Celebration Marks Chimayó Preservation (NM)

Chimay?, NM, 9/18/02-In connection with the third annual Chimay? Festival of Arts Studio Tour, today the Trust for Public Land hosted a public celebration of Santa Fe County’s preservation of the pasture land behind the Santuario de Chimay?. The event was held on one of the parcels the county will purchase for permanent protection.

Speaking at the celebration were Marcos Trujillo, Santa Fe County Commissioner; Deborah Love, director of the Trust for Public Land’s New Mexico State Office; Bill Johnson, Santa Fe Conservation Trust’s chairman of the board; Paul Olafson, manager of Santa Fe County’s Open Space and Trails Program; Bruce Richardson, member of the County Open Lands and Trails Planning and Advisory Committee (COLTPAC); and Don Usner, of the Chimay? Cultural Preservation Association.

Commissioner Trujillo said, “The open space we celebrate embraces its spiritual surroundings. Heaven has touched earth at the Santuario de Chimay? and now, for generations to come, our children and our children’s children will be touched.”

Said Deborah Love, director of TPL’s New Mexico State Office, “At a time when the news is overflowing with death and destruction, it becomes even more imperative that we share and celebrate our communities’ success stories. Preserving the backdrop to the Santuario de Chimay? is more than a story of protecting land. It’s about the preservation of culture and hope in a sacred place long revered for spiritual renewal.”

For many generations the property behind the Santuario de Chimay? has been irrigated and used as pasture land for grazing horses and cattle. A number of acequias, or irrigation ditches, run through the property, providing lush green grasslands with a backdrop of cottonwood trees and rolling hills. The land provides the Santuario’s beautiful pastoral setting for the thousands of visitors and religious pilgrims who visit each year.

In 1996, the Chimay? Cultural Preservation Association requested the Trust for Public Land’s assistance in preserving the land from development.

In 1998 and 2000, Santa Fe County voters approved two bond measures that provided a total of $20 million for the purchase of parks, trails, and historic and cultural sites. TPL helped the county design and implement both measures. The County Open Lands and Trails Planning and Advisory Committee (COLTPAC)-a volunteer group with members from around the county-identifies resources in need of protection and makes recommendations to the County Commission. Community support is a very important criterion in deciding which lands to buy and protect. The Chimay? land was ranked by Santa Fe county voters as one of the highest priority areas for protection.

A member of COLTPAC, Bruce Richardson, said, “Developing a relationship between Chimay? Youth Conservation Corps (CYCC) and the county open space program was my motivation for joining COLTPAC…We believe we can accomplish crime prevention, youth development, economic development and natural resource conservation with each CYCC dollar.”

TPL bought the first 17 acres behind the Santuario in September 2001 and immediately sold it to the county. TPL has under contract another 23 acres, owned by Isabel Vigil of Chimay?, which it expects to transfer to the county by the end of 2002. The Thaw Charitable Trust recently pledged $10,756 to support the acquisition of this property.

To date, the county’s open space program has acquired and protected 13 properties totaling approximately 3,100 acres around the county.

Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for public use and enjoyment. Working with private landowners, community groups and public agencies, TPL has helped to protect more than 100,000 acres of land in New Mexico.