Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

Now is the time to get involved if you want to influence the outcome of the decision-making process for the new mile-long Downtown Rail Trail project. It’s time to express your views, knowledge, desires and experience so when you walk, ride or visit the trail you will enjoy what you envision.

In August 2021, the City created a survey to collect public input on the design of a Rail Trail for Downtown. They solicited over 4,000 residents and businesses directly surrounding the Rail Trail for their input and received 455 responses. Replies indicated that the design and materials used should celebrate the unique natural landscapes, architectural appearance, diverse history and cultures of the state.

Based on survey results, the most popular elements of their replies were reconnecting East and West Downtown, safe bicycle and pedestrian access to employment centers and transit stations, linking underserved communities to employment and transit and ensuring that the local community benefits from the subsequent investment.

After taking the initial survey into consideration, Metropolitan Redevelopment has released the Albuquerque Rail Trail Framework Plan and is soliciting public input through Jan. 31. 

The Trail is located at the intersection of historic transportation routes El Camino Real, Route 66 and the AT&SF Rail Line. It is being designed as a vibrant and artistic urban trail that will revitalize and catalyze redevelopment of the Downtown area and provide a link to nearby neighborhoods, mass transportation options and the Rail Yards.

At this point what’s in the works is a sustainable trail that has a positive environmental impact that manages stormwater, utilizes local and recycled materials, features native plant species and offers a habitat for pollinator species. Implementation includes ensuring the Trail is continuously activated by identifying a management and operations body to steward the Rail Trail. This includes the following: Develop a strategic plan for Friends of the Rail Trail and hire an executive director. Develop an online presence to build a Trail following and a way for interested parties to engage and contribute. Implement programming events before the trail is built to create momentum and a “buzz”. Develop a Rail Trail programming plan that creates a roadmap for events, art and trail-related activities.

Responders to the original survey want the Rail Trail to be made safe, accessible and welcoming to users of all abilities. Planners are looking for more ideas on how to honor and celebrate the unique culture, art, history and future of the Land of Enchantment. They also welcome ideas for permanent and temporary art within the trail corridor and how to make effective connections to the trail from surrounding neighborhoods, transit stations and bike networks.

Many adjacent buildings to the Rail Trail are prime for development and projects that could actively engage with the trail. The City hopes to boost the local economy through public-private partnerships that provide activities along the trail that will draw people to Downtown.

What is your vision for the Rail Trail? Submit your input by Jan. 31 at 5pm and your ideas can become part of Downtown Albuquerque’s future. Contact: crlithgow@cabq.gov