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 The White Mountains TRAILSYSTEM: a series of twenty to twenty-five interconnecting, multi-use trail loops and connectors ranging from the community of Vernon on the eastern edge and stretching to the communities of Clay Springs and Linden in the west.

The System includes urban trails in the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside, the City of Show Low, and the Wagon Wheel area.  The multi-use trails themselves are cleverly designed.  Each trail takes maximum advantage of the beauty and vistas of the area, with extreme care given to preserving the land, vegetation and wildlife.  Landscaped urban trails have multiple entrance points to ease the access of residents and visitors.

The unique feature of our TRAILSYSTEM is the trail loop.  Most trails, traditionally, go from point A to point B, requiring a return trip over the same terrain.  The unique TRAILSYSTEM loop goes from Point A and returns to A.  Additionally, loops are joined by connector trails making longer traverses possible.  Loops vary in size allowing a pleasant evening's walk, a day hike with a stop at selected picnic type areas, a several day horseback trail ride, an adventurous backpack trip, or a scenic mountain bike tour.  Winter opens selected trails to cross-country skiing.

The White Mountains TRAILSYSTEM is more than trails, it is really people ... dedicated, caring people who want to preserve the very reason they chose these mountains to call home: a love of nature.  The Pinetop-Lakeside TRACKS organization, formed in  1990 to build trails and provided a base for long range maintenance of trails, has been phenomenally successful.  With a current roster of about 125 members, TRACKS is the heart of trail development and usage in the area.

The TRAILSYSTEM is still evolving with some one hundred eighty miles currently in use and more trails planned for the future.


THE RESULT: From 10 miles of designated trails in 1987 to over 180 miles and still growing.

Actual trail development began in the Spring of 1987 in Pinetop-Lakeside's beautiful Woodland Lake Park.  The partners: USDA US Forest Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, the White Mountains Horsemen's Association, and the Audubon Society, with funding from the Heritage Fund, quickly decided that the strategy would be to develop the project in two parts: urban trails and forest trails.  The two efforts began with major emphasis on developing Forest Service trails that connected to the town.

The perceived 'more-bang-for-bucks' really paid off ! Because of the ambitiousness of the project, White Mountains TRAILSYSTEM started to get attention from the locals, the businesses, and the press.  At one point, United States Senator John McCain stopped into one of our planning meetings for a quick briefing.  The word was out.  The White Mountains TRAILSYSTEM was a big time project run by a bunch of folks who knew what they were doing, aside from the fact that we made every possible mistake at least once.  We grew in spite of ourselves until it became obvious that we were getting this huge project under control.

While the big mileage was being grunted out on the forest side, the urban system sparkled with completion of Hitching Post Loop Trail in Woodland Lake Park, a 1.1 mile paved handicapped trail around the lake, and the completion of Turkey Track, Meadowview, Eagle Scout trails, and the walking trail along the creek flowing from the lake.  A brand new 80' foot bridge span on the Lake Trail gave a sense of just how comprehensive and thorough our volunteer efforts were becoming.  The first phase of the urban  side was done and the town waited for the forest system  to arrive at its front door.

The mileage on the forest seemed to explode as volunteers appeared from nowhere.  The expert guidance from the US Forest Service led us not only to professional trail standards, but to neat trailhead kiosks, large parking areas to accommodate horse trailers, and first class signage.  It all worked.  Our measly 10 miles has become 180 miles.

THE PEOPLE: With up to 300 volunteers - from a rural community no less!

You can't build a TRAILSYSTEM as big as this without a lot of  wonderfully talented and generous folks.  We've had more than our fair share of them. They just started appearing, and when we needed them most.  Young and old, strong and fragile, individuals, families, friends, strangers, and groups.  They all worked together ... a labor born of love.

The long-term stewardship of the White Mountains TRAILSYSTEM has fallen to the TRACKS Organization.  This 125 member group is working at the head of the project.  In 1990, the TRACKS Organization was the proud host of the first ever Arizona State Trails Conference. It was a great success.  The White Mountains TRAILSYSTEM was the hit of the conference.  Attendees were amazed at the scope of the project.

THE MONEY: Raising up to $100,000 for trails. (Financially in the black every year since 1987).

We started with zip - zero.

But money flows to a good idea.  Local businesses donated seed money when times were tough.  Sales of Fourth of July wind socks gave us a windfall profit, Navajo County gave a $1,000 start-up check to the fledgling project, one corporate sponsor gave us a check for $5,000 (no strings) to kick us into high gear.  Individual donations poured in and continue to this day.  A grant from the Arizona Heritage Fund guaranteed the financial success of the project.

