jfrishmanIII wrote:Thought-provoking topic, Bubba! I must say, I don't really mind that New Mexico flies a bit under the radar in the park system. We've got quite a few great Monuments, and those offer most of the benefits the Parks without attracting the same level of crowds. I agree with you that we do need places where people who require good access and amenities can appreciate the natural landscape, but I don't think it's necessarily elitist to prefer a low-profile approach in regard to new designations.
I do not think the "under the radar" mentality is itself elitist. Rather, I was commenting on the conceit that parks are only for those how venture into the wilderness. There are a lot of parks, like Lassen and North Cascades, that generally go under the radar, as far as the public at large is concerned. I do not think that their park status has impaired them significantly, but it does mean that more people are able to appreciate them, at least in the front country.
jfrishmanIII wrote:In regard to the Jemez specifically, I'm tempted to say the park idea is a solution in search of a problem. The one obvious candidate for that problem is the Valles Caldera Preserve, which is failing in its mandate to be self-sufficient and is very weirdly managed, resulting in lousy public access laden with strange red tape. If accessing the Preserve had only the bureaucratic hassles of the average national park, that would be a huge improvement from the current situation! (Although some changes are currently in the works which may improve both access and amenities.)
You are correct. It is the problematic status of the preserve that has always had me thinking in this direction. If not for the administrative black hole the area finds itself in, I do not think it would have occurred to me (or others).
jfrishmanIII wrote:I don't feel that the Caldera on its own has sufficient attractions and interest to stand as a national park, but combined with Bandelier it's a possibility. There are a good number of folks in New Mexico advocating for just that solution.
I agree that the caldera alone is not "national park material" on its own, though there are lower thresholds that have made it. However, the caldera, plus Bandelier, plus some of the national forest attractions, plus the White Rock area plus the tent rocks... Well, now you have a robust natural, historic and cultural base upon which an excellent park can be established. There literally would be something for everyone.
jfrishmanIII wrote:Of course the big problem is budget.
As always. It is a travesty that the stimulus was disbursed without filling the NPS and USFS coffers to overflowing. I am not sure why the environmental and recreational movements are not howling in protest.
jfrishmanIII wrote:All Bandelier's money is going towards mitigating the effects of the 2011 fire and floods at the main visitor center, while the backcountry trails are being neglected. They're in no position these days to take on management and maintenance of more land and roads and trails. Also, grazing and hunting are mandated to continue in the caldera, and any proposal to change that would have some tricky waters to navigate.
Hopefully, the new status would bring new funds (which the NPS, of course, does not have).
jfrishmanIII wrote:Your Pedernal and White Rock Canyon units are fun ideas. White Rock would make more sense as part of a Jemez Park; part of the canyon is already in Bandelier, and there are some great trails in other parts. A trail system that linked those with the ones in Bandelier would be awesome.
Absolutely. I think a trail beginning in White Rock and then climbing all the way up to the high country and then looping back down would rock. Honestly, I think that could have the potential to become New Mexico's signature trail.
jfrishmanIII wrote:Pedernal, on the other hand, would face fierce opposition from the locals who run cows, cut wood, gather pinon and hunt up there, and it has decent access and is not particularly threatened the way things are. It also begs the question Why that area and not others? The Grulla Plateau, Teakettle Rock, San Pedro Parks, Gilman Tunnels and the mesas near Jemez Springs all come to mind as potential additions to such a park.
There were a few considerations as to why I added that area. First and foremost, I think it adds an important part of New Mexico's modern heritage into the mix, since it is near Ghost Ranch and Cerro Pedernal was a favorite subject of hers (Actually, I think Ghost Ranch would make a cool unit of the park as well, much like TR's Elkhorn Ranch is part of Teddy Roosevelt NP). Plus, I think the peak is iconic for NM and would become iconic for the park. It also adds more area to the park which means more funds and also would divert people to a different and more remote corner of the Jemez Mountains (which some people would obviously think is bad). Also, in contrast to the other areas you mentioned, it is easy to have a cohesive block of land drawn out from the national forest to become a part of the park. All the other areas you mentioned would be gerrymandered outliers, both in terms of geography and private land ownership. Lastly, it is reasonably close to a highway system, so access would not be tremendously difficult. Honestly, I was looking for a way to include the Guadalupe River and Guadalupita Mesa as part of the park, but I did not think that was realistic.
I doubt anything will ever come of this, but it is fun to speculate. I have thoughts for a few other places in other states, but given the current question of the Valles Caldera Preserve (and the fact that I love New Mexico) I think this is the most pressing.