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Monday, September 18, 2017

Insights Should Give Dino-Track Land to Experts

Photo from www.geo.utep.edu

Once upon a time, Insights Science Museum was fairly successful. Since then, the Insights Museum has been torn down and most of its meager exhibits have gone to storage. In 2003, Stanley Jobe bought land in Sunland Park from American Eagle Brick Company and gave it to Insights because the land is a valuable paleontological asset. In 2002 a young geology student (now Ph.D.), Eric Kappus, had discovered dinosaur tracks on it. Unfortunately, in spite of Eric's expertise and his building a hiking trail from one of the dino sites to Ardovino's Desert Crossing, Insights ended their relationship with him.

Insights board members are (we guess) volunteers. I'm sure that they are good and well-intentioned people who care about our community and have served it well. However, they are also amateurs who have little, if any, knowledge about managing land and, in particular, managing land with dinosaur tracks. Dino footprints at one site are slowly eroding because there is no protection from modern day footprints all over the site.

The President of Insights, Ellen Esposito, told me that they have had no success finding benefactors to help them provide free tours, for instance, to Celebration of Our Mountains. Apparently they have also reached out to 13 companies including Western Refinery. They have not had any success with sponsorships. 

Esposito told me that "liability insurance, expense of tour guides and taxes must be covered by program fees." Insights recently advertised through the Trans-Pecos Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists for people willing to be trained to be docents. Of course, there would be no expense for tour guides if they are volunteers. 

An owner of commercial property in Sunland Park pays significantly less tax on his 24 acres than on his house in El Paso. The approximately 200 acres on which there are dino tracks is not commercial nor is it any longer a quarry operation.
What exactly is Insights' business plan and their goals for this very valuable paleontolgocal treasure? If they truly cared about the preservation of this site, why not turn it over to the Bureau of Land Management and let the Las Cruces office of the BLM manage it? The BLM people are experts. 

In fact, turning over the land to New Mexico to make it part of a 500-mile Rio Grande trail has been proposed by Esposito and renowned UTEP geology professor, Phil Goodell. "The State Parks Division of New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resource Department will facilitate discussions about the dinosaur tracks property," David Crowder of the El Paso Inc. recently reported.

Today one even wonders what the purpose of Insights is any longer. The City of El Paso will soon have a Children's Museum. Insights, more so then than now, will be a relic of the past. An indication that that is true is the fact that they cannot find any serious donors. 

It is time to admit what many have already realized: Insights has no business managing the Dino Tracks. They should turn it over to the BLM or another NM State agency that knows how to manage land and parks.

(I have reached out to Ellen Esposito for comment but have not heard back yet.)


Friday, September 15, 2017

Bike Plan? What Bike Plan?

According to a City of El Paso insider, there seems to be no intention of implementing the Bike Plan. Waivers submitted by contractors are 100% approved so that they do not have to add bike lanes in their developments. 

Also, numerous people who ride bikes have expressed their frustration to me as they feel the bike plan is basically gathering the same dust as Plan El Paso going the way of the Tree City USA designation and the Resiliant City contract. Pretty much any plan that the City has ever put together, received awards and recognitions for has then been stuck on a shelf.

There are several speculations as to why plans are in essence and fact scuttled: 


  • City plans only seem to get used when it's to the City's benefit, or when someone reminds the City about the plan.
  • City staff does not need public meddling in issues where they "know best". Boards and commissions, like the plans, are just window dressing.
  • City staff is lazy.


I have not been able to get hold of Alfredo Austin, the person in charge of implementing the Bike Plan.





Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Stop Sucking!

Read, bookmark, share:

Seattle to Ban Plastic Straws, Utensils at Restaurants Next Year

Be sure to watch the video.

Bobcats and Poppies




These pictures of bobcats at TecH20 show us just why it is so important to preserve our natural environment whether we build or not. They show just why organizations such as the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition, El Paso Group Sierra Club, the Frontera Land Alliance, the Friends of the Rio Bosque and many other groups work hard to preserve our mountains and deserts and wetlands.

The pictures were taken at TecH20 by staff members after someone spotted the cats. Josh Moniz of EPWU posted the pictures on the Celebration of Our Mountains Facebook page.

