Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bedrock Mortars and Chupadero B/w

Sunrise Hikers check out bedrock mortars.

We have taken several hikes to one site with bedrock mortars not far from the FMSP trailhead at Chuck Heinrich Park in NE El Paso. Fort Bliss archaeologist, Sue Sitton, dates the site between A.D. 1000-1450 as part of the Dona Ana/El Paso phase. Her basis for dating is that Chupadero B/w (a style of black and white pottery) was found on it.

Click image to enlarge.

I asked Marilyn Guida, the Curator of Education at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology, to give me more details and here is what she emailed me:

“Chupadero is a type of pottery with a distinctive design. Archaeologists have been able to determine the time period and geographic area within which certain types of pottery occur. Chupadero is associated with the time period she indicates in our area - the Jornada Mogollon. Chupadero was traded into what we now call the El Paso area. It wasn't made here.

“We have an exhibit case at the museum showing whole pots which are examples of pottery traded in the Jornada Mogollon area.

“Dona Ana/El Paso phase is a time period and the name of a cultural phase within the Jornada Mogollon culture area.

“Archaeologists look for specific kinds of artifacts, architectural styles, physical features left behind by people, and the types of food they ate, etc. to distinguish cultural phases. They give names to these cultural phases. Dona Ana/El Paso phase is a time with characteristics which overlap between the two distinct phases of Dona Ana Phase and El Paso phase.

We have an inexpensive booklet [Prehistoric Indians of the El Paso Area by Lora Jackson] for sale at the museum which explains all the phases in more detail.

“Archaeologists are always working to try to pin these phases down more precisely. Sometimes the evidence simply does not present itself, so things aren't real clear cut. Archaeologists live with a lot of uncertainty.”

Lora Jackson added:

“Chupadero B/w was made in two areas: Chupadera Mesa in the Gran Quivira area, so it was made at those mid New Mexico pueblos, and in the Capitan area of the northeastern Jornada. So, it is both an intrusive and local type. The pottery is northern technologically and stylistically. I think a good way to look at this is not so much from the pottery stand point, as from the people perspective. What probably happened is that some people who made Chup moved south into the Capitan region of the Jornada and continued to produce it there. So that pottery is local, but the people who made it were not.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Water Your Trees Right Now!

An email message from three tree organizations had this subject line: "Epic Texas Drought - Water Trees Now!" It was sent to their members and said:
"Most of Texas is at the highest level of drought intensity and this is weakening and killing many landscape trees.

"We urge you to send a message/press release out to your customers, citizens, members and clients asking them to water their trees right now."
It was signed by Dr. Todd Watson, President of the Texas Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture, Tom Boguus, State Forester and Director with the Texas Forest Service and Gary Woods, the President of the Texas Urban Forestry Council.

As a matter of fact, Oscar Mestas, the Texas Urban Forester for our region, came by this morning and looked at a number of trees in our neighborhood. Some had feared that bugs or disease was killing them. The real cause: lack of water. Water needs to soak slowly into the ground and soak for a long time.

The Texas Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture offers great tips including watering during a severe drought. Also check out the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't Ease Up!

Here’s what I wrote in the last e-letter:

“I have not seen a copy of the FONSI yet. It may be that TxDOT made some changes. I doubt it. Remember, their plans had some major discrepancies among them was a safe way to enter and exit Tom Mays Park and a provision for the protection of motorists from collisions with animals by building a safe animal corridor/crossing.”

The good news is that TxDOT did make some changes. El Paso Times reporter, Chris Roberts, summarizes those changes in today’s paper. Read the FONSI itself if you would like. It is good that TxDOT did indeed make provisions for a safe access to the Park and for a place for an animal crossing. Those good ideas for safe access and an animal crossing were proposed to them in 2004 and again in 2008 and it took some noise to make them make changes in their final plans. However, the animal crossing will be constructed west of their Paseo del Norte interchange in an area that could become developed if the 800 acres conservationists wish to set aside isn’t. In other words, animals won’t have a crossing because they won’t go through a human neighborhood. TxDOT did some good things – but let’s talk about the best thing: preserving 800 acres of the Scenic Corridor including moving Paseo del Norte west.

