In an effort to help inform the voters of Taos in the upcoming Town Council elections (Mar 3rd), TMBA asked each of the four candidates a series of questions about where they stand on trails, mountain biking, and recreational tourism for the Town of Taos.
The questions were sent out to all four candidates Sunday evening (admittedly, a bit short notice) and we received 3 responses. Of those, only incumbent candidate Darien Fernandez responded to the specific questions. Each candidate answers are included below (click to expand):Darien Fernandez
1. How often do you use Taos area trails? (Hiking, Biking, Jogging, Horseback). Weekly
2. What is your favorite trail? I like Horsethief for biking, Italianos for hiking, and William’s Lake for uphill ski traveling.
3. Do you, or anyone in your family mountain bike? How often? My partner and I mountain bike about 2-3 times a month. We also enjoy riding our cruiser bikes downtown. I personally have taken up road biking in the last year.
4. Are you aware that the South Boundary Trail is the only “IMBA Epic Trail” in New Mexico, a designation by the International Mountain Bike Association that recognizes destination-worthy trails of extraordinary value? Yes. When I was a shuttle driver and tour guide with Turquoise Tours, I used that as a selling point.
5. In Chaffee County (Salida), mountain bike tourism generates over $600,000 in labor income and $130,000 in state and local taxes annually. Where do you see mountain bike tourism fitting into Taos’ economic development future? I see the opportunity for much growth in the outdoor recreation economy in Taos and New Mexico. Our Governor, whom I helped elect, gets it, and established the state outdoor recreation department. Outdoor recreation has been an industry I’ve advocated for as a way to diversify our economy.
6. Please list what you believe are some community benefits of more trails, both in and near town. Lower rates of obesity and higher quality of life, especially when trails are located near lower income neighborhoods. Also, less of a carbon footprint.
7. Would you say Taos’ trail infrastructure (both in and out of town) is poor, adequate, or as good as it needs to be? Poor.
8. Where does funding for trail infrastructure fall in your list of priorities? As this impacts health, safety, public welfare, economic, and environmental concerns, I rank it high on the list. I’d have to put emergency responders and water infrastructure above trails infrastructure, though, as those services are constitutionally mandated.
9. If elected, how likely are you to support a public tax measure to support the development of trial infrastructure both in and around Taos? I’ve expressed support for a countywide recreation tax since I was first elected in 2016.
10. If elected, would you sponsor an ordinance that ensures all future roadway improvements undertaken within the town of Taos must include pedestrian and bike infrastructure and considerations? Yes, and the current plans from the New Mexico Department of Transportation highway 68 paving project call for such infrastructure. I would take it a step further and ask the council to approve funding for bike maintenance stations with tools that are available for use but still tethered securely to a post, similar to ones I’ve seen in New Orleans and other cities.
11. How is the Town participating in branding itself as pedestrian and bike friendly? Do you support the installation of trail map kiosks, trail head signs, the inclusion of trail maps on Town websites, and creating partnerships and supporting organizations focused on trail system branding? Councilmember Maestas and I have pushed for the council and our marketing director to include such branding in our media posts and in partnership with the Ski Valley. Our marketing director has expressed support for that branding effort. I do support the installation of map kiosks, signs, and more, and think the town should use some one-time monies available to us in our budget to help fund this. Our Mainstreet Board is also a key partner in making this work downtown.
12. We work closely with the Enchanted Circle Trails Association (ECTA) and regional municipalities in implementing the Enchanted Circle Trails Plan, however, the Town of Taos is unique in its reluctance to engage with ECTA in an official capacity. Do you support the Town of Taos partnering with ECTA in order to prioritize regional outdoor recreation as an economic driver? I do, and have asked [the Town Manager] to work with [ECTA] and others.
13. The Town of Taos states that it values pedestrian and bike lanes and yet we are not aware of any trail projects in the top ten priorities of the ICIP. If elected, do you support the inclusion of trail projects in the ICIP? I do support the inclusion of trail projects in the ICIP, and one of those is the proposed bicycle pump track at the gravel pit. I will add that a project does not need to be in the top ten priorities to be funded. Sometimes we are encouraged by our legislators to fund projects outside of the top ten list as monies are available from the state or federal government. I’ll add that I’ve advocated for more trail and outdoor recreation infrastructure since I was 15 years old and lobbied the council and mayor for a skate park for three years.
Mr. Romero stated in part “…I think the Town of Taos, Taos County, Taos Ski Valley, BLM and Forrest Service would benefit from a collaborative initiative, so the use of these trails is recognized, utilized and benefits the public. As we all know Taos’ has great outdoor opportunities that can have tremendous benefit for youth, outdoor rec., and general public. Not to mention possible generated income for all entities. This is an important topic that if elected I would like to discuss in further detail. Thank you for your time and I look forward to working with TMBA.”