The Arizona Trail is scheduled to be rerouted to avoid the tailings and waste rock area planned for the Rosemont Mine project. Map courtesy Arizona Trail Assn.

The Arizona Trail Association (ATA) is collaborating with the United States Forest Service and HudBay /Rosemont Mine Copper Project to reroute a section of the original Arizona Trail in Las Colinas Passage north of Sonoita, located on public land.

The Arizona National Scenic Trail is an 800-mile trail that traverses the length of Arizona from Mexico to Utah. It begins at the Coronado National Memorial near the
U.S./Mexico border and moves north through parts of the Huachuca, Santa Rita, and Rincon Mountains.

In a plan developed more than six years ago, approximately ten miles of trail will be rerouted for public safety to avoid the designated area for waste rock and tailings from the proposed mining operation west of highway 83 between mile posts 43 and 47. “A portion of the trail…that we are abandoning and will be closed and naturalized in the future is within their [Rosemont Mine’s] perimeter fence, which is used to keep the public away from tailings piles. So yes, a portion of the Arizona National Scenic Trail will be buried under waste rock,” wrote Matthew Nelson, executive director of ATA.

ATA and Rosemont Mine have agreed on a mitigation package. Rosemont has committed $650,000 to fund the relocation of the trail, which will include two trailheads, ramadas, restroom, water, fencing, gates and a kiosk.

As described by the ATA, “The new segment of trail will leave the existing route at AZT mile 87.7 just north of Box Canyon Road. It will be located on the east side of highway 83 for most of its 10.6 miles, crossing back under near Mulberry Canyon and rejoining the existing route near AZT mile 94.2. The two highway 83 crossings will traverse under the highway through existing culverts, the south crossing at Oak Tree Canyon and the north crossing at Hidden Springs. The new trail is on Coronado National Forest land.”

The new trail route, designed by Mark Flint of Southwest Trails Solutions, will be 11 miles long. Flint states, “In terms of aesthetics, it has some really nice features. It does go under and parallel SR 83, so there is considerably more road noise than on the original. We emphasized sustainable design, which is a huge improvement over the original, and will mean a better experience for trail users as well as reduced maintenance needs.”

The American Conservation Experience, a registered non-profit organization that provides a range of voluntary service programs for both American and international participants, is scheduled to start work on the new trail on Sept. 4 and finish Nov. 20, 2019.

If the Rosemont Mine does not go into production, both trails will remain open. The original trail is still open for public use at this point and hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and equestrians are encouraged to experience this section of the trail before it is no longer available. This original part of the trail is between Box Canyon/Forest Road 62 (AZT mile 84) and Barrel Canyon (AZT mile 94).