Today’s El Paso Times ran an editorial – Development: Northwest petitioners should ease up. Note to the El Paso Times publishers: Like Hell We Will!

That editorial is so filled with (to be charitable) “misinformation”, that a rebuttal is worth making.

The El Paso Times says: “Growth in the Northwest has been long planned out and the City Council signed off on an official ‘Northwest Plan’ in 2005. It includes open space, hiking and biking trails, and there is a buffer zone between land to be developed and the base of the Franklin Mountains.”

Nobody is talking about all of the land in the NW Plan – just the less than 800 acres of the Scenic Corridor. Plans can be changed and modified and should be. City Council has already called for using Smart Growth for the area – something not in the 2005 Master Plan and certainly something you can expect push back from Archuleta and others. Also, most favoring preserving the 800 acres are for widening Transmountain. The Times publishers suggest that they are not.

Then the Times says this about the land petitioners call for preserving: “It's land owned by the Public Service Board. The PSB says if it can never sell that land, likely portions at a time, it would probably mean a rise in water rates. Selling land it owns, at timely times, has helped keep rates at their present levels, according to Ed Archuleta, who heads El Paso Water Utilities and its various arms.”

Again, to be charitable, this paragraph is packed with misinformation – oh hell – they are down right lies that either the Times publishers ignorantly believe or are themselves complicit in re-telling and spreading.

First, the PSB doesn’t own any land. They can’t by State law. It is City of El Paso land managed by the PSB. They may track that land on different ledgers; but make no mistake, it is El Paso land and the City Council, our elected representatives, have final authority. At the last Open Space Advisory Board meeting, a PSB representative used the misnomer “PSB owned” and I called him on it. He admitted that I was right. The PSB will use this terminology in order to put into the public mind that they, and they alone, can make decisions about City-owned land that they manage. The final decision-maker is City Council – or, more to the point, you the people who elect members of the City Council.

It is also “misinformation” that land sales keep your water rates low. Land sales are about 2% of the revenue of the El Paso Water Utilities. In their favor, it is the policy of water conservation that has kept those rates low. We have gone from 200 gallons of water per day per person several decades ago to 130 gallons of water per day per person today. Sprawl and added infrastructure only mean that the cost of City services are going up and will go up.

What do land sales really mean? A non-free market manner of subsidizing particular developers and builders. A few El Pasoans benefit on the backs of many. I say “particular” developers because I suspect Archuleta is in bed with some on El Paso’s Westside while being antagonistic toward (as are his developer friends) some builders on the east side. The west side has one source of drinkable water: the Mesilla Bolson (a source of water that EPWU’s plans are certain to deplete very quickly.) The east side has the Hueco Bolson, two river plants, a desalination plant, and potentially farm water from counties east of El Paso. Yet, Archuleta will tell you that there are problems with the east side and that the west side should be developed. Of course, better than more sprawl any where is in-fill.

The Times talks about “unstoppable natural growth”. More people and lower water rates cannot cancel the laws of supply and demand. Think less water, much higher rates, the end to more farm land . . . unsustainability. So, EPWU/PSB, go ahead and keep adding water meters (especially in NW El Paso) because natural growth is unstoppable, according to your pals at the El Paso Times. According to those Campbell Street Cronies, we El Pasoans lack the vision to have policies of sustainability and should just continue to subsidize the plans of the few.

As for easing up – should City Council members on September 20 vote down the proposed ordinance of petitioners, then those same petitioners will sign another petition to have the ordinance placed on a ballot for the people of El Paso to decide.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Song of the Day: After the Ball Was Over

On this day in 1895, gunfighter, Sunday School teacher, philanderer and El Paso attorney (do things ever change?), John Wesley Hardin was gunned down in the Acme Saloon in downtown El Paso. He was shot in the back of the head by John Selman, gunslinger, criminal, gang leader and Constable in El Paso. (Do things ever change?)

Anyway, the song playing at Hardin's demise was the very popular "After the Ball Was Over". As did all of the El Paso saloons, a pianist played the ivories. "After the Ball" is a sentimental (some today would say "sappy") ballad written in 1892 by Charles K. Harris. "After the Ball" was the most popular song of America's Gilded Age - the total sheet music sales exceeded five million copies.

