Bagdad Operations Enhances Fire Safety and Quality of Life with Multi-use Trail

October 25, 2021

Efforts underway to protect Bagdad from the impacts of devastating wildfires will offer additional benefits, providing the proverbial "win-win" scenario for the community.

A network of trails meandering through the hills in the west central Arizona company town provide all-important fire breaks and access for fire and emergency vehicles while also giving Bagdad residents a jewel of a recreational resource. Work on the trails started in the weeks after the Spur Fire in May, and the project's completion date will be based on the availability of the mine operations staff and necessary equipment.

"We really wanted good routes for emergency vehicles, so we've worked on connecting the firebreaks and the routes in the best way, which sometimes means cutting some new line to improve the access and the defensible space wherever we need to," said Sebastian Tingler, Support Equipment Operator II-Bagdad. "We've been working on it for the last couple months, just doing little chunks at a time, but only when it doesn't affect production at the mine."

After the Spur Fire destroyed 13 Bagdad homes, the approval for the community improvement project to build the network was swift and immediate, said Matt Mocaby, Supervisor-Mine Operations, who is heading up the mine ops crew that works on the trails during downtime at the pit.

"We had a fire come close a year ago, and we had started talking about doing something with all the old roads and defensible space, but we didn't follow through," Mocaby said. "After the Spur Fire this summer, I went to leadership to ask about getting approval, and they said, 'Get a plan and get working on it because we're going to do everything we can to protect our community.'"

Mocaby envisioned not just the fire safety benefits but the huge payoffs in the quality of life for Bagdad residents from the recreational resource provided by the network of fire breaks and emergency access routes. 

"We really wanted to come up with an idea where everyone in the community, regardless of their age, would feel safe on the community trail," Mocaby said. "We didn't want them to be side-by-side with motorized vehicles, and we wanted the trails to be comfortable and walkable."

And for the slightly more adventurous

Though the trail will be wide and congenial, the network also will provide connections to more technical trails for mountain bike riders and trail runners. Those are being carved by "Two-Wheel Tuesday," a volunteer trail crew organized by Garrett Hill, Geologist II-Bagdad.

The trails the employees and their family members have spent the last couple years' worth of Tuesdays scratching with hand tools and a small excavator are rideable for all levels, Hill said.

"My daughter is 8 years old, and she can ride anything we've made so far. We're making trails that everybody can go out and have fun on," Hill said. "In five years, I hope to have close to 20 miles of trail that connects all the parts of town but also gets people out to see parts they've never seen before."

A sense of place for Bagdad

Replacing the crest of the arc burned across the hills above the Little League field on the southern edge of town will be a community gathering spot, one very nearly as visible as the giant, white "B" for Bagdad High School on the opposite side of town.

"I was driving down Lindahl Road looking at the fire scar and just decided the town needed something to reframe the Spur Fire, a way to see and represent how Bagdad responded as a family," said Todd Westfall, Senior Surveyor-Bagdad. "When I saw what Matt and his group were planning with the fire breaks and the community-use trail, I saw a big opportunity to have something special there to pay tribute to the resilience of the town and the way people help each other here."

The gathering spot will function as something of the hub of the roughly 5.5 miles of old roads, trails and new connections being worked into the network.

"It definitely worked out, because above the Little League field where this common area will be is a focal point for the community," Westfall said. "We have the opportunity to have a variety of educational resources to teach science and even have QR codes for people to scan with their phones to get information about the native plants, fire-wise information, town history, all kinds of things."

The more residents who get out to tromp on the trails, the more fire-safe they'll be making Bagdad.

"The more people use the trails, the more it keeps some of the brush and debris down, and so it kind of maintains itself if folks are using it," said Anthony Tunis, Williamson Valley-Bagdad Fire District Deputy Chief. "I mean, it really is a win-win situation."



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