Thursday, May 31, 2012

Public Meetings for El Paso Parks and Recreation Master Plan Update

Public Meetings on
El Paso Parks and Recreation
Master Plan Update
Meetings to be held at Museum of Art
El Paso, Texas - The City of El Paso will host two public meetings to present the recommendations for the ongoing Parks and Recreation Master Plan Update.

The first meeting will be at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 7th with the second meeting at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 9th. Both meetings will be at the El Paso Museum of Art, One Arts Festival Plaza. (1st Floor in Contemporary Exhibit Space). (MapFree parking is available at the City Hall parking lot after 6:00 p.m. for the first meeting or Saturday morning. Parking is also available either day for $5 across the street from the Museum under the Convention Center.

The city is updating the master plan for the parks and recreation system. Once the update is completed it will help the City set priorities for parks and recreation facilities for the next 5 to 10 years. As the City strives to improve the
quality of life in El Paso, plans of this nature are critical.

This process is being coordinated by the El Paso Parks and Recreation Department and a team of professional consultants. A primary goal of the planning process is to find out what park and recreation needs are desired by citizens of El Paso. In the previous months a telephone survey was conducted, and several stakeholder/interest groups were interviewed. All the opinions and desires were cumulated, and recommendations of the master plan update that were derived from the surveys are now available for public review.

Residents of El Paso will be able to review and comment on these recommendations at the two public meetings. Residents are encouraged to attend the public meetings as the information derived will be invaluable to the master planning process.
Information – (915) 541-4020

Rainwater Harvesting Talk June 9th

Rainwater Harvesting
Weathering the Drought

Demonstration of making a rain barrel at a recent workshop at the A&M Center.

Master Gardener Virginia Morris will talk about rainwater harvesting on Saturday, June 9th at 10 a.m. at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology. Admission is free and open to the public.

El Paso has been in a severe drought for several years.  Some forecasters say this drought could extend for another decade.  If the drought continues, water conservation will be made mandatory.  Since 71 percent of our water use is for irrigation, it is clear where the first restrictions will be applied.  Even though we only get around 8 to 9 inches of water per year in non-drought conditions, capturing and using our rainwater more efficiently will be extremely beneficial to our landscapes.  Join us to learn how to ensure that every drop of rain is incorporated into our landscapes.  Learn strategies to capture, store and use harvested rainwater.  Reducing the cost of your water bill will be an additional benefit.

Virginia Morris is a Master Gardener whose specialties lie in landscape design utilizing Xeriscape design principles.  She is also a member of the El Paso Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico and president of the El Paso Cactus and Rock Club.  Virginia has just completed her third design and implementation of public landscapes that incorporate passive rainwater harvesting to provide supplemental irrigation and to prevent erosion.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Reality Show and a Beginners Hike

Click on image to enlarge.

Okay male El Paso Hikers (Bicyclers, Mountain Bikers, Climbers, Etc.) here’s an opportunity to be part of a new competitive reality series. Janet Martinez, a Casting Assistant with Real People Casting, Inc., contacted moi (of course) to help get the word out about the casting that they are doing for a new series tentatively called Bounty.  Janet told me that “from now until June 15th, we will be conducting a nationwide search for men in their 20's and 30's, and I think El Paso Hiker could be a great resource to scout for our series. I was hoping you could help get the word out by forwarding this email to members of your organization. The grand prize for the winner of this competition will be $100,000!”  You can learn more here.

If you are interested, email your contact info and 2 recent photos of yourself to or feel free to call 818-762-6199. This seems to be a legitimate offer but do your own due diligence before signing on any dotted line.

This has nothing to do with hiking, walking , birding or biking.  However, we all need to eat so why not eat fresh farm food.  It’s Farmers Market time again at Ardovino’s Desert Crossing. Opening day is tomorrow, May 26, 2012. The market will be open every Saturday morning from 7:30 a.m. until Noon through mid-October. You might consider taking an ice chest to keep food fresh while you eat brunch. It’s the best brunch menu this side of the Atlantic and just an easy drive across the mighty Rio Grande in a spot nestled on the other side of Mount Cristo Rey.