Tonight you can see a re-enactment of the death of John Wesley Hardin performed by Six Guns and Shady Ladies at Hardin's gravesite in Concordia Cemetery. Here are the details:

Friday, August 19 at 7:00 p.m., The Annual Meeting of the John Wesley Hardin Secret Society with Re-enactment of the Death of John Wesley Hardin at the Concordia Cemetery,3700 East Yandell Drive (just east of Copia Street in Central El Paso). Cost : $5.00 Adults - Military/Seniors/Students $2.00 Children under 12 free. Every year on August 19 the Secret Society meets to "Relive and Celebrate" that fateful evening in August when Gunfighter John Wesley Hardin met his demise at the hands of that dastardly Constable "Uncle" John Selman at the Acme Saloon in downtown El Paso. Join Six Guns and Shady Ladies at Hardin’s graveside this Aug. 19, at 7:00 PM to relive that "fateful night" in 1896.

This event is a fundraiser for Concordia Cemetery, a Texas State Historic Cemetery. Raffle tickets available for some great prizes along with entertainment and so much more – maybe a real ghost or two. Renew or join the John Wesley Hardin Secret Societywhile there. For more information call (915) 581-7920 or visit

NOTE: Bring folding chairs flash lights and wear closed toe shoes. High heels are not recommended. Water will be sold.

All proceeds to benefit Concordia Heritage Association the 501 c 3 Not for Profit organization responsible for the Preservation and Protection of Concordia Cemetery, a Texas State Historic Cemetery.

For more information: 915-581-7920 or

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Now Here's the Bad News

Now that our first petition has been certified, here’s the bad news:

Representative Silvestre Reyes’ office confirmed that the FHWA had completed the NEPA and sent a FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact) to TxDOT yesterday. A second source also confirmed this story as well.

As we all know, TxDOT in league with developers completed the designs for the Transmountain project before public vetting. The public meeting was pro forma – mere window dressing. The FHWA has issued a FONSI in spite of the fact that TxDOT’s EA clearly circumvented the public. If City Council passes the ordinance requested by the petition, the connection to Paseo del Norte at Transmountain will be for naught – an overpass to no where. If Council does not pass the ordinance, then petitioners will gather the required signatures for a referendum election. Will TxDOT pursue their plans of clandestine origin without listening to the will of the people?

Remember, petitioners by and large do not oppose widening of Transmountain Road even through the Scenic Corridor. The issue is to preserve about 800 acres known as the Scenic Corridor in its natural state from development or major roadways such as Paseo del Norte as currently schemed. The preservation would not even disallow critical utility structures such as a water tank and any service roads or power lines to service the structure. Opponents have misrepresented this matter.

I have not seen a copy of the FONSI yet. It may be that TxDOT made some changes. I doubt it. Remember, their plans had some major discrepancies among them was a safe way to enter and exit Tom Mays Park and a provision for the protection of motorists from collisions with animals by building a safe animal corridor/crossing.

The final NEPA decision can, of course be sued under the Administrative Procedures Act.

Sign this online petition. Even if you signed the official petition and/or even if you are not a registered voter in the City of El Paso, this petition lets everyone know that you want to preserve and protect the Franklin Mountains. We will promote this publicly in the light of day. We will not do things behind closed doors, huddled with cronies and presuming to know what is best for the people of El Paso.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Brief History of Archaeological Work on Fort Bliss

Sacramento Pueblo excavation, photo courtesy of Sue Sitton

A Brief History of Archaeological Work on Fort Bliss

By Sue Sitton, Senior Archaeologist, Fort Bliss

August 21, 2011, 2:00 pm, Free Admission

Location: El Paso Museum of Archaeology

4301 Transmountain Road, El Paso

Archaeologist Sue Sitton presents the history of archeological work on Fort Bliss, including highlights of the archeologists, the sites, and the Feds who managed the resources. We’ll look at what we’ve learned, how our methodologies have changed, and speculate about the future.

This program is presented by the El Paso Archaeological Society in partnership with the El Paso Museum of Archaeology.

