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In his June 7 story, Roger Snodgrass described very well the mood of the panel at the Albuquerque forum concerning public access to the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Unfortunately, in paraphrasing my comments that the caldera rim has truly world-class views, he transposed the owners of sections of the rim.
The sad fact is that the Forest Service owns access. The Preserve owns the best viewpoints along the rim. The entire boundary of the preserve is fenced and heavily posted, in essence, Public Land, No Trespassing. If only Roger were correct, it would save us all a lot of anguish in establishing trails around the caldera rim.
I talked with the new executive director, Gary Bratcher, about public access to parts of the preserve rim. I am especially concerned about the rim between Cerro Grande and Pajarito Mountain. It was once a standard local hiking route that was snatched away when the government bought the Baca Location No. 1 in 2000.
As had all his predecessors, Bratcher told me he did not have the staff or funds to do the essential preliminary work, even though we assured him that we could find volunteers to do the actual labor. Nor did he perceive time and money in the foreseeable future. Instead, he felt that a joint venture between the five owners of the rim could result in quicker action and a more integrated trail system. Despite his frantically busy schedule, Gary has devoted considerable time and expertise in trying to arrange discussions among interested parties. We rim guys sincerely appreciate his efforts. If anything comes of it, I’ll propose naming it the Bratcher Trail!
In the meantime, we who care about the Preserve and feel strongly about public access to public land will trudge onward.