Trails Easement for Growing Santa Fe (NM)

Santa Fe, N.M., 12/4/02-It was announced today that a one-mile stretch of the Santa Fe River will be protected through a unique collaboration among the Trust for Public Land (TPL), the El Camino Real River Connection (CRRC), Santa Fe County’s Open Space and Trails Program, and the New Mexico State Land Office.

On December 3, the Santa Fe County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of an open space and trails easement over approximately 46 acres along the Santa Fe River, located just northeast of the intersection of Airport Road and Highway 599. To protect the land for recreational and educational purposes, the County will acquire the easement from the State Land Office, which owns the property. Located in the southwest sector-one of Santa Fe’s fastest growing areas-the land will provide much needed open space for a part of the community woefully underserved by parks and trails.

Under State Land Commissioner Ray Powell’s guidance, the state has implemented several river restoration projects on the property and the Land Office was willing to sell the easement to ensure future protection of the river and floodplain. Mining activity will no longer be allowed under the terms of the easement.

The Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization, facilitated the acquisition to support El Camino Real River Connection’s efforts to protect the Santa Fe River as a natural and cultural resource. CRRC is a coalition of nonprofit conservation organizations and governmental agencies working to restore the river and preserve open space along the river corridor. CRRC’s name honors the early Spanish settlers who used the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro along the river to travel between Mexico City and Santa Fe. Its mission is to support community efforts to restore the corridor’s ecology, develop a trail and park system, and preserve and celebrate the area’s historical and cultural heritage. The new public land will provide an outdoor classroom for students to study the history and ecology of the area and opportunities for hand-on involvement in riparian restoration. For walkers and bikers it will offer recreational opportunities and a connection to the city-owned trail easement that connects to the Municipal Recreation Center.

Funds for the easement purchase come from the county’s Open Space and Trails Program, private donations raised by CRRC, and state capital outlay funds requested by Senator Nancy Rodriquez. The state funds approved for the project will also help purchase additional easements from willing land sellers along the river corridor.

Construction of the trail network and its associated improvements-such as signage, pedestrian and equestrian bridges or other river crossings, interpretive center sites, and parking areas with trailheads-will occur over the next few years as funding becomes available.

Particularly in the Aqua Fria Village area, the Santa Fe River is seen by many as the “heart of the community” and was noted as a “signature” natural feature-even in its current neglected state-in the city and county’s joint Southwest Sector Plan Final Report 2001. In a survey of area residents conducted to inform this report, 84% of adults and 93% of youth said that the Santa Fe River is somewhat or very important to them. More than 80% of adults and 70% of youth said that there should be public access to the river. Strategic considerations in prioritizing projects on the Santa Fe River include location of the property (preferably adjacent to or near other protected or public lands), threats to the property (by development or severe erosion of the banks), and the willingness of landowners to support and join this collaborative effort.

For more than 20 years TPL has been working with local municipalities, conservation organizations, and citizens to further the preservation, protection, and enhancement of New Mexico’s natural and cultural heritage. For more information, contact Karyn Stockdale at TPL at (505) 988-2939.