Information: 915-755-4332;

There are literally thousands of archaeological sites around the El Paso area. Here is a picture of a recent Sunrise Hikers visit to bedrock mortars just north of the Museum of Archaeology:

Castner Conservation Takes Center Stage

Senator Rodriguez and Rep. Marquez present resolution to Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition President, Scott Cutler

About 75 people gathered yesterday at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology to show their support for conserving Castner Range in its natural state. El Paso Senator José Rodriguez and Representative Marisa Marquez presented a framed copy of House Resolution 306 and Senate Resoultion 506 to the Castner Conservation Conveyance Committee.

The resolutions promote the conservation of this 7,000 acres of undeveloped desert and foothills - "one of the most rugged and pristine landscapes in Texas" according to RickLoBello. "The preservation effort will ensure that future generations of El Pasoans will be able to enjoy Castner Range for many years into the future," LoBello said.

Pictures of the event can be seen on the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition Facebook page.

Loop 375 Project Location Map. Click on image to enlarge.

Many in attendance were curious about the construction site on Castner Range just south of the Border Patrol Museum and next to the Archaeological Museum.

In a press release from earlier this year, TxDOT explains: “The proposed Loop 375 facility (Preferred Alternative) will be constructed from approximately one mile west of US 54 to Dyer Street and will include a four-lane urban freeway divided by a concrete median barrier. The proposed Loop 375 will tie-in directly to the existing Loop 375 west of US 54 and at Dyer Street.”

Finally, in regard to the conservation of Castner Range, the EPWU/PSB proposed a stormwater and sediment detention basin to protect the neighborhoods surrounding Sun Valley Drive in the northeast sector of El Paso, Texas (the Sun Valley 205 Flood Risk Retention Project). In a letter, the Army Corps of Engineers described the project: “The proposed basin would be located upstream of the EPWU’s Northeast Channel #2, a stormwater channel that has a history of overflowing and flooding the surrounding neighborhoods. The proposed project site is west of highway US-54 on the Castner Range . . . " (Map).

Open Space Advisory Board Chairman Charlie Wakeem saw the proposed project and noted that the proposal “calls for a ponding/sediment basin that shows a much larger footprint on Castner Range than the original Stormwater Master Plan does.” EPWU officials argued that digging a detention dam that takes up more area will mean that the maintenance schedule will be shortened. Of course, the larger basin will destroy more open space – but it means that EPWU doesn’t have to work as hard. We note their choice of values.

As a result, the OSAB proposed a resolution for Council to approve that would be submitted to the Corps. City Council unanimously passed the proposed resolution at its meeting yesterday. The mayor's OSAB appointment, Environmental Engineer Katrina Martich, wrote the resolution at Charlie’s request. It was edited and approved by EPWU Stormwater Utility Manager Gonzalo Cedillos and Assistant City Attorney Lupe Cuellar. It asks the Army Corps of Engineers to include in its Environmental Assessment “an alternative that is limited in size to the smallest area needed to retain sediment, while only detaining (not retaining) runoff from the infrequent storm events (25-year and larger return periods), in order to release the storm water at a flowrate that can be safely conveyed by the downstream concrete-lined channel.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Breaking News: Petition Certifies! 20110816 161022

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Green Thing

Here are some great tips for "greener" living:

My Comments to City Council

Before submitting petitions to the Municipal Clerk this past Tuesday, I announced intentions to do so to the City Council during the "Call to the Public" portion of their regular agenda for August 9, 2011. Here is what I said:

Today, citizens of El Paso will submit to the Municipal Clerk a petition.

The right of the people to petition their government is key to our democracy and enshrined in the Constitution of our country. There is also provision for it in our City Charter. We come today to ask that land along Transmountain Drive abutting the State Park and known as the Scenic Corridor be preserved and left in its natural state. We believe that we have gathered the necessary number of signatures of voters registered in the City of El Paso. Unlike our last attempt, we carefully checked each item on our petition pages against the voter registration records of the County of El Paso.

We also worked with Mr. Chacon of the County Elections office to resolve any discrepancies that we found. We believe that the Municipal Clerk’s office will concur that we have enough signatures. If it does, then you will have another opportunity to vote to preserve this land.

