In the summer of 2016, the city of Phoenix caused an uproar by destroying an important mountain bike trail at Papago Park and turning most of the really fun spots into a 5k running path.
Look, this wasn’t the world’s greatest trail. But Papago Park is where many Phoenix area riders got hooked on riding. It’s where we took friends to show them the ropes. It’s where we hold silly-ass races for quick after-work fun. And it’s right in the middle of a major city — it’s hard to find an amenity like the Papago trails anywhere else — just minutes from an international airport.
A bunch of mountain bikers want the city of Phoenix to destroy the 5k trail and restore it to singletrack. They come up with excuses about sustainability and public input and whatever. And I get it. But they’re also just pissed, and they’re more than a bit self-centered. Those associated with the Operation: Saving Papago are also way too pleased with themselves for forcing the issue onto a city meeting agenda (hint: City entities move really slowly, and you need to ride Papago That Is before deciding you really, really want Papago The Was). In their self-righteous fury, the group overlooks other solutions to the situation.
I’m glad that my former East Valley Tribune colleague Ray Stern dug into this and unraveled a pretty crappy situation. And I hope the city learns from its error.
On the plus side, it appears that someone with time and know-how built some new singletrack. And it’s flippin’ sweet if a bit rough around the edges. We’re talking about steep chutes, lots of twists and some opportunities to catch air.
I hadn’t ridden here since I first encountered the 5K trail that replaces the original Papago Park trail. It was absolutely pointless to do so. It’s just not fun riding. But I was pressed for time and determined to get some mileage. And I hoped against all reason that someone had been at work doing something to rectify the situation.
And these trails I found? I’m diggin’ them, as was every single other rider I talked to this weekend. I now like riding Papago better than I ever have before. The new trails remind me just a bit of Fantasy Island, minus all the silly decorations. Much of the new trails are part of the Strava info you see above, where it’s known collectively as “1/2 Vigilante.” It continues west, though, and it seems those bits aren’t on Strava.
You know what? I’m even more convinced that the best course is to let the other users have their trail. Adopt the new singletrack, and maybe even add more of it. Find the trailbuilders, and allow us to take them out for beer. Hell, name the trails after them!
Something tells me this is not the trails the city would’ve designed at Papago Park. They’re a little too fun and just don’t have that bureaucratic municipal stank. So get out there, ride these and make sure the city doesn’t feel comfortable trashing them like they did the old trails, OK?
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