Taos Pueblo has been awarded a Trails+ grant from the New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Department for two major projects on Pueblo land which will positively impact the lives of both tribal members and the general public. The money will go toward the survey and engineering of the NM 150 Multi-Use Pathway as well as fund the clearing of important cultural trails on Pueblo land. The tribe applied for the grant in collaboration with the Enchanted Circle Trails Association (ECTA) which is managing the NM 150 project.

“Taos Pueblo is very appreciative and thankful for receiving the Trails+ grant award,” said Dwayne Lefthand, Taos Pueblo Tribal Secretary. “This funding will assist the community and surrounding areas by providing a safe design of the communal bike trail being proposed along State Highway 150 and provide a safe alternative for biking and walking along Hwy 150.”

The multi-use pathway will be separated from the highway and run parallel to the east side of NM 150 between US 64 and Arroyo Seco. This improvement was identified as a Tier 1 Priority by the community-created Enchanted Circle Trails Plan and is being developed by ECTA with permission from Tribal Council.

“This project will be a game-changer,” said Loren Bell, ECTA’s Director. “We are excited to be working with pueblo on this, and thank New Mexico State for recognizing how impactful this multi-use path will be for regional health and safety.”

Bell is also happy that a portion of the grant will go to help clear the internal trails that are important to the Taos Pueblo community.

“ECTA is all about connecting people with the many physical, mental, and spiritual health benefits that the natural world provides,” Bell said. “Whether that be through providing the broader population with access to their public lands, or supporting the Pueblo’s effort to improve the internal trails on their sacred lands. Trails are an objective good for our communities. Trails connect us.”

The grant will fund a seasonal crew to clear Taos Pueblo’s private trails which are currently inaccessible due to blowdowns from last winter’s December wind event. These routes provide important access for the Taos Pueblo community for hunting, recreation, exercise, education, and spiritual purposes, and the work will re-open these vital corridors throughout the wilderness managed by Taos Pueblo.

“These trails are not only used for cultural access but are crucial for emergency access,” Lefthand said, “This will provide an opportunity to — at minimal — address some of the lower areas that need clearing of trees and debris.”

Recent regional fire activity due to long-term drought demonstrates how important it is to be able to mount an emergency response to fire starts within the forest. Re-opening these travel corridors will also allow Taos Pueblo to effectively manage fire emergencies before they escape control, potentially threatening Taos Pueblo or the surrounding forest and communities.

The Outdoor Recreation Trails+ grant seeks to enhance economic development, prosperity, and wellness for New Mexicans through projects including outdoor classrooms, river walks, and trail accessibility. In 2022, Trails+ funding provided $6,559,352 million for 54 projects, generating generates over 500 new employment opportunities.

The projects funded in this round will create over 200 jobs in 10 counties: Bernalillo, Lincoln, Mora, Otero, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, San Juan, San Miguel, Sierra, and Taos. New jobs supported through the grant will include at least 82 full-time, 21 part-time, 14 seasonal, 40 contractual, and 46 youth positions. Nearly 70% of the Trails+ funding will benefit Tribal or rural communities.