People two to 92 are invited to take advantage of 700 feet of new concrete on Proctor Trail in Madera Canyon.

The U.S. Forest service finished the new surface about a week and a half ago,  said Doug Moore, an education director and naturalist with the Friends of Madera Canyon.

The improvement comes after the old asphalt path deteriorated to the point where it was a safety concern. Although the surface is complete and open to the public, there are some final touches on the way and it will be officially unveiled Dec. 3 at 10 a.m.

The improved path brings a new level of access for people using walkers and wheelchairs to explore the trail. The trail is 48 inches wide and has four pullouts allowing for easier wheelchair access and maneuvering.

John Titre, the U.S. Forest Service's Nogales District recreation ranger, said it took about a month to finish the project.

Friends of Madera Canyon President Jim Woodward said the new concrete surface is a welcome site.

"It started out as a trail that was just wide enough for a wheelchair because I used to wheel my mother-in-law up there," he said. "And as it started to age and erode, it eroded from the middle out and the trail ended up being crowned and then it started to disintegrate."

The trail was also more narrow.

Friend's board member Rhonda Woods said two people couldn't walk side-by-side on the old surface. Both Woods and Woodward said there were times they caught their shoes on the broken surface or had trouble with keeping their footing.

"This is heaven," Woodward said with a chuckle. "It's flat, it's wide."

While the new surface will be a boon for many, Woods said.

"Working down at the visitor center, we get a ton of moms and dads, young parents, that want to bring their children up here and need to find a place where they can push a stroller. So, this is accessible if you're two or 92."

"This is safe which is the really great thing," Moore said. "Walking isn't really an easy thing to do with six, eight, fourth graders who can't come out and take a look at the nature in Madera Canyon without having to worry about falling down and hurting themselves – and some of us older folks too."

Moore said he met some disabled veterans Thursday who were able to use the trail with their rolling oxygen tanks whereas a couple of weeks ago it wouldn't have been possible.

There are still two, four foot benches to be added, Titre said.

Other final touches include railings, Woodward said. While some tweaks still need to be made, the immediate impact of the improvements isn't lost on the Friends.

"The idea is that it provides a surface for people that's reliable and they can trust their feet and they can enjoy what they're seeing instead of having to focus on where their feet are going," Woods said. "The moms and dads are going to have just a terrific time and I can see little ones running on this. We've never been able to see that because there was no place for them to do that." 

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732