On a beautiful Saturday morning with clear skies and a comfortable 60° weather, a group of curious El Paso residents decided to learn more about the Playa Drain Trail segment of the Paso Del Norte Trail.
This adventure was possible through a collaboration between Celebration of our Mountains, a local nonprofit dedicated to showcase our region as a top eco-tourism destination, and Live Active EP, a free platform for the community and the City of El Paso to join together in a city-wide movement to promote better health and wellness by encouraging physical activity, improved nutrition, and strong mental health.
Starting at Vocational Pond Park (7464-7484 Balsam Dr, El Paso, TX 79915), Miguel Fraga, a Sustainability Specialist from Quantum Engineering Consultants, introduced the socially-distanced group to the Paso Del Norte Trail by sharing some of its history, and of course, its future.
Once the Paso Del Norte Trail was introduced and everyone became excited to learn more about the trail, Miguel started talking about the many trail amenities (over 50!) this segment has to offer to our community, including wildlife habitats. In February 2020, a generous groups of volunteers installed a burrowing owl habitat and a bat house at this section of the trail. And a couple fo weeks later, our first guests moved in to their new and renovated condos.
After that, and greeting our guests, the 3.4-mile walk began. Everyone was eager to learn more about the trail, especially about the trees along the trail, the wildlife, and of course, how is the whole trail being funded.
The next stop was at Hidden Valley Park (200 Coconut Tree Ln, El Paso, TX 79915) where Miguel shared with the group one of his favorite amenities: Bioswales, landscape features that collect polluted stormwater runoff, soak it into the ground, and filter out pollution. Through funding provided by the National Recreation and Park Association, the City of El Paso installed two bioswales along the Playa Drain Trail. This particular one in front of Hidden Valley Park, was recognized by the Texas Water Development Board last year with an Honorable Mention for the 2020 Rain Catcher Awards.
After a couple of questions, the group then proceeded to continue the tour to the next and final stop. During this stop, Miguel shared some valuable information about bats in our region, including some clarification on popular myths like all bats are blood-sucking (which is not true) and rabies. Then he showed the group another wildlife habitat that is very easy to miss due to its small size and high elevation: a bat house than can hold up to 600 bats!
Once Miguel stopped talking about bats and wildlife habitats, Marianela Milner from the Texas Master Naturalist Program invited the group to become Master Naturalists and learn more about our region's diversity and become even more involved in the community. Miguel thanked everyone in the group for their time and support for the trail and invited them to become Trail Volunteers or Trail Ambassadors, a new Paso Del Norte Trail initiative.
Then, after a refreshing 3.4-mile walk along the Playa Drain Trail, the group then dispersed and went back they own ways with more knowledge about the trail, and hopefully, motivation to come back and support the trail.