Talon News - Good Local News

By Jaque Ritchie



March 30, 2018

With the coming of Spring a person's fancy turns to mountain biking, hiking and all manner of outdoor fun. Members of the Aztec Trails and Open Space (ATOS) group gathered at the 550 Brewery to discuss this seasons events and future plans for the 40-50 miles of hiking/biking trails that criss-cross our area.

Originally started in the mid-1990's ATOS fizzled, but then was re-established around 2003. ATOS is now a bonafide a 501c(3) non-profit that is dedicated to developing and promoting public awareness of our natural and cultural resources. These trusty stewards are a volunteer group that is dedicated to establishing and maintaining trails, river restoration and protecting wildlife habitat within Aztec and San Juan County. ATOS President Christopher Martinez, 29, said, "That's what ATOS is about, we want to be proud of what we have...there are a lot of people out there like us and you are not alone." Aztec native and professional mountain bike racer, Martinez rides for Diamond Back Bikes, I love Durango, I really do, I have raced a lot up there, but there is just something amazing about Aztec, it has so much untapped potential there is so much open space yet to be explored.

Saturday, April 21, is the 5th annual ATOS Earth Day 5 and 10 K-run. Runners/Walkers will meet at 10:00 a.m. at Aztec Ruins. Both race routes follow trails under the bridges to Riverside Park circle around to North Main and back to the ruins. The event costs $15 if you pre-register online at aztectrails.org or $25 if you register the day of the event. The top three finishers in men's and women's categories will receive valuable gift certificates as prizes, "We are working on getting some trophies but we have some very cool stuff for sure," said Martinez. There will also be a 'swag raffle' with 'buku cool stuff' donated by the good folks at Jack's Plastic Welding, 4 Corners River Sports, and Durango Joe's, plus all kinda local business gift cards. As an added bonus, everyone who registers will receive a $5 raffle ticket. According to ATOS Earth Day Race Director Jaclynn Fallon, "Last year we had like 130 runners, this year I'm shooting for 200 people that would be awesome...All proceeds go right back into ATOS for trail maintenance projects, for things like signs, wood chips, food and water for volunteers on our trail work days, it all goes into maintaining trails and open spaces."

April 7, is the first scheduled volunteer day at Riverside Park for trash pick-up and wood-chipping, Martinez said, "We will gladly provide pizza, burritos, beverages whatever it takes to get people to come out and pick up a rake.

Led by County Commissioner and Race Director Wallace Begay, the 20th annual Alien Run Mountain Bike Race will blast-off May 5 from Alien Run Trailhead located on CR 2770 (Hart Canyon Road) 2.8 miles from US 550. According to Martinez participation has steadily increased, "It's starting to get pretty epic." The race has beginner, intermediate and expert categories. Distances vary from category one, racing almost (hang-on-to-your bike shorts!) 30 miles, to category three, at five miles. Last year the event saw around 150 racers. Besides bragging rights winner's receive coveted 'alien trophies' created by Aztec Machine.

ATOS is reportedly in the process of establishing a Bike Maintenance Station located at the Alien Run Trailhead and a child-size Bicycle Skills Park at Riverside Park. Martinez explained, "It's gonna be some things for small kids to learn on to develop their skills on a bicycle and challenge themselves." Martinez said, "like some jumps, balance beams and teeter-tots." Martinez hopes to one-day establish a larger version near Tiger Park. The group is "working hand-in-hand with the city" toward these goals. "Also we are trying to take over maintenance at the motor-cross track," located on the road to Navajo Dam. "We want to burn weeds, put in signs, fix the entrance things like that." The city owned motor-cross track has become a popular local attraction that ATOS is willing to self-fund to maintain. Volunteers are key to the success of the plan, "We want to find some motor-crossers from across town and get them involved...there are a lot of motivated motor-cross riders around here, people that love that track." Martinez said that the young people that use the track want upkeep and improvements but do not know how to implement it, "we would be happy to help them get organized and be their voice "(with the city)."

What brought these seemingly normal folks together? Kelly Townsend explains, "We've lived here all our lives, we have this beautiful river that flows through Aztec and if the numbers are correct 85% of the water in New Mexico flows through San Juan County, so obviously, water in New Mexico is very scarce and very prized. We have this beautiful river and the city of Aztec has never really done anything to promote it, I think it's just a shame we have this wonderful system of trails, our awesome outdoor spaces and of course the amazing ruins, but the city and people that live here aren't taking advantage of it...that's kinda what got us involved." Eleanor Townsend added, "We (the group) have dabbled in a little bit in everything." Townsend outlined how the group has evolved through trial and error into a vital and viable entity, "We didn't really know the mechanics of putting on an event to begin with, but we've got some really great people on board... we've come along way." According to the groups 1/17/18 Treasury Report duly recorded in the monthly minutes the group has socked away a total of $15,009.50. Kelly added, "One thing that we are kind of proud of is that we have not relied on city or government funds at all."

As a bunch of Irishmen filed in and began setting up instruments in the corner, Jaclynn Fallon concluded, "If we can get people to come out get involved and take pride in the beautiful natural resources we have, then we can make the best use of the land we have."

Volunteers are always welcome at ATOS for events and clean-up days, "We have more than enough opportunities for volunteers." Volunteers are also invited to sit in on the monthly ATOS meeting held at 550 Brewery at 6 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month. According to the group, they like having the meetings at the brew pub because, "Everyone is welcome here. It's easier to get people to show up if we have the meetings here."


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