On Saturday, June 9th, there will be a beginners hike at 7 a.m. We will do the Upper Sunset Trail at the Tom Mays Unit of the FMSP the easy way. Meet at the gate to the Park (map). We will take some cars to the parking lot at the end of the trail and ride together to the north end, top of the trail. This really is a beginners hike with a good trail, not a great elevation gain. It is only a 1.5 mile hike one-way in the easy direction. We will plan to do the Upper Sunset from south to north another time. But for now this is perfect for those of you who have been wanting a beginning hike on a weekend. Also, this will give us all time to get to Ardovino’s Farmers Market for a brunch or a breakfast burrito. Remember your canvas shopping bags for your vegetables, herbs, eggs and such.

Do check out the June schedule of hikes in the Franklin Mountains State Park.

Also see the upcoming hikes posted at El Paso Hiking Group including a cherry-picking hike to La Luz and Cloudcroft tomorrow morning and an evening sunset on the ridge hike this coming Wednesday led by veteran hiker, Karl Putnam.

The Las Cruces hiking meet-up group are planning an excursion to Baylor Pass and possibly a moonlight hike at White Sands – both on June 3.

Finally, if you use a smart phone, check out some geocaching apps. They’re a good way to get started and will work around our area. The only downside is that they won’t work in areas where you can’t get phone service. Mountain Bikers can now do a geocache virtual race. Check it out at GeoBetty.  Another great app for Androids is Google Sky Map. If you are ever out at night and want to know what you are seeing in the night sky, this is a great app. I’m not sure that it will identify ET but it can tell you that you are looking at Venus or Jupiter, Regulus, Vega or Arcturus and name the constellations.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice

Because I am a Quaker, i wanted to share the epistle below from the recently adjourned Sixth World Conference of Friends. I think that it can speak to all who are concerned with conservation and protecting the environment and all living things. Whether you agree with the theology or are a non-theist or have other perspectives, you may still find the words below as inspiring as I do.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sharing Rio Grande Water: A Mexican Perspective

In Learn Your Water Footprint I alluded to the growing anger of Texas farmers and the Agriculture Commissioner over the IBWC's release of more water to Mexico while holding up the release of Rio Grande water to Texas.

Thanks to Marshall Carter-Tripp, below is a translation of a story that appeared in the El Diario on May 3, 2012. Marshall wrote me in an email: "We all need to understand that Mexico also has obligations and is being forced to deliver water to the Rio Grande despite the severe drought in Chihuahua State. This news appeared in the El Diario . . . but not in the Times!"

Carter-Tripp summarizes the article as "[j]ust a story about the Governor of Chihuahua's anger when he found that the 1944 treaty with the U.S. on water sharing requires Mexico to send water northward regardless of drought.   A mirror image of the folks in Texas complaining about sending water to Mexico."

Even with the drought that afflicts the region, Mexico will continue with the delivery of water to the US in conformity with the International Treaty on Water of 1944, the Mexican section of the IBWC (CILA in Spanish).  This was explained after the governor of Chihuahua, César Duarte Jáquez, recently asserted that “no way” was water going to be delivered to the  US authorities.  “I want to say with all gentlemanliness and diplomacy that there is no water,” he affirmed a few days ago in comments to the press.  Consulted about this, Jesús Luévano, Mexican Secretary of the IBWC, indicated that the delivery from this country [Mexico] is generated from six streams, one of which is the Rio Conchos, which is in the state [of Chihuahua], but if it has no water it will be supplied from other tributaries.  That is to say, from the rivers San Diego, San Rodrigo, the Escondido and the Salado, along with the Las Vacas arroyo [stream] located between Coahuila and Tamaulipas.  The functionary said that from the courses of these tributaries water flows all year to the river, from which is taken one-third for the US and two-thirds for Mexico.  “It is impossible that nothing comes from the Rio Conchos, there is always water coming from the Conchos to the Bravo [Rio Grande],” he noted.  The Chihuahuan governor claimed the water of the state, after it turned out that up to now the US would only guarantee the allocation promised to Mexico annually under another treaty, that of 1906, used to irrigate the fields in the Valley of Juárez.  Under this 112-year-old treaty, the neighboring country [i.e, the US] should provide an annual quota of 74 million cubic meters of water, coming from the Elephant Butte and Caballo dams located in New Mexico.  But this year, due to the drought conditions up to this moment, the allocation set aside for this year, which commenced 5 April, only equaled 20 percent of the annual quota that the US is committed to provide.  The bi-national body announced that it would review the conditions in the dams every month in order to determine the final delivery, which according to its estimates might reach 25 million cubic meters, “but this would depend on the evolution of the conditions in the river basin.”  Given this, Duarte said: “We need the cubic meters that the North Americans should deliver to us here and must expound our drought condition in a stronger manner.”  In the Rio Grande there is no resource whatsoever, and they [the US] keep in suspense the Valley of Juárez, the agricultural zone of the City of Juárez, he added in his remarks to the press.  Luévano indicated that there have been conversations with Duarte Jáquez and they have explained to him how the 1944 treaty works.  He mentioned that up to now the Rio Conchos has lacked important portions of the quota delivered to the neighboring country (the US), excluding the floods of 2008.  The official explained that the obligation of Mexico is to provide 431.7 million cubic meters every year, but accounted for in five-year cycles, which means that this year the delivery could be zero and the next year double, that is 863 cubic meters, and this would be fine.

