Mountain Biking Program Is First Challenge For New Outdoor Coordinator

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Former Town of Payson recreation coordinator Mary McMullen has taken on a new challenge.

She is now the town's first-ever town coordinator for Trails and Outdoor Recreation.

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Which means, she spends most of her working time planning outdoor programs and kickstarting a townwide trails plan, now known as PATS (Payson Area Trails System).

Building a program from scratch is a daunting responsibility, but reaching for new heights is nothing new for McMullen. She was a high school sports star in Paradise, Calif. before accepting a track-and-field scholarship to the University of Washington.

She later transferred to the University of California at Davis, where she continued her highjumping career for the Bears track team.

Before joining the town's park and recreation department, she was the Wellness Center coordinator at Gila Community College.

With two sons active in youth sports and a husband, Craig, who coaches Little League baseball, she's well versed in the local sports, athletic and recreation scene.

Last summer, McMullen eased into her new outdoor recreation job after Joe Harris was hired to take over her previous recreation coordinator responsibilities.

"This has been extremely exciting, creating a new branch of the parks and recreation department programming," McMullen said.

Among the first outdoor recreation programs McMullen will host is Mountain Biking 101, which will be held 9 a.m. to noon, Oct. 20 at Rumsey Park. The fee is $15 and participants must have their own mountain bike and helmet.

Also on the upcoming agenda are a Dutch oven Cooking Class and a Wilderness First Aid Certification class.

The Dutch oven class will be held 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 3 at Rumsey Park Ramada III. The fee is $30 and Dutch ovens will be supplied to those who do not have their own.

"The class will include a ‘Thanksgiving flavor'," McMullen said.

The first Dutch oven cooking class, held last month at the Northern Gila County Fair, was an overwhelming success that filled up almost immediately.

"It had a waiting list and this one is already 75 percent full," McMullen said.

The inaugural First Aid course will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 10-11 at the Payson Public Library meeting room. The fee is $95, which includes a three-year certification.

Although the 2008 Outdoor Recreation schedule is in the planning stages, McMullen anticipates it will be finalized next month and published in the town's winter/ spring recreation brochure.

Among the programs McMullen expects to host are an after school archery program, at least two free fishing days at Green Valley Park, an Outdoor Women's Weekend, fly fishing, rod building and fly-tying classes, a disc-golf tournament, stargazing classes, a watchable wildlife program and family movie nights at the GVP amphitheater.

While some program dates have not been set, the free fishing days are on the calender for March 1 and April 12 at GVP.

The first will be co-hosted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the second by the Optimist Club.

The Outdoor Women's Weekend will be held May 2-4 in Payson. Assisting will be the state game and fish department and the Jim Jones Shooting range.

The disc-golf tournament will be in January 2008 and the family movie nights and stargazing classes held throughout the summer.

Although the list of new programs is extensive, McMullen is willing to add even more.

"I look forward to other ideas from the community," she said. "We are broadening the horizons of our recreation offerings."

Building PATS

In addition to hosting the outdoor recreation programs, McMullen oversees the planning and building of 20 miles of trails in the forest areas surrounding Payson.

McMullen and her PATS task force volunteers spend their time clearing trails and placing signs for future hikers.

She also is in the midst of soliciting funds from individuals, businesses and groups in the Payson area to support PATS.

The program has a 10-year goal date of completing the project with funding from town, state and federal grants and donations.

"The donations, McMullen said, "will accelerate the trail building process and allow our community to enjoy PATS sooner."

She also anticipates the trails system will leave a legacy for future generations to relish.

For more information on PATS or outdoor recreation programs, call Mullen at (928) 474-5242, ext. 7.

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