A popular trail through the cactus forest at Saguaro National Park east of Tucson will be upgraded and given a hardened surface to make it suitable for visitors who use a wheelchair or other equipment to assist with mobility.
The 0.7-mile Mica View Trail, which links a trailhead near the eastern end of Broadway with the Mica View Picnic Area, will be closed from Feb. 22 through May while work is underway.
Once reopened, the trail will meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act for recreation trails, said Andy Fisher, spokeswoman for the park.
“It will be known as a challenge trail,” Fisher said. “It’s not intended to be a pedestrian sidewalk. It’s more adventurous, but still suitable for mobility impairment.”
She said workers will use a stabilizer product to create a hardened surface without paving the trail.“It’s not going to look like a sidewalk through the desert,” Fisher said. “It will blend nicely.”
She said the park’s other two trails suitable for wheelchair use — one in the district east of Tucson and another in the west district — are quarter-mile paved loops that offer “more of a stroll, not really a hike.”
The trail, which has been open to equestrian use, will be closed to horseback riding when the project is complete due to the nature of the upgrades, Fisher said. Alternate routes from the Broadway trailhead to the picnic area will be available to equestrians.
The area has more than a dozen other trails for hikers and equestrians.
Darla Sidles, superintendent of the park, said, “We are pleased to be improving access through the historic cactus forest for all of our visitors. This project will make it easier for visitors with limited mobility to enjoy this iconic landscape and their backyard national park.”
The Mica View Trail, know for its rich mix of desert vegetation, attracted attention last year when a dramatically leaning cactus — known as the leaning tower of saguaro — remained standing for months before finally toppling to the ground.
Fisher didn’t have a cost estimate for the project but said it will be partially funded through grants from the Friends of Saguaro National Park and the Arizona Trails Heritage Fund.