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Stairizona Trail offers ‘History by the Foot’

Artist Aili Sneezy, age 14, completed this large mural with help of her mother. She has been painting since age 2.

While hikers from all over the world come to Arizona to hike the 800-mile Arizona Trail, they may soon be coming to Globe to hike the local attraction known as the Stairizona Trail, which made its public debut during Old Dominion Days at the end of September.

Billing the attraction as “History by the Foot,” I Art committee member and Globe native Regina Ortega-Leonardi has worked with Chair Thea Wilshire to bring the project to fruition in the wake of BHP’s temporary closure of Old Dominion Mine Park and the loss of Forestry trails after a series of wildfires.

“It’s been fun, but it’s a lot of work,” Ortega-Leonardi says. “But it’s very purposeful work. I just love it, it gives me an opportunity to give back to my hometown and also work with people like Thea, the mayor and the community at large.”

Regina Ortega-Leonardi and Thea Wilshire of I ART GLOBE hosted walking tours during the recent Old Dominion Days.

The Stairizona Trail is actually two trails with a third under development. The first is a short 1.4-mile route encompassing four sets of stairs and one hidden pedestrian bridge. The longer, 2.6-miler covers six sets of stairs and two bridges. Still under construction is a 6.4-mile trail that includes eight sets of stairs and three bridges as well as a portion that takes urban hikers to Globe Historic Cemetery and the “G” hill west of Globe.

The stairs are scattered throughout the neighborhoods surrounding the downtown area and were built in the mid-1930s by the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA), which also built sidewalks and retaining walls.

Construction of the staircases followed routes that were likely created by early residents of Globe in order to navigate the hills around town.

Art and recreation

The Stairizona Trail project had its beginnings in the Arts Advisory Commission (AAC)—currently on pause—that was established by a City Council resolution in early 2019.

The AAC was created to advise the city on public art projects, but was put on ice during the COVID pandemic.

Stating a mission to “support a creative community that enhances and expands public and private art of all forms to enrich the vitality, diversity and character of our city” the AAC was composed of Wilshire, Ortega-Leonardi and local artist and poet Libby Rooney, as well as a few other community members.

“The City wanted this commission to create guidelines and establish some kind of plan and some order if somebody wanted to bring art to our community,” Ortega-Leonardi says. “I think with COVID and a variety of other things, it just wasn’t a priority and never came to fruition.”

But Wilshire and Ortega-Leonardi worked so well together and had developed such a rapport, they decided to strike out on their own and established I Art Globe.

“We worked really well together and wanted to create art sooner rather than later,” Ortega-Leonardi says. “People were affected by COVID, we had massive fires and floods that were rampaging and demoralizing. It was just disheartening for the community.”

Teaming up with the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts, I Art Globe began seeking donations for more than a dozen local art projects, including the downtown mural project and the Stairizona Trail.

The group finally settled on the idea of “12 projects in 12 months,” and started fundraising in earnest.

With donations from Freeport McMoRan, BHP, local philanthropist Peter Beasley, State Farm Insurance and $1,000 from an Arizona Creative Communities Initiative grant to purchase copper paint to repaint the pedestrian bridge on North Sutherland Street, the project began with about $70,000 in the I Art Globe coffers.

The funds helped clean up the areas around the stairs, create maps and hire artists who painted the staircases, retaining walls and other spaces where murals were appropriate.

Aili Sneezy, at 2 years of age and today at 14. Courtesy Photos

Among the contributing artists was 14-year-old Aili Sneezy, whose family has deep roots in the San Carlos and Globe communities.

Sneezy, who painted the retaining wall at the north end of the Sutherland bridge, has been an artist since she was a toddler and has also published some of her writing.

The high school freshman lives in Mesa and attends the Arizona Lutheran Academy in South Phoenix, and in addition to her art and writing plays softball, is on the cheer squad and is a student council ambassador. Her days usually begin at 5:30 a.m. and often don’t end until 6 p.m.

She is grateful to Ortega-Leonardi, Wilshire, I Art Globe and the Cobra Valley Center of the Arts for the opportunity.

“It feels great to have my art displayed where people can see it,” Sneezy says. “Some people might be a little scared or uneasy about it, but I think making myself known is very good.”

Aili Sneezy and her mother Isabella Sneezy drove up to Globe over the course of two days for a total of about 12 hours. Through heat and aggressive wasps and mosquitoes, Aili persevered, and with the help of a fresh coat of copper-colored paint on the bridge, created a visually stunning addition to the project.

Aili credits her mother for helping her along on her artistic journey.

“My mother taught me a lot of art tips when I was younger, and I kind of rolled with it,” she says. “When I got older, I kind of just took that to heart and that’s been my hobby ever since.”

Ortega-Leonardi appreciates Sneezy’s talent and humility.

“At that age, you can be very self conscious, so this is a really big boost just to support her talents,” she says. “Her parents are obviously such a key component of her support, as you want parents to be.”

What’s next

The latest mural under construction. Courtesy photo

The next phase of the Stairizona Trail system is to finalize the long trail and Ortega-Leonardi hopes to create an interactive map that can be accessed through a phone app, although a hard-copy map will be available once the project is finished.

Eventually, the Starizona Trail will feature 35 different art installations highlighting the work of more than a dozen various artists and groups throughout the Globe-Miami-San Carlos region and from across the state.

Ortega-Leonardi says the work would not have been possible without the assistance of the City of Globe, particularly the Public Works Department that trimmed trees, cleared brush and removed trash, as well as moving more than 10 tons of rock.

They also planted more than 200,000 poppy seeds with money donated from the Cathy Sanchez-Cañez Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization that honors the late Miami High School teacher who died tragically in July 2019 when her vehicle was washed away in a flash flood.

Ortega-Leonardi is the community engagement coordinator for the Foundation that was founded for her longtime friend and is doing the work to improve the community she loves.

“There’s just so many folks who have contributed and it’s nice to kind of jump on the team no matter what we might be focusing on,” she says. “And it’s always for the greater good for the city.”

For information on what’s in store or to volunteer to help with the project, call the I Art Globe Hotline at 808-373-0032 and ask for Regina, email leonardir001@gmail.com or DrTheaW@yahoo.com, There is also a Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/483459872873383 and facebook.com/groups/globecleanandbeautiful.

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