El Diario also has a translation application at the top of the story. (Link above)

FMSP June 2012 Hiking Schedule

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

Friday, May 18, 2012

FNS Reports: Climate Havoc Crosses Borders

In my e-letter posted on Wednesday I mentioned the reaction of Texas farmers and the response by the Texas Commissioner of Agriculture to the release of more water to Chihuahua leaving less to Texas. Here is some perspective to the problem from NMSU's Frontera NorteSur.  FNS "provides on-line news coverage and analysis of events taking place in the US-Mexico border region." The title of this report is Climate Havoc Crosses Borders published May 16 and updated May 18:

"For the second year in a row, residents of New Mexico and neighboring Chihuahua, Mexico, find themselves in the throes of severe drought. On May 15, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez issued an emergency drought declaration, citing in part a forecast from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center that warned of persistent or intensified drought in the state.
As an example of deepening water woes, Martinez noted the water shortage in the northern town of Las Vegas. Martinez’s office stated that 2011 was the second driest year ever recorded in New Mexico.
“In addition to the work we’re doing at the state level to assist communities facing serious drought conditions, I’m hopeful this declaration will assist them in securing any available federal funding as well,” Martinez said.
Martinez’s counterpart in Chihuahua, Governor Cesar Duarte, also recently reached out to his own federal government for help in coping with drought. Last month, Duarte requested about $200 million from the Calderon administration for water infrastructure projects, emergency food aid and agricultural subsidies to help rural communities under environmental stress. According to Duarte, natural water supplies for 300 communities in the Sierra Tarahumara region have dried up and stopped giving the essential ingredient of life.
“According to the National Water Commission, Chihuahua is the state confronting the severest drought in the country..,” Duarte said.
Under the circumstances, rain normally might be welcome relief in New Mexico and Chihuahua. But unseasonal storms accompanied by high winds lashed through the region last week and left minor flooding, some power outages and a tree crashed into a house in Albuquerque. In Socorro County, New Mexico, a highly unusual tornado startled the small town of Magdalena. “And we were so scared we had to run to the closet,” resident Monique Baca was quoted; no significant damages were immediately reported from the twister.
Across the border in Chihuahua, the precipitation sowed a path of destruction through far-flung farming communities, where golf ball-sized hail was reported. At least $40 million in estimated losses were racked up for cotton, chile, wheat, corn and pecan farms.
The municipalities and communities most affected included Galeana, Ascension, Buenaventura, LeBaron, Flores Magon, and Villa Ahumada. The Pecan Producers Association estimated a 100 percent loss in some of the state’s orchards, and growers took measures to rehabilitate trees so production could resume within two years.
As reports were still trickling in from remote areas, the Chihuahua State Secretariat for Rural Development reported damages to more than 3,000 acres of jalapeno chile peppers, nearly 2,000 acres of oats and more than 2,000 acres of wheat.  Approximately 23,400 acres planted in cotton were judged a complete loss. In total, 30,000 acres or more of cropland and orchards could have been impacted.
If drought and extreme weather aren’t enough, Chihuahua has also counted at least 723 forest fires since the beginning of the year.
In New Mexico, Governor Martinez’s drought declaration re-convened the New Mexico Drought Task Force. Led by the State Engineer, the task force’s mission is to make recommendations to the Governor on “ways the state can prepare for and mitigate the problems that occur in New Mexico due to persistent drought conditions.” The task force was ordered to meet in open public meetings at least once each quarter.
The New Mexico Drought Declaration cautioned that it might take “several years of higher than normal precipitation and snow pack for current reservoir storage to recover,” as well as a “considerable amount of precipitation and snow melt run off” for the restoration of decent soil moisture and plant vegetation conditions."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Learn Your Water Footprint

By now we should all be getting the message: Conserve water. There’s a water shortage.