But the most outstanding contributions came from the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside.  It became obvious that the town was becoming the focal point of support.  Besides much needed encouragement, the town gave us what seemed unlimited staff time, administrative support and office supplies.  They gave us access to town fund-raisers like Winterfest and Tastefest.  Additionally they dug deep (even when receipts were down) to give us some operating monies.

THE MANAGEMENT: Managing an extremely diverse partnership of federal, state, county, city, public, private, and business organizations to get the job done.

The interaction with the partners of the project was always professional.  Everybody focused on the goal - 180+ miles of trails.  We had our disagreements, regularly, but everyone knew we were working as  team.  For such a diverse group, the give and take was extraordinary.

We evolved other management techniques.  Our best involved the idea of pushing decision-making down to the trail level.  We began to identify a 'Trail Boss' who would develop a Crew for their trail.  This individual, sometimes a husband and wife, were put in charge, with proper controls, of  'their trail'. The Trail Boss concept worked well.  Local crews formed and work progressed at a steady pace.

Saturday work groups, sometimes with as many as 35 volunteers of interested locals, met at McDonald's for breakfast and, with trained Crew Bosses, formed into work parties to tackle high priority projects.

A wonderfully zany group of hard-core trail builders also emerged.  Calling themselves 'Pi-Square: A Guild of Trail Builders', this small cadre became the  TRAILSYSTEM swat team.  They took on the toughest of trails and seemed to relish the impossible.  Formed in 1992, they still meet every Monday (weather permitting and sometimes when not) to work on trails. Numerous groups of scouts, Rotarians, school kids, even young offenders have helped build portions of the system.  The planning and organization worked because we allowed the volunteers to use their brains and their hands.

The Town of Pinetop-Lakeside also has included the TRAILSYSTEM in all of its promotional programs.  Since tourists are a vital part of our local economy, the trails project is viewed as a major attraction.  Articles about our TRAILSYSTEM have appeared throughout the United States and northern Mexico.

THE INNOVATION: Innovation in trail design, management, and trail marking techniques

Besides creatively generating funds from multiple sources, our partners developed numerous innovative solutions to trails problems.  Our loop and connector approach, which have become US Forest Service designated trails, is now being used in adjacent and distant trail systems.  Our clever, inexpensive 'circle' code for trail signage has been adopted by a well known national sign maker. (We asked them to make the product to our specifications since they had never heard of anything like them before. The next year our circles appeared in their full catalog of  'Codots.' ) Must have been a good idea!

We understand a group in Colorado has adopted our logo, slogan and strategy for their trail group.  We're flattered.  The more the merrier.  Good ideas catch on.

THE AWARDS: Recipient of State and National awards

Members of the Pinetop-Lakeside TRACKS Organization have received several State of Arizona awards for the TRAILSYSTEM effort.  The group won First Place in the State of Arizona for the National 'Take Pride in America' program.  With this State award the group went on to win the National Award presented by Bruce Babbitt, United States Secretary of the Interior on behalf of the President of the United States.

Other awards include:

Recognition for work done on the West Fork of the Black River Fisheries and Watershed Restoration Project - October 7, 1995

Arizona Heritage Alliance Volunteer Service Aware - 1994

Forest Service Region 3 Volunteer Achievement Award - 1997 and again in 2003

Millenium Trail designation (Land of the Pioneers) from First Lady Hillary Clinton - 2000

THE COMMITMENT: A hard-core supporter of National Trails Day

National Trails Day is Pinetop-Lakeside TRACKS' big event of the year.  We pull out the stops. Saturday is our big day, but events start on Friday and go through Sunday.  We sponsor multiple hikes, mountain bike rides, and various horseback rides.  We have exhibits, apparel sales, entertainment, and speakers.  The big day ends with a super cookout Saturday night under a mountain sky of a million stars.  A good time is had by all.  We use National Trails Day to build trail awareness and attract new members.

THE LONG-RANGE VIEW: Developing a long-range plan in 1987 and sticking to it

In the Spring of 1987 the White Mountains Trail System Coordinating Committee set a 10+ year strategy.  We're right on target.  We have completed the 180 miles of planned interconnecting trails and have new trails in the planning and approval stages.


We'll be here as we have been since 1987, constructing and maintaining, educating and training, laughing and crying ... and, as always, on the trails.  Come join us!

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