By Joe Baynes, Recreation Services Director, City of Prescott
Imagine the idea of a recreation trail encircling Prescott and capturing all the ecological and geological diversity of this area.
The Prescott Circle Trail is designated as nonmotorized for hikers, equestrians, runners and mountain bicyclists, or “human-powered recreation” only. It is a beautiful trail meandering through forest, chaparral, grasslands, rock formations and along the shorelines of Watson, Willow and Goldwater lakes.
The topography ranges in elevation from approximately 5,200 feet to over 6,000 feet, and many sections feature panoramic views.
The concept of the trail began with the Yavapai Trails Association under the long-time presidency of Jan Alfano (dating back to about 1990) and the collective vision of others seeking a long-distance trail. Many dedicated trail users and volunteers, Yavapai Trails Association board members and local government employees and elected officials, helped bring the trail to fruition.
As the Yavapai Trails Association’s vision and perseverance gained momentum, the Prescott National Forest undertook a major planning process for the Prescott Circle Trail that paved the way for that 50% of the trail.
City planning efforts paved the way for many city-managed portions in Pioneer Park, along Watson and Willow lakes, and through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU).
The Prescott Circle Trail is a composite of individual nonmotorized routes that lie on lands owned and managed by the City of Prescott, Prescott National Forest, Arizona State Land Department, ERAU and Yavapai County. The trail was officially accepted in 2007 into the Arizona State Trails System, making the project eligible for state and federal grants.
Combined with the City’s former 1% sales tax for streets and open space, this made possible the extensive lease of rights-of-way from the state land department.
Construction and maintenance of the trail was facilitated through grant applications and funding, but primarily with the physical work of trail workers. These workers came from City of Prescott and Prescott National Forest personnel, Vista volunteers, individual citizens, the Over the Hill Gang volunteers, Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance, and City and County restitution crews.
Other creative measures also were undertaken, including the International Mountain Bike Association securing $99,000 in federal trails monies through Arizona State Parks, and using a (paid) American Conservation Experience trail crew for major trail construction on Badger Mountain (i.e., the mountain with the “P”).
The Prescott Circle Trail was connected in May 2015.