The hand writing is on the wall: aquifer pumping has become a concern in neighboring Doña Ana County. Since the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) has chosen to deliver more water sooner to Mexico, thus depriving Texas farmers, Texas State Agricultural Commissioner, Todd Staples, fired off a strong letter to the IBWC. You can see for yourself that the Rio Grande is dry. More water may not be released until June. EPWU CEO Ed Archuleta encouraged all of us in an El Paso Times op-ed piece to conserve more and to participate in the utility’s Less Is the New More program. For now, watering our yards twice a week is a suggestion. One wonders when it might have to become mandatory.

EPWU’s Less Is the New More program is a good one for all of us to get involved with. Do check out our water utility’s conservation page; and, as you do more spring planting, see their plant page.  Like and follow EPWU’s Facebook page.

Water conservation programs that encourage or require our watering our gardens less or using water-efficient shower heads are great short-term solutions to periodic drought. Even the Texas Department of Agriculture has a poll on its home page that suggests that conserving water is just a matter of using better appliances, fixing leaky faucets and taking shorter baths. What we have to realize is that water is embedded in everything that we use – the food we eat, the clothes that we wear, the gasoline that we put in our cars. We need to know our water footprint.  National Geographic has a water footprint calculator that educates as well as demonstrates how much water we use. Also visit the Water Footprint Network and try out their calculator.

Get to know Sandra Postel. Watch one of her videos on elpasonaturally and see more at YouTube. She knows about the concept of a water footprint.

One issue Postel raises is our need to irrigate our crop lands more efficiently. An elpasonaturally reader recently told me that Middle Eastern students visiting UTEP are always aghast at how we irrigate our fields and even the water-hungry crops that we grow. Note that only a handful of people can vote in the elections of board members of the El Paso Water Improvement District. Yet, your voice for water conservation and irrigation reform should be heard.

Read between the lines of Archuleta’s El Paso Times op-ed piece. If 50% of our water comes from our river, and if Caballo/Elephant Butte is down to 18%, then what happens to the draw rate on the Hueco Bolson and who’s water will we need? How much water farms require to grow water-hungry crops needs to be questioned especially now that the Rodriquez/Quintanilla bill cut 75,000 people out of public decisions on an essential public good – water. Your non-public Public Service Board and officers of EPWU endorsed that bill. Whose behind it? Big donors to Silvestre Reyes who control the EPWID whose general manager is Silvestre’s brother, “Chuy”.

I guess that there is no mistaking that I support Beto O’Rourke for Congress and am delighted by the EP Times endorsement. The recent pandering to local conservationists by Rep. Reyes on the issue of Castner Range was a big yawn. Beto gave a solid response.

I recently wrote an email to Jim Carrillo of Halff Associates, Inc. regarding the updating of the City of El Paso Parks and Recreation Master Plan. I posted that email on the blog and hope you will read it. I argue that, more than just recreation, Parks can help us to become more connected with nature.

Finally, elpasonaturally is saying more about bicycling. There are more activities in El Paso for Bike Month. Check them out.

Sandra Postel: Water Conservation Is More Than Watering Less

Get to know Sandra Postel and what she has to say about water. It's not just a matter of conserving water by turning off the tap as we brush our teeth. With global warming strategies that deal with episodic droughts are not enough. It's a matter of knowing that water is embedded in everything and knowing our "water footprint". It's about eating less beef, recycling paper or using less, buying fewer clothes or checking out that Thrifty store on the corner.

Here's a 2010 video with Postel that can help get you acquainted with what she is teaching:

O'Rourke Responds to Reyes Castner Chicanery

From Beto O'Rourke, candidate for Congress:

Dear Open Space Advocates:

I want to thank you for all of your work to preserve Castner Range. While I'm excited to see some movement on this issue at the federal level, it is clearly not enough. Instead of a suggestion to preserve Castner Range, we need a clear congressional directive to preserve Castner Range. We also need the funding to clean up the unexploded ordinance so that El Pasoans can enjoy hiking and biking this wonderful community asset.

I have worked with many of you to make conservation a priority in El Paso. We have developed Open Space plans, preserved major open space assets and put in place dedicated funding to preserve those natural spaces that matter to El Pasoans, like the Palisades. It is because of these community efforts that generations to come will be able to enjoy these rare special places. We need the same outcome for Castner Range.

