Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mount Cristo Rey

One of the most beautiful hikes in the El Paso area is the climb to Mt. Cristo Rey. This is also one of the most notoriously unsafe hikes in the area. Standing above the area where the Rio Grande has turned south and east and only desert terrain and a railroad track separate Mexico from Texas and New Mexico, Cristo Rey has long provided cover for bandits and drug smugglers who scurry up the south side of this ancient pluton.

Mount Cristo Rey is best known for the 29-foot high limestone sculpture of Christ the King created by Spanish sculptor, Urbici Soler, following the vision of Father Costa of the Smeltertown parish of San Jose del Rio Grande. The project was completed on October 29, 1939. Sadly, too often bandits and smugglers are vandals and do irreparable harm to the cross and to the shrines along the way. Most recently the mural/icon of the Virgin Mary was attacked.

Fortunately, the Mt. Cristo Rey Restoration Committee is working on improvements to the trail that may help make the climb safer and protect the sculpture and shrines as well. These plans include eventually illuminating the trail and the cross.
The Border Patrol's efforts could be facilitated by crafting a road around the mountain - a much preferable option to building the wall.
There is one safe time each week to hike: Sunday mornings from 9 until 1 when the Restoration Committee is busy working on the trails. Marshalls are on hand and jeeps travel up and down the switchbacks.

If you would like to make a donation to the restoration, send your check to Mt. Cristo Rey Restoration Committee, P.O. Box 1003, Sunland Park, NM 88063.

For more information about Mt. Cristo Rey, visit here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Soy de El Paso

elpasonaturally is about being local - about the fact that sustainability is accomplished best on the local level. I will begin talking more about local food and a local diet, about permaculture, water conservation and environmental care. (Taking care of the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park is just a beginning to recovering the ecosystems that have been lost to and by unsustainable urbanization over the past many decades.)

It is with great delight that I discovered yet another El Paso blogger who shares a zeal for keeping things local: Patty Garcia. Her blog is Soy de El Paso. Visit and bookmark it.

She describes her interest as "El Paso. Nothing else." And, in a recent entry she writes: "you know what’s even better than just getting it done? Doing it and doing it local." She is highlighting El Paso businesses, entertainment, culture, fashions and much more. Just browse through all her links. Go over to the left hand column and check out all the links at "news from chucotown".

Ideas and visions are like fields of wildflowers: they all begin to burst forth at the same time and flourish and bring forth more beautiful flowers. Local, native flowers indeed are bursting forth here in El Paso even at this time of the winter solstice.

Friday, December 19, 2008

More on the Protest at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park

Bobby Byrd blogs about the protest and the arrest at the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park yesterday. Be sure that you see the video that he took of the event. El Diario also has a video although much shorter.

It's so sad to see the wall being built directly between the park and the Rio Grande. It is a vital corridor for many species of animals. Now is still a good time to do birdwatching at the park. Many migratory birds are returning there. Here's a checklist of birds to see at the park.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"This is life. The river is life. But not the wall; the wall is death." - Judy Ackerman

Judy Ackerman was arrested yesterday for blocking the construction of the border wall behind the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park in El Paso, Texas. She was charged with misdemeanor trespassing. Her attorneys alerted by Sierra Club official, Bill Addington, acted quickly and she was released last evening.

The story quickly hit the news wires via the AP. The Newspaper Tree also caught wind of it. Unfortunately live television media was not quick enough to respond. By the time of Ackerman's arrest, the Border Patrol had set up a block at the levee gate leading to the Bosque Visitor's Center. Another gate at the trailhead was locked. The El Paso Times buried the story on the back of Section B below the fold and below the weather charts.
This may seem like a strange first entry for a blog dedicated to sustainability, native food and environmentalism. However, the will do damage to the ecosystem of the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park. The work done by Park Manager and Program Coordinator, John Sproul, and hundreds of volunteers over the years will be put at jeopardy. Native plants are being re-established and bird, animal and insect species have returned to the park. (See pictures on Flickr.) In a recent Newspaper Tree editorial, Sproul lays out the negative impact that the wall will have on the park.

There is good reason to stop the building of the fence or hope that an Obama administration will tear it down if it is successfully completed by December 31 as reported by El Paso Times.

Sproul is now on vacation until December 30th. Speculation has already begun that construction on the wall behind the park had been scheduled to correspond with his absence. That construction is currently beginning behind the park on the downstream side of the Rio Grande. The rest of the wall (completed and under construction) is upstream from the park beyond the Zaragosa bridge and behind the Rogers and Bustamante Water Treatment plants.

Late afternoon yesterday Kiewit trucks sped down the levee as they called it a day. Sub-contractors ceased pouring cement poured by Jobe - a company that is showing total lack of environmental concern in the Hueco Mountains. (Cemex wanted nothing to do with the border wall.)

After Ackerman's arrest a small group of people were detained for questioning by Texas Ranger, Aaron Grigsby, and Texas DPS Officer Brandon "Bo" Speed. The group included John Sproul, Bill Addington, Maria Trunk and even City Councilman Eddie Holguin and his mother who had brought water to the site for the protesters. The law enforcement officers were particularly grilling Maria Saldana - possibly looking to arrest her as well. In the end, they did not.
About her protest, Judy reportedly said about the park, the river and the wall: "This is life. The river is life. But not the wall; the wall is death."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Time To Begin

Originally I contemplated doing a blog on local food for the El Paso area. I did so because I had for a long time before moving back to Texas written a weekly e-letter for the Carnation Farmers Market in Washington State and done a blog (Conkey’s Tavern) on farming, food and agricultural issues. However, other issues immediately confronted me: environmental care (especially in this bit of the Chihuahuan desert), water use and xeriscaping, sustainable living and permaculture. Before I was dealing with the more parochial issues of local farming and supporting local farmers, and the grander issues of organic farming in general, the dangers caused by corporate farms and a food chain dominated by a few mega-corporations, and the benefits of locally-generated solutions.

Along the way I have also become interested in ethnobotany and the preservation of native plants and seeds. This small region of the world is rich with food resources in spite of being related on every level with the “high fructose corn syrup” diet of corporate America, large box stores and grocery chains.

I have learned that the ordinances of the City of El Paso do not always encourage the development of farmers markets, sustainable community living, the restoration and development of a native canopy, the promotion of urban agriculture, the utilization of organic solutions rather than the overuse of toxic chemicals.

There certainly are progressive steps being taken for the first time in El Paso including new development codes and an open space ordinance. On the other hand, the City is hampered by the laws of the State of Texas that protect private property to a fault. The City is also hampered by its long tradition of politics that promotes development without regard to the environment, community building and infrastructure. On the other hand, there is a new creative class in El Paso that values keeping El Paso beautiful, preserving open spaces and arroyos, protecting the desert and mountain ecosystems, and building and living “green”.

This blog is dedicated to promoting the new environmental and ecological creativity in the city and region of El Paso, Texas. It is also dedicated to promoting local food and encouraging local farmers and agriculture, and re-capturing our ethno-botanical roots – a reclamation that is an essential part of regional sustainability, permaculture and environmental care.

Finally, it is the region that will be the focus of this blog and not just what goes on inside of the city limits of El Paso, Texas. Discussion of local food is often defined by 100 mile diets or 150 mile diets. We must include parts of Mexico and New Mexico, since they are part of our local food, eco-, and commercial systems. Although I may write more often about relevant political issues in the City of El Paso, there will be times when I will be talking about happenings around the El Paso Del Norte region including New Mexico and the State of Chihuahua, Mexico.

It is time to begin.