Our petition is not an issue of morality but of policy. We believe that it is in the best interest of the people of El Paso to preserve this land not just for its beauty but for the economic advantages to be gained from such conservation. We disagree with those who believe that there is any financial gain from selling the land. We are aware that many of you do not agree with us or, at this time, favor our proposed ordinance. We respect the difference of opinions. However, know that, if our ordinance fails to pass City Council, we shall immediately begin the petition drive to have that same ordinance placed before the voters of El Paso, Texas on the next available ballot which probably will be next spring rather than this November. We have communicated our intentions to the Federal Highway Administration, TxDOT and to you, our elected representatives.

We hope that we can work together. Our ordinance does not oppose the widening of Transmountain Road as some have deceptively claimed. We are all reasonable people and can work together just as long as no El Pasoan is ever bypassed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I am the Franklins

Today we (citizens from all walks of life, members of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition, conservationists, environmentalists, many of what I call the "usual suspects" announced to the City Council that we were submitting a petition to preserve the area known as the Transmountain Scenic Corridor as Natural Open Space. I made the announcement and then several other persons spoke. Petitions were submitted to and received by the office of the Municipal Clerk. Mr. Brian Heller and his assistants were most helpful, courteous and professional.

One speaker, Mr. Raul Amaya, is a member of the Board of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition. He composed the following poem for the occasion:

I am the Franklin Mountains
by Raul F. Amaya

I am the Franklin Mountains called by the conquistadors Las Sierras de los Mansos or Las Sierras de los Organos.

I am the outstanding geological feature in the town then city that I tower over & that grew up around me.

I was born about 50 to 70 million years ago from geologic & volcanic activity & have been growing & changing since then.

I am the Franklin Mountains.

I’ve seen many creatures come & go over my life span like dinosaurs as they migrated from Northern Mexico to Colorado, millions of years later Mammoths & giant sloths.

About 50,000 years ago I saw the formation of the Rio Grande below me, and eventually it cut a path, named by the Spaniards who came thousands of years later, El Paso del Norte, between me the Sierras de Juárez forming the Rio Grande Valley.

I am the Franklin Mountains.

Many kinds of plants & animals make their homes in me; plants like barrel cactus & Mexican poppies, & trees like cottonwood, hackberry, oak, and juniper; and animals like rodents, deer, mountain lions, foxes, lizards, snakes, hawks, & many other kinds of birds.

About 10,000 to 7,000 BC the Paleo-Indians arrived although it wasn’t until four thousand years ago that I saw the first humans, the Manso, Suma, and Jumano tribes make their homes at my foothills in Keystone Park & up and down the Rio Grand Valley.

I am the Franklin Mountains.

In 1581 I witnessed the 1st Europeans cross the pass the Rio Grande cut through me. In 1598 I witnessed the 1st Thanksgiving celebrated by Juan de Oñate who named the town & city beneath me.

I saw the establishment of Ft. Bliss in 1849. Then in 1881 I saw the arrival of the railroad which greatly accelerated the growth in the lands below me.

Starting in 1914 I saw the Texas State School of Mines & Metallurgy being built on my foothills.

I am the Franklin Mountains.

From my peaks people can see 2 countries, the United States of America, & 3 states, Texas, New Mexico & Chihuahua.

Yes in my long history I have seen many things including 6 flags flying over me & the lands around me, the flags of Spain, Mexico, France, the Republic of Texas, the United States of America & the Confederacy.

I am the Franklin Mountains.

Some people want to live within & on top of me. They want to economically develop me for commercial & residential properties, to make money. I don’t really care because I’ll be here long after they & all their building are long gone. But animals & plants would be destroyed to accommodate this development. And there are people called conservationists, environmentalists & greens who like me the way I am & do not want to see any further development on or immediately around me. They love the way I look & they want to keep me that way. They want to preserve & protect the habitat I provide the animals & plants that live around me. For their sake & that of the animals & plants that make their homes in & around me I hope you will support their efforts on my behalf & the animals & plants whose home I am & which I sustain.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Attend City Council Tomorrow at 9 a.m.

PLEASE PLAN TO ATTEND City Council tomorrow morning (Tuesday, August 9) at 9 a.m. The results of the petition drive to save the Transmountain Scenic Corridor will be announced. Afterwards, the petitions will be filed with the Municipal Clerk’s office. Map to City Hall. Parking may be an issue. Take plenty of quarters – one will buy you 20 minutes at a City parking meter.

