Monday, August 31, 2009

El Pasoans Walk through Time

The Walk through Time event on Scenic Drive for Scenic Sunday on August 23rd was quite a success. There were three principal goals for the program: to acquaint people with the geology, history and natural history of El Paso; to get people outdoors; to acquaint El Pasoans with the Scenic Sunday program. With more than 200 people out for the event, the mission was easily accomplished.

Dr. Dave Lemone makes a point about the different strata of the Franklin Mountains

Leon Metz enchants the crowd with stories about El Paso's gunfighters and shady ladies

Dr. Phil Goodell points to the place where the Lost Padre Mine might have been

Eric Kappus, the Dino Tracker, examines a rock with Master Naturalist Jamie Ackerman

Friday, August 28, 2009

Resler Canyon Nature Preserve Violated by El Paso Water Utilities

Palo Verde uprooted by EPWU's "erosion control"

Resler Canyon between Mesa Street and I-10 is a nature preserve of the Frontera Land Alliance. Recently, following a complaint about erosion by Café Italia, the El Paso Water Utilities apparently violated an easement agreement with the Land Alliance and illegally dumped dirt into the canyon in an effort to stop the erosion. In fact, the effort is much like doing a year of chemo treatment for a toothache. The lose soil dumped down the side of the canyon will eventually avalanche down the hill taking out more trees as it slides. Frontera Board member, Charlie Wakeem, called it a "major encroachment".

Another Frontera board member expressed his disgust:
"The damage by EPWU I saw yesterday; growing trees, one a 20 to 30 year old paloverde, an allepo pine, and a honey mesquite uprooted and laying on their sides made me sick. All this damage done just so the EPWU maintenance crew could show that they can move dirt. We can't allow this kind of activity to continue."
Aleppo pine buried by EPWU

Recently the Board has been contemplating signs at key drains into the canyon in an effort to stop illegal dumping. Drywall, concrete slabs and other contractor's materials join furniture and trash. The destruction of an area around Drain #1 (closest to Mesa and the restaurant) has given new impetus to the board's taking action on signs.

Frontera will probably ask for remediation at EPWU's expense at an upcoming meeting.

Please Support Your Franklin Mountains State Park

With the annual Celebration of Our Mountains starting soon with the Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta at Tom Mays Park coming up on Saturday, September 19th, from 9 to 3, here's a way to contribute to your State Park here in El Paso:

PLEASE DONATE your good, clean, used hiking/camping/biking equipment and clothing to support your Franklin Mountains State Park.

Park volunteers will sell the items at the Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta at Tom Mays Park on September 19th from 9 to 3. Proceeds will go in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s Lone Star Legacy endowment fund to be used exclusively for the programs and conservation of our beautiful Franklin Mountains State Park.

If you have items to donate, please call Jim Tolbert at 915-613-4902 (leave your name and number if nobody answers); or email him at

If you would like to make a cash donation, please write a check to “Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation” and in the memo put “Franklin Mountains State Park”. Please mail your check to: Franklin Mountains State Park/1331 McKelligon Canyon Rd/El Paso, TX 79930-2649.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Walk through Time on Scenic Sunday

You have driven across Scenic Drive numerous times. Now that Scenic Sundays is year round, you may have walked, run or bicycled across the drive on a Sunday morning from 6 until 11 when it is traffic-free. All the time that you have gone over Scenic Drive did you know that there is rock there that is over one billion years old? There are very, very old fossils there (corals, algae, gatropods, cepahlopods and ammonoids) as well as caves now filled with and cemented by caliche. The same faulting and folding and fracturing that formed the mountains also formed caves. Could one of those caves have been the site of the Lost Padre Mine just beneath Scenic Drive?

In 1920, El Paso chain gangs excavated more than 26,000 cubic yards of solid rock, 5,800 cubic yards of loose rock and 3,500 cubic yards of caliche to construct Scenic Drive. The drill holes and blast marks from the explosives are still visible.

On Sunday, August 23, from 8 to 10 you can learn more about the rich geological, natural and modern histories of El Paso by taking a "Walk through Time". Event organizers, Eric Kappus and Jim Tolbert, will be hosting historians Leon Metz and Fred Morales, UTEP geologist Dr. Phil Goodell and paleontologist, Dave Lemone, along with Master Naturalists, members of the Native Plant Society and Future Educators of Math and Science. The Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition will be on hand with information about conservation and preserving Castner Range. The event is sponsored by the City of El Paso District 2 (Susie Byrd Representative), the Newman Park Neighborhood Association, El Paso Water Utilities/Public Service Board, UTEP Department of Geological Sciences, Celebration of Our Mountains, Keep El Paso Beautiful and Texas Master Naturalists.

The event is free and traffic free.

Click on the image below to enlarge for map and program times.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Black Tailed Rattler Rattles Sunrise Hikers

Photo courtesy of Angela Chavez, M.Sc., UTEP Department of Biological Sciences

Hiking in the beauty of the Chihuahuan Desert is always a pleasure. However, all of us need to remember that there are reasons for caution on any trail. This morning along the Lower Sunset Trail, a merry band of Sunrise Hikers came upon a black tailed rattlesnake. The reptile had just struck a pack rat when group leader, Jim Tolbert, just about stepped foot on it.

There are appropriate measures to take to protect from or treat snake bites.

El Paso County Commissioners Sign International Park Resolution

Tuesday the El Paso County Commissioners Court passed a resolution which supported both the United States and Mexican government from establishing an International Commission to help advance the idea of an International Park, where both the Big Bend area and adjacent region in Mexico join as one. Rick LoBello, a member of the County Eco-Tourism committee spoke to Commissioners on behalf of the resolution.

The resolution comes on the heals of a joint meeting between U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Mexican Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Juan Elvira strengthening conservation cooperation in Big Bend area of the U.S. - Mexico Border.

The resolution was signed by all commissioners except Judge Cobos who was absent. Click on the image below to enlarge.

For more information about the Big Bend International Park, go to

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sunrise Hikers Begin August Adventures

Ursula Sherrill, Jim Tolbert and Ana Gallegos lead hike up the ridge

The intrepid Sunrise Hikers began their August schedule of hikes yesterday. Led by expert ornithologist, Ursula Sherrill, eight hikers hiked through Fusselman Canyon and took the Ron Coleman trail to the ridge. Along their way they identified several birds and bird calls, had a lesson about the difference between Sotol and Yucca from Judy Ackerman, and saw some beautiful mule deer.

They plan another hike next Tuesday, August 11: the West Cottonwood Loop. They will meet promptly at or just before 6 a.m. at the main gate to the Tom Mays Unit of the Franklin Mountains State Park.

Mule Deer in Upper Fusselman Canyon

For some great pictures of other animals in the Chihuahuan Desert, visit the Chihuahuan Desert Field Guide - Animals.