Thanks again for your efforts and for your consideration. 


Beto O'Rourke

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New Community Garden Opens Its Gates

This past Saturday gates opened at the Vista Valle Park in the Cielo Vista neighborhood of El Paso. The garden is the culmination of work done by Virginia Galarza and Marci Tuck Havlik. Rep. Emma Acosta, Neighborhood President Mark Benitez and other dignitaries were on hand to cut the ribbon. A number of organizations had booths including La Semilla, El Paso Permaculture, Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners and several more including even sponsor, Home Depot.

Marci Havlik, Jim Tolbert, Rep. Emma Acosta, Nanette Smejkal, Mark Benitez, Deborah Hradek and Virginia Galarza cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the Community Garden.

El Paso Permaculture's Robert Leal talks to people about permaculture principles.

People begin tending their plots.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Reyes Attempt to Grandstand Gets Just a Yawn

A thin crowd gathers and awaits Reyes to arrive

It was politics pure and simple and it read like an El Paso Times headline with words like "may" or "could". Last Thursday, Rep. Reyes' office issued a press release entitled "Silvestre Reyes Announces Passage of Legislation to Add Castner Range to the Franklin Mountains State Park". Problem is there was no passage by either the House or the Senate and no Presidential siganture. 

It is true that the House Armed Services Committee did vote to approve the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that included language that Castner Range may be conveyed to the Department of Parks and Wildlife of the State of Texas for inclusion into the State Park. "May" is pretty squirmy and not firm like the words "will" and "must" that Silvestre's opponent, Beto O'Rourke, wants to see used in the language of the bill. 

Dr. Richard Teschner along with other members of the Castner Conservation Conveyance Committee are really to be thanked for their efforts to conserve and convey the Range to the State Park.

The land may be conveyed as long as unexploded ordnance is cleaned-up first. What land is clean may be conveyed. What land awaits cleaning will have to be done with State or private money - as high as $65 Million possibly according to Dr. Richard Teschner, a key player in conservation efforts through the Castner (Range) Conservation Committee, a joint effort of the Frontera Land Alliance (Dr. Teschner is Vice-President) and the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition.

El Paso Times reporters, Aaron Bracamontes and Alex Hinojosa, in stories on Saturday and Sunday both saw the Emperor unclad. Reyes was not exactly upfront with this pre-mature announcement the weekend before early voting was set to begin. Also in his Thursday press release his office states: "Reyes also secured $300,000 for a study to determine how best to apply a conservation conveyance to the Range." That $300,000 was done in 2010 but the press release made it sound like just one more goodie Reyes has brought home to voters in recent days.

It is true that Reyes has helped conservation efforts and persons in his office such as Julie Merberg, according to Teschner, have been "extremely helpful". But the real credit should go to the Castner (Range) Conservation Conveyance Committee and thousands of jet miles by Teschner and others back and forth between El Paso and Washington D.C. Clearly environmentalist, Beto O'Rourke, favors preserving the land. So, even if he is elected over Reyes, the efforts will continue and probably will do so as "musts" and not "mays". 

The language inserted in the bill is a step forward. But, as another hard worker for Castner conservation, Judy Ackerman, says: "The news is a very big step in the right direction, but we are not done yet. There is much more work to do before Castner belongs to the Park."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Connecting People to Nature Should Be a Key Goal in Any City Parks Master Plan

Currently Jim Carrillo of Halff Associates, Inc. is assisting the City's Parks and Recreation Department with its updating of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. I just emailed Jim the following ideas:

We tend to think about parks and recreation in very two-dimensional, traditional ways: green spaces for playing and picnics and sports fields and facilities for organized games and senior and community activities which are carefully planned and directed. All of this is good and as it should be but then we set our goals based on this two-dimensional model only. Perhaps a model that adds a dimension of relating us to our natural world can open us up to some new possibilities.

You may already know about the Green Gym program in Great Britain. If not, you can get acquainted here:  There’s a longer clip but with more explanation: The btcv green gym web page: Green Gym is just one example of many ways in which to involve people in the outdoors with conservation by tackling a wide-range of projects. It need not be limited to a municipal parks and recreation department – but such a department is a good place for this kind of program. Also this kind of program suggests others and is merely a “manifestation” of many ways in which people are re-connecting with nature: community and neighborhood gardens, permaculture and so forth.

