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‘Hoping for a breakthrough’

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Agreement gives ‘mobility limited’ anglers use of Jemez-area fishing pond

BY DAVE MENICUCCI
Special to the Monitor

A two-year agreement has been reached for the improvement and use of a pond in the Jemez Mountains for fishing events dedicated to mobility limited anglers.

The anglers who will participate include disabled and infirm people, wounded veterans, many seniors and anyone who has limited ability to walk.

The agreement was signed June 8 between Dennis Trujillo, a land and pond owner in La Cueva, and Dustin Berg, chief executive officer of Global Opportunities Unlimited, a non-profit corporation in Bernalillo that is dedicated to helping mobility limited people enjoy outdoor activities.

The pond is on the west side of Highway126, about six-tenths of a mile north of NM 4. The deal paves the way for

Trujillo and Global to share equally the costs to improve access to the pond, especially for anglers in wheelchairs or who use walkers.

According to the terms of the deal, made public at the signing ceremony, Global will be allowed to exclusively use the pond on a regular basis for both youth and adult mobility fishing events.

The partnership is a monumental leap forward for the mobility community, which has been heavily impacted by the massive closure of roads in national forests and parks, including many that were useful and popular to mobility anglers and hunters.

The National Park Service, for example, has closed all but a few of the many functional roads on the Valles Caldera National Preserve, rendering hunting and fishing difficult for those who need a motor vehicle to access and enjoy this public land.

Some of the nation’s public properties, most notably wilderness and USFS roadless areas, are by federal law sequestered for the exclusive use of walkers, leaving mobility limited people wanting equitable access to land that they co-own with citizens.

Trujillo, a U.S. Forest Service retiree and a former executive director for the Valles Caldera Trust, said he understands the impact of the forest road closures and believes that the project will help to provide opportunities for mobility limited anglers to enjoy outdoor activities. 

“We will develop some programs for both children and adults,” he said. 

Berg, a paraplegic, was exuberant after the signing.

“It is super exciting for someone like Dennis to step up for the mobility community. We have been hoping for a breakthrough like this,” Berg said. 

Berg plans to formally launch the project during Global’s annual fundraising dinner on Aug. 24, which will focus on securing community supporters for the project. 

Berg and Trujillo plan a number of improvements to the pond, including the installation of boardwalks and landings for wheelchairs and launching areas for flatboats that will allow mobility anglers to troll the pond. 

Several local fishing and technical experts are assisting in developing the pond to top-flight trout-fishing standards.

Trujillo said that there are already many large trout in the pond, a fact corroborated by various test-fishing anglers. A 22-inch Rainbow trout was recently landed by an angler using a mop fly.

But Berg believes that more trout might be needed to produce the kind of fishing action that can provide an outstanding experience, especially for youth. Various scientific tests are being conducted on the pond to determine what water habitat improvements might be needed to support more fish.

Global will manage the various monthly mobility events, including qualifying the participants, and providing transportation, sanitation and security for the activities at the pond. Berg said that the events will be tailored to the participants and pond conditions. For example, some events will be only for children and others solely for dry-fly fishers.

Many details are yet to be worked out.

Trujillo and Berg agreed that their contract is not only the right response to the needs of a growing community of mobility limited users; it is also sustainable because both parties reap benefits from the business deal. Trujillo’s pond will be improved for fishing, which increases its value for him and his heirs. Berg will use the pond to serve Global’s corporate goals.

“It is a win for both of us,” Trujillo said.

No government funds are involved in the project, although some future public grants could be applicable.

The project, the first of its kind in the Jemez area, is consistent with the community’s long tradition of assisting those who are less fortunate. It is also a testament to the benevolence of a private landowner and the diligence of a corporate CEO who passionately pursues outdoor opportunities for himself and the community of mobility outdoorsmen and women.

Anyone interested in supporting the project can contact Berg through Global’s website, http://gounlimited.org/, or by email at globalberg@aol.com,  or cell, 505-480-2374.

Menicucci is a registered New Mexico hunting guide and an advocate for mobility limited folks to access to the outdoors.  He and his wife own properties in the Jemez Mountains.