Earlier this year, the Paso del Norte Health Foundation (PDNHF) announced a partnership with the City of El Paso and El Paso Water to build a linear trail on the Playa Drain from Ascarate Park to Riverside High School. Now, officials with PDNHF want to meet with the public to discuss and share ideas about the project.
Tracy J. Yellen, CEO, Paso del Norte Health Foundation, says , “The Playa Drain Trail will offer opportunities for recreation and physical activity (walking/biking) for use by residents throughout the region and as an alternative to driving for near-by residents, and is part of the Health Foundation’s commitment to making active living the easy choice in our region.”
The Playa Drain Trail project is possible because of the creativity and collaboration of multiple entities committed to improving quality of life in the region. El Paso Water purchased the Playa Drain from the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 (Improvement District) in 2014 for $2.75 million to become part of the storm water management system.
El Paso Water entered into an agreement with the City of El Paso to allow use of the Playa Drain for recreation, with the City committing to its maintenance.
The City also committed $300,000 for amenities on the trail as part of the 2012 Quality of Life Bond Project. Finally, the Health Foundation Board approved up to $2,000,000 for design and construction for a 3.4 mile section with the goal of leveraging additional funds to convert the entire 8- mile stretch of the Playa Drain from Ascarate Park to Capistrano Park (just past Ysleta High School) into a safe, well-designed walking and biking trail.
Ultimately, the Health Foundation seeks to work with multiple partners like the City and County of El Paso to develop an ambitious, and potentially continuous, county-wide urban trail.
The Playa Drain is part of the El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 Historic District, a large, narrow district that spans from Caballo Reservoir in New Mexico south along the Rio Grande, following the Franklin and Riverside canals and their associated laterals and drains.
According to the Improvement District, drains, like the nearly 100-year old Playa Drain, were developed to carry salty water that leached from the cotton fields during irrigation. The drains are characteristically deep, versus irrigation canals which are above ground, allowing water to flow through the soil and into the drains, removing the salt that can be harmful to farming.
For the Health Foundation, the conversion of the drain from its historical use to a storm water and recreation use helps the Health Foundation promote health in the region.
Foundation officials say that their research shows nearly 30% of adults in El Paso have reported no physical activity over the last 30 days. A sedentary life is often associated with poor health.
“We believe that well-designed trails that are close to neighborhoods and connected to other amenities like parks and schools will promote physical activity and make active living the easy choice for residents in our region,” says Yellen.
She adds, “We extend our sincere thanks to the Improvement District, El Paso Water and City of El Paso for their partnership on this project and look forward to working with residents in the neighborhoods around the Playa Drain and throughout the community to promote active living in our region.”
With the partnerships and funding in place for the Ascarate Park-Riverside High School portion of the Playa Drain Trail, the Health Foundation and partners turn their focus from visioning to design.
To that end, they are inviting the community to join them for the first set of public planning meetings to work on the trail design:
Wednesday, May 17, 2017 – 6 p.m.
Riverside High School Cafeteria
Wednesday, June 28, 2017 – 6 p.m.
Riverside High School Cafeteria
For more information, contact Tracy Yellen, Paso del Norte Health Foundation at [email protected] or 915-544- 7636.