There must be a number of ways in which people can become more involved in animal habitat. This weekend our local Audubon group will visit two El Paso parks: Memorial and Billy Rogers Arroyo Park. Imagine if there could be more birdhouse programs, bat houses built, citizens planting trees. Even simple storm water management programs with “rain barrel” technology would be good.

I suggest that we involve more people in more nature-oriented projects most of which would be grass-root generated by citizens and their organizations.

Obviously the City of El Paso has set a goal to have healthier, less obese people. There is even a new walking program in the downtown area. It’s a bit tame – but a start. Many of our parks can be “connected” merely by defining walkways that people can use between and among neighborhoods with signage similar or not to that used for the downtown walking program. This same kind of park to park path-finding can be utilized to connect parks with natural open space. From our nice neighborhood park (Newman) we are easily connected on Sunday mornings to the natural open space that leads into the Franklin Mountains State Park at the other end of Scenic Drive. The City should identify other walkways to close on Sundays so that bicyclers, walkers, joggers and even Chihuahuas (on leashes of course) can wend their way from one point to another and even into a number of trailheads leading to the State Park without the presence of motorized vehicles. The use of GPS devices can be tied to City guided tours overseen by Parks and Recreation. Geocaches at various parks and at trailheads can encourage exploration and adventure.

Certainly where utility easements and other “paths” can be used as walkways, they should be.

One of our biggest natural assets in the City – one that holds tremendous potential as an eco-tourist and eco-tourist dollar magnet – is the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park. It is amazing that no dollars are dedicated to it and that it isn’t even mentioned in our Quality of Life Bond wish list. No effort is being made to solve its agonizing water problem and the current Parks and Recreation policy seems to be happy with letting UTEP manage the program on their own. The Park is part of our Parks and Recreation inventory and is a jewel of a place for relating people to nature.

And, of course, neighborhood and community gardens should be fostered. Tomorrow we open a new garden at Vista del Valle Park. It should be a prototype and the beginning of more such gardens around the City and an integral part of the Parks and Recreation program. Along with more community gardens should be an emphasis on ethnobotany – native plants that can be foraged for nutrition and medicinal purposes. I lived for 18 years in the Issaquah, Washington area. Along one boulevard were apple trees which people would pick from in the fall. Imagine re-connecting with mesquite beans, chokeberries and prickly pears. Imagine a “recreation” of milling and canning and not just bingo and dominoes.

Bottom line: I’m suggesting that the added dimension to any Parks and Recreation Plan be ways to connect people to Nature and get them involved with conservation, ecology and environmental protection. It would be a program that would help re-build the eco-system that we have so damaged or destroyed not just in El Paso but in cities and towns everywhere.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Hike, Bike and Birding Events

The Sunrise Hikers group of the El Paso Hikers is back (although they are hiking a bit after sunrise).

Join veteran hiking legend, John Moses, on Tuesday, May 15th, at 7:40 a.m. at the Franklin Mountains State Park headquarters in McKelligon Canyon.  (Map)  We will leave most vehicles there and then carpool to the Stoney Hill Trailhead for a hike up the Stoney Hill Arroyo over the ridge into McKelligon Canyon.

On Thursday, May 17th, do the Schaeffer Shuffle in the Tom Mays Unit of the Franklin Mountains State Park. Plan to meet at 7:00 a.m. sharp at the park entrance (map). Pay your $2 Sunrise Hiker fee. We will go to the trailhead and do the shuffle. This is a moderate hike on good trails and can be enjoyed by the beginning hiker. Expect 2 hours. The toughest part is ascending the hill back to the parking lot/picnic site at the end of the hike. We will not be in a hurry and nobody will be left behind. Hikers will be able to identify some plant species and perhaps see Mule Deer. Any geocachers may want to do a quick side trip to find the geocache along the way. 

The El Paso Ridgewalkers, the  El Paso Hiking Meet-up and the Las Cruces Hiking Meet-up  have some great hikes coming up as well including a Tramway Trails hike and a Geocache Hike this Saturday as well as a difficult Palisades arroyo hike this Sunday.

By the way, consider purchasing a Texas State Park Pass for just $70. When we return to the park headquarters on Tuesday is a good time to do so. Also consider a donation to help your parks.