There are now more than enough verified signatures to request the City Council of El Paso to preserve the Transmountain Scenic Corridor. Of course, the Municipal Clerk’s office makes the final evaluation about each signature and whether there are enough. However, petition gatherers used current voter registration rolls to check signatures as they were gathered. Confidence is high.

Mr. Charlie Wakeem, the Chairman of the Open Space Advisory Board, created this excellent presentation about the Scenic Corridor:

Trans Mountain Scenic Corridor NOS 3-23-11

You can read the petition here

In a letter to Mr. Gregory Punske and Ms. Elizabeth Hilton of the Federal Highway Administration, Franklin Mountains Wilderness President Scott Cutler wrote:

“We are writing to assure you that if Council should deny our initial request, we fully intend to gather the second round of signatures. We are a motivated group of citizens who have dedicated ourselves to making sure that community values are reflected in the final alternative for a Transmountain Freeway. We believe that our petition represents these values and will ultimately be approved by the voters.”

Here is Mr. Cutler’s complete letter to the FHWA:

Fmwc Letter to Fhwa

As mentioned in the last elpasonaturally e-letter, the Federal Highway Administration has still not ruled on the TxDOT Environmental Assessment although word through the grapevine is that they will in the next couple of weeks or so.

If you are interested in having an information booth, being a vendor or a speaker or providing entertainment at the 7th Annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta on September 17th, see the list of contacts. Get more information about the Festival.

Also plan now to attend the El Paso Water Utilities/Public Service Board Strategic Planning meetings, September 8 and 9 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the TecH20 Center, 10751 Montana Avenue, El Paso, TX. (Map) EPWU/PSB is an agency of the City of El Paso. It belongs to you, the people of El Paso. It’s your water department. Your voice in strategic planning is important.

Finally, the Rio Bosque is DRY. Watering of trees, shrubs and grasses is a 5-days per week chore. If you can help, please call John Sproul at 915-861-4361.

Dry conditions are having devastating effects on El Paso’s largest park. Ground water levels are the lowest in five years. Three of the park’s monitoring wells are dry. The Irrigation District is continuously pumping from the Bosque into the irrigation channel. Due to the new concrete lining of the cannel, there is no recharge back to the ground water. Willows, cottonwoods and more are dying. Even the Tornillos are stressed.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sign-Up for Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta

7th Annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta, September 17, 2011

The 7th Annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta is sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Franklin Mountains State Park at the Tom Mays Unit. Park staff, members of the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition, and other environmental education groups will be on hand to offer free demonstrations, guided tours, guest speakers and informational booths designed to introduce the curious to the wonders of our fascinating desert.

For more information on how to have a free information or demonstration booth contact Diane Perez at

For more information on how to be a vendor selling gift items, crafts, artwork or food contact Dr. Cesar Mendez at

For more information on how to be a speaker contact Rick LoBello at

For more information on how to sign up to be an entertainer contact Veronica Myers at

Thursday, August 4, 2011

More Than Enough Signatures!

PLAN NOW TO ATTEND the El Paso Water Utilities/Public Service Board Strategic Planning meetings, September 8 and 9 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the TecH20 Center, 10751 Montana Avenue, El Paso, TX. (Map) EPWU/PSB is an agency of the City of El Paso. It belongs to you, the people of El Paso. Your voice in strategic planning is important.

Petition gatherers for the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition announced today that they now have more than enough verified signatures on a petition which calls for the preservation of the Scenic Transmountain Corridor. Plans are being made now to announce the results of the petition drive at the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, August 9, at approximately 9 a.m. Supporters are invited to attend that presentation. Immediately afterwards, the petitions will be formally submitted to the Municipal Clerk’s office.

The petition reads as follows:

The undersigned ask that the El Paso City Council pass the following ordinance:

The City of El Paso shall preserve, in its natural state and in perpetuity, all of the acreage in the land legally described as “Parcel 1 - Nellie D. Mundy Survey 246, City of El Paso, El Paso County, Texas, and Parcel 2 - a portion of S.J. Larkin Survey, Abstract 10070, Tract 1, City of El Paso, El Paso County, Texas, and Parcel 3 - a portion of S.J. Larkin Survey, Abstract 10070, Tract 1-A, City of El Paso, El Paso County, Texas.” The City shall take all steps necessary to preserve this land and to prevent it from being developed with either private development or major public roadways. (This land is also known as “the West Transmountain Scenic Corridor.”)

