Santa Fe (NM) Petroglyph Access Protected

SANTA FE, N.M., 8/20/01 — Santa Fe County has assumed stewardship of 656 acres of the 17,000-acre Thornton Ranch, located approximately 15 miles southeast of Santa Fe near Galisteo. Earlier this month, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a nonprofit land conservation organization, purchased the scenic, archeologically significant land from the Thornton family of Santa Fe and Texas. On Friday, August 17, TPL transferred to the County complete control of the property through a lease-purchase agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, the County made an initial payment on Friday and will take title to the property in December 2001 when funds for the balance of the purchase price-a total of $1.83 million-become available from an open space bond measure approved by voters in November 2000. The County’s initial lease payment to TPL came from the funds remaining from the County’s first bond measure, which was approved by voters in 1998.

The County’s purchase of the land preserves permanent public access via County Road 42 to Petroglyph Hill, a particularly important archeological site located on an adjacent 780-acre parcel that the County purchased last year. It safeguards a significant stretch of open space in the face of impending development-which is encroaching on all sides of the ranch-and prevents development of home sites on this pristine tract.

Together, the two Thornton Ranch tracts total more than 1,400 acres and represent the County’s largest contiguous open space area. In addition, because the two parcels lie adjacent to more than 1,600 acres of state trust and Bureau of Land Management land, this purchase consolidates thousands of acres of public property and could open large areas to the public that previously have not been legally accessible. The County is working on a management plan for the land; questions and comments about the plan may be directed to Alina Bokde, county planner, at (505) 986-6217.

“This is an exciting opportunity for private-public partnership and the preservation of an important educational and cultural resource,” said District 5 Commissioner Jack Sullivan. “This land will be a great benefit for District 5 residents-particularly those who live in Stanley, Lamy, Galisteo, and Eldorado-as well as for people who live in the Route 14 area.”

In 1998, county voters approved a $12 million general obligation bond for the purchase of parks, trails, and historic and cultural sites. Shortly thereafter, the County Open Lands and Trails Planning and Advisory Committee (COLTPAC) was formed to identify resources in need of protection and make recommendations to the County Commission. In November 2000, voters overwhelmingly approved a second open space bond package in the amount of $8 million. TPL helped the county design and implement both bond programs. In October 2000, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management, TPL facilitated the county’s acquisition of the first Thornton Ranch parcel, 780 acres that includes Petroglyph Hill as well as an additional 435 acres of lease interests. The second Thornton Ranch parcel, now being purchased by the County, is the fourteenth property the County has acquired with its open space bond money.

“Having actually toured the property we are acquiring and seeing how it relates to the first piece we bought and the BLM land, I’m thrilled that the COLTPAC made the recommendation for the county to buy it and that the County Commission had the wisdom to do so, because this is a very special piece of property,” said County Commission Chairman Paul Duran. “It offers an opportunity to our community that we should all embrace. We need to find ways to attract the public and get our kids out there to use it and still maintain control over it so it’s not abused. I support the efforts of our land use department to develop a program as soon as possible so the community can have access to it in the near future and be able to experience its special qualities.”

“The County is very excited about this new acquisition,” said County Manager Samuel Montoya. “The property brings some excellent resources to the community and it’s wonderful to be able to protect a property of that caliber. In general, the commissioners are very pleased that the first phase of the COLTPAC program has been so successful and we look forward to the second phase and future acquisitions. The constituency in Santa Fe can be very proud that the choices made by the committee and adopted by the Board of County Commissioners bring some wonderful properties and open space to the public. We appreciate the hard work of all the people involved in this initiative, including the electorate which has given us the opportunity to save these places.”

Offering visitors the quintessential Western landscape, Thornton Ranch terrain consists of blue gramma grassland, rolling hills dotted with pi?on, juniper, and sage and high mesa areas. Its most striking feature is Petroglyph Hill, a large hill covered with black volcanic rock on which hundreds of petroglyphs are carved, and which affords spectacular views of the entire Galisteo Basin. The Galisteo Basin and surrounding areas contain many nationally significant, well-preserved prehistoric and historic archaeological resources of Native American and Spanish colonial cultures. An article in the fall 1999 issue of American Archaeology describes the basin as “an archaeological treasure trove still waiting to reveal its vast secrets.”

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. The Trust for Public Land is working to protect more key sites in the Galisteo Basin area that are in the path of expanding growth from Santa Fe. For more information on TPL, visit