Join the Audubon Society this Saturday, May 12th  for a birding trip to Memorial Park and Arroyo Park.  The Warbler migration is in full swing and Warblers, Vireos and Orioles have been seen at Memorial Park.  Meet at 7:00 a.m. at the Garden Center at 3105 Grant and  bird Memorial Park first.  Then move on to Arroyo Park where you might see Flycatchers, Gambel's Quail and possibly Tanagers.  Nonmembers and beginners are always welcome.  Contact Mark at 637-3521 or for more information.

May is National Bike month and the City of El Paso has a number of activities to honor the month. (Fortunately, elpasonaturally has posted these events as you will search in vain on the City web site for anything about it.)

The Adventure Cycling Association has blogged about some great trails in Far West Texas. Be sure to visit Texas Mountain Trails and their daily photo blog and see some great videos. Bicyclers: learn about the El Paso Uplands Loop.

Of course, there is great biking (and walking and jogging) on Scenic Drive since it is closed every Sunday morning from 6 to 11 a.m.  It’s a 4.1 mile hike from one side to the other.

The El Paso Bicycle Club is now a meet-up site.

The Guadalupe Mountains National Park wants your input on enhancing the usage of the Salt Basin Dunes Area.

Check out the American Hiking Society.  They offer Volunteer Vacations – 3 this summer in New Mexico. Get all the facts and details.

Finally, we may need to change the name of this e-letter from El Paso Hikers to something that suggests what we are truly becoming – a publication that gives information about a myriad of ways to enjoy our great El Paso region outdoors including hiking, walking, biking, birding and more. Any suggestions?


El Paso Celebrates National Bike Month

El Paso Bike Month Activities

1.     El Paso Bike Month Proclamation
Friday, May at 7 p.m. - San Jacinto Plaza

2.     Downtown Redevelopment Tour on Two Wheels  
Friday, May 4 @ 8 p.m. – San Jacinto Plaza. Tour Downtown El Paso on a bike and hear the latest on redevelopment efforts!

3.     Meet & Greet with the Bike Community
Friday, May 4 @ 10:00 PM – Bowie Feathers

4.     Bike to School Day
Wednesday, May 9 - Upload your picture to our Facebook page to win a prize!

5.     Bike Movie Night
Wednesday, May 9 at 8 p.m. - Glasbox

6.     Mustache Ride
Friday, May 11 at 6:30 p.m. - San Jacinto Plaza
Bring your mustache and ride from San Jacinto Plaza to Ascarate Park.

7.     Kids Ride
Saturday, May 12 at 10 a.m. - Ascarate Park (6900 Delta   
Drive). Free classes, games and prizes!

8.     Kids Ride
Saturday, May 12 at 10 a.m. - Veterans Park (5301 Salem Drive). Free classes, games and prizes!

9.     Upper Valley Ride
Sunday, May 13 at 9 a.m. - 6215 Upper Valley Road. Enjoy a nice and peaceful ride around Upper Valley.

10.Bike Clinics
Sunday, May 13 at 1 p.m. – El Paso Co-op (5509 Will Ruth Ave). Don’t know how to change a tire? Tune up? Change a wheel? Come and learn from the experts! FREE workshop!

11.Ride to Work Day
Friday, May 18. Upload your picture to our Facebook page and win a prize!

12.Parks Ride
Friday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m. - Memorial Park Library (3200 Copper Avenue). Ride from Memorial Park to Album Park.

13.Bike Clinics
Sunday, May 20 at 1 p.m. – Mercado Mayapan (2101 Myrtle Avenue). Don’t know how to change a tire? Tune up? Change a wheel? Come and learn from the experts! FREE workshop.

14.Cash Free Bike Swap
Sunday, May 20 at 1 p.m. – Mercado Mayapan (2101 Myrtle Avenue). Bring any used bike accessories and exchange with other bike riders.

15.Public Art Tour
Wednesday, May 23 at 7 p.m. - San Jacinto Plaza. Learn more about public art in the downtown area.

16.Wig Ride
Thursday, May 24 at 7 p.m. - San Jacinto Plaza. Bring your best wig to this ride!

17.Critical Mass Ride
Friday, May 25 @ 7 PM -San Jacinto Plaza. Bring your best and unique bike design and win a prize!

18.Bike ON El Paso
Friday, May 25 at 10 p.m. - The Mix at Union Plaza (518 W San Antonio). Closing festival with music, art, bike show & food!