As mentioned in the last elpasonaturally e-letter, the Federal Highway Administration has still not ruled on the TxDOT Environmental Assessment although word through the grapevine is that they will in the next couple of weeks.

Take time to read Lisa Tate’s excellent history of Transmountain which is the feature story in the August El Paso Scene. Her story concludes with comments about the open space issue from our very good friend, Rick L. LoBello. The Scene can be found at these locations.

Judy Ackerman of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition sent this very encouraging email message:

This week, members of FMWC met with new City Representatives Niland and Noe. They both expressed support for our efforts to preserve land on the Scenic Corridor in NW [El Paso] and Castner Range in NE [El Paso]. Ms. Cortney Niland assured us that she wants to protect our mountains because she and her family are active rock climbers and mountain bikers. Dr. Michael Noe expressed support for smart growth concepts and wants to stop the sprawl in east El Paso that causes traffic jams and other problems.

Interested in starting an eco-tourism business or community project? It’s not too late to register for the Eco-Tourism Workshop. (See flyer.) Registration must be done by tomorrow (August 5). Just contact Dr. Ray Bader at or calling 915-860-2515. The registration fee is $50.00. Read Judge Veronica Escobar’s letter about the event.

The El Paso Native Plant Society will meet next on Thursday, August 11 beginning at 6:30 p.m. Dave Nolan of the National Weather Service will speak on “Weather 2011 Style”. Also, the El Paso Cactus and Rock Club will host a pot-luck luncheon and cactus plant lottery beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 13. Both events take place at the Garden Center, 3105 Grant Avenue. For more information, call 915-833-7637.

Finally, the El Paso Sunrise Hikers, Franklin Mountains State Park Volunteers, the El Paso Ridgewalkers and the El Paso Hiking Group are having a rummage sale at this year’s Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta on September 17th to benefit the Franklin Mountains State Park. Please donate any good, clean used (or new) hiking or camping gear that you don’t plan on using again. For more information and/or to make a donation, please call Jim Tolbert at 915-525-7364 or email him or call Richard Love at 915-474-1384 or email him. We will arrange to pick up all items that you wish to donate.

This is Volume 2 and Number 26 published on August 4, 2011 of the Elpasonaturally e-letter. To subscribe, email and write "Subscribe elpasonaturally".

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sunrise Hikers E-Letter, Vol. 3, No. 49

Men: think twice if you believe that you are better hikers than women. Jennifer Pharr Davis just set the record for the fastest walk down the Appalachian Trail (2,180 mile trek from Maine to Georgia). She did it in a record 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes! Here she is at the finish line. Not long ago Sunrise Hiker Hall of Famer, James Holloway, hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

Hiking and walking take a toll on our feet. I asked two of our experts, Judy Ackerman and John Moses, what tips they can give us for foot care. Both emphasized wearing good footwear and breaking in your boots first before doing long hikes in them. Wear them for some walks around the block before taking a trek up the mountain. Judy and John also emphasized the importance of clean, dry socks. Both carry an extra pair on every trek. Judy mentioned that properly laced high top boots will help toes from being jammed (and a toenail lost) when going downhill. Judy repeated that hikers must find what works for them: foot powder, insoles, ointments – whatever. My favorite after hike care is to soak my feet in a basin of very warm water with dissolved Epsom salts! Checkout online tips here and here. If you are diabetic, go here. For overall foot pampering – here.

Here’s our line-up of upcoming hikes:

Thursday, August 4 at 6:00 a.m. South Tin Mine/East Cottonwood Springs Hike. Meet at Chuck Heinrich Park. (Parking is at the end of Jon Cunningham Blvd. just west of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.) This is an easy to moderate hike over good trails except for the last 100 yards to East Cottonwood Springs, which is bushwhacking over firm and loose rocks and cactus. Hike leader Mark Worley calls this a 3 hour moderate hike.

