In 2015, the New Mexico legislature established a vision for a 500-mile, cross-state, recreational trail for hiking, biking, and horseback riding along the Rio Grande. With the intention of moving the Rio Grande Trail from vision to reality, the State Parks Division hired Alta to lead an 18-month master planning process. In December 2018, the Plan was officially adopted with dozens of miles of existing trail already designated as official segments of the Rio Grande Trail.
In addition to leading field work, collecting data, identifying the trail alignment, and developing design concepts and an implementation strategy, Alta was charged with leading a robust public outreach campaign across the state.
The team worked closely with key leaders and elected officials on the Rio Grande Trail Commission, as well as tribal groups, key stakeholders, and various community groups throughout the state. Because the project area was so expansive, stretching from Mexico to Colorado, and Alta wanted to solicit as much input as possible, the team developed a virtual open house.
Alta designed this virtual open house to mimic the experience of an in-person open house. Because it is hosted online, this format has the advantage of lasting longer than a single event and being available to people regardless of the transportation available to them, or other limitations to their time or accessibility. The interactive website featured different “stations” that participants explored at their own pace — choosing where to spend more or less time, depending on their interest.
The graphically rich content and animations made the site easy to navigate and the technical information easy to understand. The site offered a variety of ways to learn about the plan and to give feedback rather than using a single style of communication. Input from the virtual open house informed the plan vision, trail typologies, anticipated trail users, trail alignment, management strategies, and trail branding.
The virtual open house garnered feedback from nearly 2,000 residents and stakeholders across the state, which not only informed the plan, but allowed the community to be part of the process.
Through this exercise, the project team was able to refine the project’s goals and better understand how the preferences of existing and future trails users, and of the communities along the Rio Grande, could be reflected in the proposed trail route. The plan identifies key destinations and trailheads along its route, includes conceptual design of the Rio Grande Trail, estimates potential economic and community benefits of the trail, and provides a work plan for moving forward to implementation.
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