COCHISE COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Due to the complexity of the road construction happening at Chiricahua National Monument, the closure of Bonita Canyon Scenic Drive beyond the campground to the upper canyon trailheads and viewpoints has been extended until March 31.
"Employees from Granite Construction are completing 70 hour work weeks with 50 percent more people, the maximum the job site can accommodate, assigned to this project" said Project Engineer, Austin Hopper in a recent release. "The work is taking much longer than originally estimated."
During the road closure, no traffic will be allowed to go to Massai Point, Echo Canyon, Sugarloaf Mountain, and the Natural Bridge trailhead parking areas. The hikers' shuttle is not running. Walking or bicycling along the scenic drive is not allowed for the safety of visitors and heavy equipment operators.
Hiking trails are open from the visitor center, which is open daily 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Faraway Ranch house tours are offered Wednesday through Sunday at 11 am and 2 pm. Meet at the benches near the house for the 45-minute program.
"We apologize for the inconvenience these road repairs will cause park visitors. The damage to the scenic drive caused by repeated flash floods had rendered the road unsafe requiring the closure until repairs can be made. We are striving to complete the work as expeditiously as possible. Chiricahua National Monument is an amazing National Park Service site with much to offer and we are looking forward to being fully open soon" said Superintendent Allen Etheridge, in the same release.
People planning to stay at the 25-site Bonita Canyon Campground should make reservations at www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777. This is the Park's busiest season and the campground is often full.
Work on the 950 square foot upper retaining wall is nearly finished, while progress on the lower 3,000 square foot retaining wall near the Natural Bridge Trailhead is taking much longer than expected. To correct the original issue, the undercutting of the scenic drive by flash floods, crews need to excavate the existing roadway eight feet below the creek bed for a total depth of twenty-one feet. Next they build wire forms which are filled with rock to create the retaining wall in layers 18 inches deep at a time. This structure will repair the existing safety hazard and prevent undercutting of the historic road by future flooding of Bonita Creek.
Twelve of the sixteen water culverts and rock headwalls in the road closure area have been replaced. Plans for four additional culvert replacements were approved with eleven more days needed to complete the work. To finish the upper retaining wall, crews are cutting existing pavement and building forms to create 1,400 feet of curbs and gutters. This will be another method of protection against future erosion. Project participants also include Intermountain Slurry Seal and the Federal Highways Administration.