by Kelly Tolbert, Recreation Services Coordinator, Prescott Parks and Recreation
In achieving the recent milestone of 100 miles of trails within the City of Prescott, it can be easy to overlook the amazing progress that got the Mile High Trail system to its current capacity. In its infancy, the system began with just about two and a half miles of trails prior to gaining the official name “Mile High Trail System” around 1999.
Perhaps Prescott’s most popular trail, averaging approximately 70,000 annual visits, the Peavine National Recreational Trail can be credited with setting the pace for enthusiastic growth within Prescott’s trail system.
The track was constructed in 1893 and originally owned by the Santa Fe, Prescott, Phoenix Railway. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, who later purchased the railway, opted to not complete necessary repairs after receiving substantial flood damage in the area north of the Granite Dells (September 1983). Soon after, local trail advocates began to recognize the area’s potential as a non-motorized recreation trail. The railroad was eventually purchased by A&K Railroad Materials (Kulmer & Schumacher), and it removed the tracks and officially abandoned the area in 1984.
The Peavine, a nickname given based on the twisting nature of the trail resembling a pea vine, is the result of railroad visionary Frank M. Murphy, who made significant contributions to many other Central Arizona railroads. In its entirety, the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railway measured approximately 198 miles, included seven miles of bridges and cost almost $5 million to construct.
The town of Chino Valley purchased and opened its portion of the Peavine Trail in 1994. As federal funding became available for Rails-to-Trails improvements in the form of grants, due largely to the passing of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), the City of Prescott was able to purchase the first 5.5 miles stretching from the Sun Dog industrial area to former State Route 89A for a total of $315,000. With dedicated assistance from city employees, trail volunteers, county and city community service workers, the first phase of the Peavine Trail opened on June 5, 1999 commemorating National Trails Day.
To prepare the trail for public use, laborers completed removal of 70 tons of railroad ties; constructed two ancillary trails providing better access to Watson Lake; improved the general tread of the trail surface; installed various amenities such as benches, interpretive signs, fences and gates; and removed unnecessary fencing as well as large amounts of litter. Combined volunteer efforts were valued at $23,000.
While planning and implementing construction of Phase I, efforts to obtain funding for Phase II were underway. In 1998, the City of Prescott received $19,500 in grant money from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program and the Challenge Cost Share Program, and the City was able to provide matching funds at 50 percent. Later that year, a second ISTEA grant was awarded and the City received $398,000 allocated for the purchase of the former State Route 89A to the Town of Chino Valley’s Road 4 South trail alignment. A third ISTEA grant was awarded in the amount of $213,000 with the intention of completing necessary repairs to the Granite Creek Interface area and allowed the purchase of the section from State Route 89A to the Prescott Municipal Airport.
Connectivity improved greatly with the opening of the Iron King Trail in 2004 by the Town of Prescott Valley, formerly the Prescott and Eastern Railroad to Humboldt, Mayer, Poland, and Crown King. Today, the Iron King trail still features vintage railroad service cars that function as mile markers along the 4-mile stretch that extends to the junction at the Peavine Trail.
Monsoon storms attributed to substantial damage along the Sundog Ranch Road access area in July of 2018. There was so much damage, the trail was closed for one calendar week, only able to be opened thanks to the dedication and hard work of the volunteer Over the Hill Gang and City departments. In fact, 11,000 cubic yards of material was imported to realign the trail along the original railroad bed.
The Street Maintenance Department worked in conjunction with Recreation Services to complete grading and place boulders strategically creating a fortified trail surface and reinforced the bridge that became unsecure during the storm’s water surges.
Today, the Peavine National Recreation Trail can be accessed from two improved trailheads require a $3 parking fee or City of Prescott Parking Pass. One is the Sundog Ranch Road Trailhead (1626 Sundog Ranch Road), and the other is Peavine North Trailhead just off Granite Dells Parkway from State Route 89A (5599 Side Road).
For more information on the Peavine Trail, connecting trails, and all other City of Prescott Trails visit prescotttrails.com.