And while we are at it, take a look at these pictures of the poppies of Castner Range in 1995:




There is plenty to celebrate about our mountains.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Inc. Gives Kudos to Celebration of Our Mountains

Hikers enjoy the Hitt Canyon Loop Hike led by the Dean of El Paso Hiking, Carol Brown. Photo by Shu Y. Mayr

Fellow creature on the Hitt Canyon Loop Hike. Photo by Shu Y. Mayr
The El Paso Inc. recognized Celebration of Our Mountains in their most recent edition. Cindy Graff Cohen wrote a wonderful article about this yearly program of events: Play in the Franklins.

It is good to get the recognition. I have been the Director of COM since 2009.

On the Hitt Canyon Loop Hike. Photo by Shu Y. Mayr

On the Hitt Canyon Loop Hike. Photo by Shu Y. Mayr

This year's program is already off to a great start. Just this weekend, folks enjoyed the Hitt Canyon Loop Hike, biking to Scenic Drive with a blessing of the bicycles and a field trip to Percha and Caballo Dams to see the migratory birds. 

Last week's Beginners Hike ensemble. Photo by Shu Y. Mayr

Coming up tomorrow will be another Beginners Hike led by environmentalist, Judy Ackerman.

Dr. Paul Hyder talking about "The What, Why, Where and Who of Deserts" Photo by Shu Y. Mayr

On Saturday there is a Northern Pass Hike, a field trip to the Prehistoric Trackways in the Robledos and a repeat of the always popular "Who's Running Around the Desert at Night" led by biologist and ecologist, Dr.  Paul Hyder.

On Sunday, the UTEP Geology Club will lead a hike to the El Paso Tin Mines, the only tin mines ever operated in the United States.

Check out all of the upcoming Celebration of Our Mountains events at www.celebmtns.org


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Want to see a Yellow-rumped warbler?

Trumpeter Swan. Photo by Arvo Poolar

Yellow-rumped Warbler. Photo by Laure W. Neish

This time of year, Percha and Caballo Dams have many migratory birds. You might see a Trumpeter Swan or a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. Join the El Paso Audubon Society for a great field trip to the dams this Saturday.  http://www.celebmtns.org/2017-events/2017/migratory-birds-of-percha-and-caballo-dams. 

You might also see American white pelicans,sandhill cranes, both great blue and little blue herons, golden eagles, bald eagles, northern goshawks, scaled quail, song sparrows, red- winged blackbirds, great-tailed grackles, western meadowlarks, western bluebirds, willow flycatchers, dark-eyed juncos, and yellow-breasted chats.

This is a Celebration of Our Mountains field trip.



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hurricane Harvey: Helping Victims and Learning a Lesson

President and First Lady in Corpus Christi today with members of the disaster team.
Doug Mills/New York Times photo

We have all viewed scenes of the terrible human suffering and destructiveness of Hurricane Harvey. It is already the worst rain storm in U.S. history. The storm is moving slowly and there is now the prediction that it is spinning around and will make landfall again.

Many of us are looking for ways to help. Here are a few:

Episcopal Relief and Development: I'm recommending this organization not only because I am an Episcopalian, but because of its low administrative costs. For every $100 given to Red Cross, it costs $30 to raise it. In contrast for every $100 raised by ERD, only $12 goes to raise it. More of your money is going to assist people. Donate HERE.

If you have space in your home where evacuees may stay for awhile, Airbnb helps you to offer that assistance. Click HERE.

Also check out DisasterAssistance.gov.

Harvey also offers a lesson: much of the flooding has been caused by sprawl - impermeable asphalt and concrete have helped to exacerbate greatly the tragedy. Porous asphalt offers a solution. The National Asphalt Pavement Association states: 

"Special features such as the underlying stone bed are more expensive than conventional construction, but these costs are more than offset by the elimination of many elements of standard storm-water management systems. On those jobs where unit costs have been compared, a porous asphalt pavement is generally the less-expensive option. The cost advantage is even more dramatic when the value of land that might have been used for a detention basin or other storm-water management features is considered."