The first two miles of the Arizona Trail, which starts south of Tuscon on the Mexico-US border, will be closed indefinitely for construction of the border wall. The Arizona Trail Association (ATA) made this announcement July 9, despite their efforts to mitigate the impact of border wall construction for wildlife and those who recreate on the trail.
“Beginning Monday, July 13 the southernmost two miles of the Trail will be closed in the interest of public safety during construction activities,” said the ATA. “This project will significantly impact the southern terminus of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, transform the landscape, and forever alter the Arizona Trail experience.”
The ATA says that the wall consists of 30-foot-tall steel barriers filled with concrete, the installation of a linear ground detection system, and installation of lighting, supported by grid power and cameras. There will also be a 100-foot wide road that runs along the wall, used for Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents to patrol, along with another access road down Yaqui Ridge, which will be within 50 feet of the trail.
“The southern terminus of the Arizona National Scenic Trail is one of the most significant locations along the entire 800-mile trail,” said ATA Executive Director Matthew Nelson. “This is where the Arizona Trail begins, and where the dream of the Arizona Trail was born over 30 years ago. This location was intentionally selected as the cornerstone of the Arizona Trail because of its wild and scenic nature, unencumbered views, and the level of protection offered within a National Park Service unit. Construction of the border wall here is an affront to multiple generations who have worked tirelessly toward the construction, maintenance and protection of the Trail.”
The ATA says that the a barrier in Southern Arizona’s Sky Islands will also bisect critical habitat for endangered jaguars and ocelots, and might end jaguar recovery efforts in the US.
“Wildlife encounters are a vital part of the trail experience, and the border wall will sever the international lifeline for these animals,” said Nelson.
The ATA says that they proposed several measures to reduce the impact of the proposed wall on the trail experience, like using virtual fence technology rather than physical barriers or putting money toward the Arizona Trail Fund for trail construction and maintenance along the rest of the 800-mile trail, but were unsuccessful in getting them approved by the CBP.
“This is devastating to the Arizona Trail and the trail community,” said Nelson. “I hope everyone with a connection to the Arizona Trail and public lands reaches out to their Congressional representatives to express their outrage.”
According to the LA Times, the Trump Administration has spent $15B on the border wall so far, with about 216 miles of newly built barriers, with much of the work largely replacing older barrier systems.
We reached out to the ATA about the timeline of the closure, but they couldn’t be reached immediately. For mountain bikers hoping to ride the full-length of the Arizona Trail, which would be rough at this point in July, the southernmost point of the Arizona Trail that could be accessed looks like it would be off of W. Montezuma Canyon Road.