Saturday, August 6 at 7:00/8:00 a.m. Dripping Springs. With the recent rains, will the falls be roaring or dripping or something in between? Come and find out on this easy 3.5 mile hike with very little elevation gain into the beautiful Organ Mountains. The hike culminates at an old sanitarium with a lovely natural pool and waterfall. Sorry, pets are not allowed.

Easy directions: Go north on I-10 to Las Cruces. From the junction of I-10 and I-25, follow I-25 north one mile to the University Avenue Exit. Turn right (east) on University Ave. University Avenue will turn into Dripping Springs Rd. Follow Dripping Springs Road east for about 5 miles until the pavement ends. Continue an additional 2.5 miles to the junction of Dripping Springs Rd. and Baylor Canyon Rd. Just a little further ahead on Dripping Springs Road you will find the paved entrance to Dripping Springs Natural Area. The entrance fee is $3 per vehicle.

Meet at the I-10/Transmountain Shell Station at 7 a.m. for carpooling. Otherwise, we will see you in the parking lot of the Visitor’s Center at Dripping Springs at 8 a.m. Bring plenty of water and a snack.

After our hike, there’s plenty to do and great places to eat in Las Cruces. After all, what’s an excursion without food and libations, good company, and rollicking conversation. One of our favorite places in Cruces is the High Desert Brewing Company. One Sunriser suggested the International Delights Café. There’s always a fine selection of restaurants in Mesilla. And, of course, Hatch is less than 40 miles up scenic Highway 185. What’s in Hatch? Sparky’s of course. All I’ve thought about recently are their Chile Mango shakes. Perhaps, before lunch or afterwards depending on when we finish our hike, there is the Las Cruces Farmers Market. Look for Karen Hackey’s decorative sandblasting art. No visit to Cruces (or the Farmers Market) is complete without spending time browsing books at COAS Bookstore.

Saturday, August 6 at 7:30 a.m. Reservoirs Down the Valley Birding Trip. Meet at 7:30 a.m. at Feather Lake, 9500 North Loop at Bordeaux. Carpool from there. Bring lunch, water and binoculars.. This is a popular trip because we'll visit three reservoirs in the Lower Valley that offer a variety of land birds and water birds. The first stop will be McNary, then on to Ft. Hancock and finally Tornillo with a stop along the way to have a picnic lunch. Some possible birds are egrets, herons, hawks, pelicans, gulls, sandpipers, grebes, cormorants, ducks and others. Nonmembers of Audubon Society and beginners are always welcome. Contact Mark Perkins 637-3521 or

Every Sunday is Scenic Sunday at Scenic Drive from 6 - 11 a.m. Walk, run or bicycle this 4.1 mile round trip of panoramic views and 500 million-year-old fossils. Pets (dogs) are allowed. Even Chihuahuas.

Do check out, bookmark and join the El Paso Hiking Group and the Las Cruces Hiking Group. Bookmark Celebration of Our Mountains now and start looking for a line-up of their fall festival (September – November) excursions.

Finally, the El Paso Sunrise Hikers, Franklin Mountains State Park Volunteers, the El Paso Ridgewalkers and the El Paso Hiking Group are having a rummage sale at this year’s Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta on September 17th to benefit the Franklin Mountains State Park. Please donate any good, clean used (or new) hiking or camping gear that you don’t plan on using again. For more information and/or to make a donation, please call Jim Tolbert at 915-525-7364 or email him or call Richard Love at 915-474-1384 or email him. We will arrange to pick up all items that you wish to donate.


Jim H. Tolbert

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Song of the Day: Ceiba Performs Xochiplzahuatl

The first music group I heard after I moved back to El Paso in 2006 was Ceiba. I instantly fell in love with this group and their magical music. My neighborhood association, Newman Park Neighborhood Association, has been fortunate to have Ceiba play twice. Their last performance was a concert of a lifetime. It was performed in honor of Lorrenzo "Lencho" Guel who had succumbed to cancer just days before. I will never forget his wife, Jena, crying out at the end of the concert: "Lencho presente!"

They have only two videos online of which I am aware. Here is their performance of "Xochiplzahuatl", a traditional Mexican song from the Huatescan region sung at weddings in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This video was taken at their gig at the Pancho Villa museum in Columbus, New Mexico in 2008 during the annual Cactus Carnival.