Barrier Free Trail at the Beloved Jewel
The beautiful Jewel of the Creek Preserve is one of our most-loved properties. Protected in through the support of generous donors and state grant funding, the preserve protects important riparian habitat along Cave Creek. It is also home to a trailhead and heavily used trails that connect to Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, Tonto National Forest and the Maricopa Trail.
We identified the upper portion of the Harry Dalton Trail as a candidate for a universal access trail for users of all abilities, including wheelchairs. This was particularly appealing to Member Relations and Operations Manager, Mary Warren and her family. Mary’s son, Travis Warren, passed away in 2012, and a number of generous gifts to the Land Trust were made in his memory. Travis was an Iraq war veteran, and found solace in natural areas like the Jewel. It was hoped that we could use these contributions to improve trail access that would benefit other veterans.
Matt Woodson of Okanagon Trail Construction visited the Jewel to discuss the project. He pointed out that the trail down to the creek could also be made accessible. It would be the most challenging level of difficulty for a universal access trail, but it would possible for those in assisted wheelchairs to reach the riparian area along the creek.
Matt and the OTC trail crew began work on the trail improvements in the fall of 2014. The trail was originally strewn with large boulders, requiring careful footing and a bit of scramble up and down the hill for hikers. The crew removed the boulders, placing many of them along the trail as a safety barrier. Rock was drilled out to level the trail, and the entire length was compacted. The accessible portion of the trail ends at the rock “amphitheater” near the creek.
At the top of the trail, from the trailhead parking area to the bluff overlook, the trail was also smoothed, graded and compacted. That work was generously donated by OTC, who were enthusiastic about the purpose behind the project.
In total, the work improved ¼ mile of the Dalton Trail. We’re still working on a few “wayfinding” signs along the improved trail, as well as an entry sign with information about the preserve. Once that work is complete, we will host a re-dedication event to celebrate the preserve.
Connecting people to land is a crucial part of the mission of Desert Foothills Land Trust. Our preserves protect sensitive resources, wildlife habitat and cultural resources. They also support the people who live and work here – the people who will protect and steward the land in the future. Now, through the support of generous donors, we are pleased to make our incredible desert landscape accessible to even more people. We are also pleased that this work will serve as a tribute to those who serve our country, including Travis Warren.