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Thursday, December 28, 2017


Rick Kesselman of the Maricopa Trail + Park Foundation
Maintaining and advocating for the Maricopa Trail is a labor of love for Rick Kesselman, Trail Director and segment steward of the Maricopa Trail+ Park Foundation (MTPF).
The 300+-mile trail that circles the Valley is a work-in-progress and amazingly, many Arizonans are unaware of this remarkable route and the efforts behind its creation and its exciting future.
New sign installed along the race route on 12-23-17.
I caught up with Rick and a troop of volunteers on a crisp December morning as they were preparing a section of the trail that runs between Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area and Lake Pleasant Regional Park for the 2018 Prickly Pedal mountain bike race. This roughly 40-mile mountainous section of the trail is one of the most technically challenging and visually appealing for hikers, bikers and equestrians alike making is the perfect stretch to host the fund-raising event that supports the trail. Kesselman had plenty to say when I asked why trail users should care about this epic route.
MT between Spur Cross and Lake Pleasant is visually stunning
Its landscapes, environs, flora and fauna lead trail users to unbounded outdoor adventures, from myriad unique Sonoran Desert parks and educational Nature Centers, to healthy trail, mountain, and lake activities with direct links to scores of welcoming community parks and trails,” Kesselman said. “These community linkages comprise the essence of our Foundation's Maricopa Trail Communities Program.  This Program will help focus growth in the Valley's Active Planning efforts to provide completely linked community trail systems with each other and the amazingly large Maricopa Trail and County Regional Parks system. The MT adds a unique treasure for its residents, visitors and tourists.” Kesselman went on to laude the multi-level cooperative efforts involved in the trail's overall mission. “Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department (MCPRD) and the Maricopa Trail and Park Foundation feel that it gives communities, its residents an opportunity to use our facilities. It connects the ten (soon to be eleven) County parks as well as the individual city and town trail systems throughout the Valley.

There are fewer prickly snags thanks to MTPF volunteers
MCPRD consider it a linear park. As with any trail system, if you don’t maintain it then it will fall apart, become a safety concern and not allow the user a good experience.”
Hiking the MT toward Lake Pleasant

Rick Kesselman

The “main loop” of the Maricopa Trail is currently 310 miles long, but future plans will add length and more connectivity to the route.
Much of the remaining work on the trail will be finished in 2018. “The main circular loop will be completed in June upon acquisition of three State Land portions that we have been waiting three years to acquire. It is currently 99.9% complete,” Kesselman said. Connectors to Buckeye Hills Regional Park and the future Vulture Mountain Regional Park are still in the planning stages. Once those spurs are completed, plans will be drawn up to connect city trail systems as well.
MTPF volunteers maintain the route.
The latest part of the trail to be completed is the 15.9-mile Segment 22 that runs between McDowell Sonoran Preserve and the Bronco Trailhead in Tonto National Forest.
Mountainous terrain defines the Prickly Pedal race course

On Jan 20, 2018, up to 350 riders will participate in the third annual Prickly Pedal Mountain Bike Race, an event that helps support the building and maintenance of the MT.  The event is organized by MTPF, a non-profit organization that works to protect, promote, develop, and maintain Maricopa County Regional Park trails through sustainable financial support and volunteer programs. For safety reasons, the race course section of the MT will be closed to all but participants on the day of the event.

Kesselman instructs trail volunteers
Those who wish to contribute or volunteer with MTPF don't need any special skills to do so.
Our Comprehensive Stewardship Training program trains our Crew Leaders and Trail Crew volunteers.” Kesselman said. “No previous skills are necessary. We also have volunteer opportunities beyond trail work such as marketing, social media, website administration, fundraising, etc. Prospective volunteers can go to the “Events” tab on our website home page to learn about volunteering opportunities and then to the “Volunteer, then Stewardship” tab to volunteer."
Maricopa Trail + Park Foundation
Prickly Pedal Race

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