Some of us may still by unaware that there is a trail that follows Granite Creek right through downtown, beginning south of Mile-High Middle School and running all the way to Granite Creek Park. Till recently it was a quiet, unpaved, unlit path where you could walk next to the creek and not deal with crosswalks or, apart from an occasional dog walker, other people. There are small delights to be found there, including a dragon that someone carved out of a dead tree and a tiny hinged door that a local artist affixed to a knothole at ground level. There is also a mural highighting Prescott history on the retaining wall at the Gurley Street bridge.
Part of the Greenways Trail System, which runs two and a half miles through town, the creek trail is undergoing a transformation that will include wheelchair access, trail widening and paving, lighting and benches. This underappreciated trail will now be not-so-secret and accessible for all to enjoy.
Art and trails are a good fit. Barbara Nelson, a retired attorney who moved to Prescott just before the pandemic hit, was walking along the trail last summer, stopped to observe the local-history mural painted by Beth Newman with Mile-High students in 2001, walked under the bridge and saw another retaining wall on the east side of the creek, about 400 feet long that could also be used for a mural. The following week Barbara attended a lecture by local painter, teacher and muralist Dana Cohn about creativity.
The wheels started spinning in her head, and the trail-mural project began. Barbara met with Dana, who was excited about doing another mural project, as well as Michael Byrd of the Prescott Creeks Preservation Association, who responded enthusiastically to the initiative. Many other connections were made, including with Laurel Freeman, who created the Greenways Gateway Mural Project targeting the La Guardian Underpass, where Montezuma Street passes over Granite Creek in Granite Creek Park. Laurel contributed her idea to include local flora and fauna and use QR codes to identify the various species in the mural. While the projects are not connected, they are certainly related by proximity and theme, and will both be welcome additions to the trail experience.
Cohn has designed panels for the mural depicting the natural landscape of Prescott and including many plants, animals and birds we see locally. The Granite Creek Trail Mural Project is now a 501c3 nonprofit, seeking sponsors among local businesses and individuals. It recently received a seed grant from the Arizona Community Foundation.
One creative aspect of the fundraising is that you can sponsor a specific bird or animal in the mural. City Council member Cathey Rusing expressed enthusiasm for the project: “Prescott has a very vibrant arts, music and culture scene. As the Art in Public Places Committee Council Liaison I’m very supportive of this community art project. In fact, Tom and I are sponsoring the gambel quail!”
When finished, an anti-graffiti wash will be added for protection and longevity. Public response has been overwhelmingly positive, and support for the initiative has begun to come in from local businesses and individuals who see the value of outdoor art in public places.
Both the trail work and mural are scheduled for completion in the coming six months.
For more on the Granite Creek Trail Mural Project, including sketches of the proposed panels and options for donating, visit trailmurals.org or facebook.com/trailmurals.