biking trail, runs between Alameda and Cesar Chavez Border Highway (Loop 375) and passes near Ascarate Elementary, Cedar Grove Elementary, Tejas School of Choice, Riverside Middle and Riverside High schools.

The Paso del Norte Health Foundation is footing part of the bill with $2 million and the city will spend up to $300,000 for extra amenities like benches, shade canopies and exercise stations.


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