Designing for Public Access
The latest project stems from a collaboration of ideas between Dave (my supervisor) and myself while hiking one of the free public trails down to the Valle Grande from NM Route 4 (Route 4 is the main road that runs through the Jemez which gives access to not only the Valles Caldera National Preserve, but to Bandelier National Monument and a plethora of trail systems maintained by the National Forest Service). We took this journey to explore what is currently being offered to the public while considering the mission of the Valles Caldera Trust Public Access and Use Plan.
The plan in part [describes the alternatives for the development of facitilities and infrastructure on the preserve, it also serves as a guide for programs and activities for public access and use for recreation, education, scientific research, and other purposes. The purpose of this plan is to expand the current level of public access and use on the preserve while protecting and preserving its natural and cultural resources and values and to provide quality outdoor recreation and interpretive opportunities…] Valles Caldera Trust Summary Public Access and Use Plan. This document and others like it pertaining to the preserve can be found on the VCNP website by clicking here.
The current Valle Grande trail is frequented by hikers who want a short, easy rated trail with beautiful views and access to an area that is close to the Valle Grande. The problem, however, is that the trail ends shortly after the tree line, and a fence at the end of the trail limits accessibility to the grand open space. Because we were on a mission to figure out if we could make this area more accessible, and how, we headed out to what is almost the center of the Valle Grande. We encountered a stream that meanders through and an abundance of wildflowers, grasses and interesting (and very large) insects that I have never seen before. While out there, many of the Caldera’s mountains are clearly visible. We discussed the interpretive options and possibilities that could be highlighted. This would be a great opportunity to collaborate with the interpretive team to possibly add signage discussing a variety of attributes (and my favorite: flowers) in the area.
We discussed how we could improve this trail experience while building upon it to include access to the Valle Grande. The conclusion– a controlled trail into it. But now the question is, how do we do this while protecting the delicate natural ecosystem? Needing to consider cost constraints and the actual trail footprint, we thought the concept of a boardwalk would be the least invasive, most affordable, and could offer access to all– those with disabilities could make their way down this boardwalk via shuttle perhaps (more options for thought). All to be considered when it’s time to actually lay out this structure.
In an effort to get this project off the ground, I gathered some images of boardwalks from different places; prepared some sketches of boardwalk designs; looked into possible shade structures (it can get really hot and dry out there); and started to learn about the dangers of lightning– I’m still a bit stumped on how to handle this. If anyone has any suggestions, please do share.
And so…to further visualize the potential of this boardwalk experience, I created a couple of photoshop renderings to show to Dave, et al. to relay my vision and make sure we were on the same page.
The proposed boardwalk will be approximately 1 mile in length, leading to a central area within the Valle Grande. I am currently waiting on a contour map so that I can practice the “slope” formula and layout the boardwalk over the distance of approximately one mile and many contours. If I didn’t have it down last semester, I sure will after this!