19.End of Bike Month - Celebration
Thursday, May 31 at 7 p.m. - Loft light Studio Art Market. Join us for a final celebration and El Paso Bike Month closing remarks.

 *Bicycle lights and helmets are highly encouraged for all rides.  

National Bike Month is the inspiration of the League of American Bicyclists

Input Sought on Salt Basin Dunes Area

National Park Service               
Guadalupe Mountains National Park               
400 Pine Canyon Drive
U.S. Department of the Interior           
Salt Flat, TX 79847
915-828-3251 phone
Guadalupe Mountains News Release

Release date:   Immediate
Contact(s):       Karl M. Pierce
Phone number:  915-828-3251 x 2300
Date:               May 8, 2012

Guadalupe Mountains National Park Invites Public Input on Proposal to Enhance Visitor Use at Salt Basin Dunes Area

(Pine Springs, TX) Guadalupe Mountains National Park Superintendent Dennis A. Vásquez announced that the National Park Service (NPS) is initiating a plan to enhance visitor use at the Salt Basin Dunes area on the west side of the park. The NPS is seeking public input on a proposal to improve trail head facilities in an area of the park that includes the second largest gypsum dune field in the United States, as well as cultural sites, wildlife and plant life.

The area was added to the national park in 1998 and has been accessible to the public on a limited basis. The NPS proposes to improve public access by improving road access and providing facilities to include parking for up to 10 vehicles, restrooms, and a shaded picnic shelter. The public is invited to review a draft document, which outlines the background and possible alternatives. The document can be found at the NPS planning site <>.

The NPS will complete an environmental analysis consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). It is anticipated that this process will take approximately 90 days to complete and this is the first of two points in the process where public comments will be invited. The plan and environmental assessment will take into consideration ideas, issues, concerns and visions of park staff and the public for the Salt Basin Dunes. Visitor access to the Salt Basin Dunes has been addressed in the park’s Draft General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (February 2008).

Vásquez stated, “We would like to hear from the public about our proposal to improve the visitor access and experience in the Salt Basin Dunes area. Once we have a complete list of issues, we will define planning alternatives and prepare a Development Concept Plan/Environmental Assessment for public review and comment.”

Public comments may be submitted from May 9, 2012 through June 7, 2012, via the electronic public comment form on the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment
(PEPC) System at, which is the preferred method, however comments may also be hand-delivered or mailed to Superintendent, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, 400 Pine Canyon Drive, Salt Flat, Texas 79847.

Notice Regarding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) It is the practice of the NPS to make all comments, including names and addresses of respondents who provide that information, available for public review following the conclusion of the environmental assessment process. Individuals may request that the NPS withhold their name and/or address from public disclosure. If you wish to do this, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your comment. Commentators using the website can make such a request by checking the box “keep my contact information private.” NPS will honor such request to the extent allowable by law, but you should be aware that the NPS may still be required to disclose your name and address pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
We will make all submissions from organizations, businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses available for public inspection in their entirety.


The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage.

Community Garden to Open this Saturday

Click on image to enlarge.

A new community garden will open this Saturday, May 12th, at Vista Valle Park just off Viscount Blvd. in east El Paso. (Map) Rep. Emma Acosta and Cielo Vista Neighborhood Association President Mark Benitez will be on-hand for the ribbon cutting just after 9 a.m.  The park is the result of the tremendous efforts of Virginia Galarza with the City Parks and Recreation Department. Virginia is also the President of the Trans-Pecos Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists.

Super Athletes of the Sierra Madre to Show at UTEP

Click image to enlarge.

Photo-journalist Diana Molina says:"The book and film are in partnership with the Centennial and the Penn Museum in Philadelphia showing my new exhibit.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Kid's Summer Fit Club - Sign Up Now!

Click image to enlarge.

Here's a great program for your kids. The instructor, Marilyn, has been described as "awesome".

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Glad Beto Is Running

Most of you probably followed the excellent series in the El Paso Times about public corruption. You don’t even have to read between the lines to see the hand of current U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes in the midst of it. It’s good that Beto O’Rourke is running for that seat. Beto recently said how his support for conservation and environmental protection in our City and region is personal to him in an elpasonaturally blog post, Caring for the Environment and Conservation is Personal with Beto O'Rourke. Be sure to check out the Beto for Congress media page.

Silvestre’s brother is, of course, Chuy Reyes, the General Manager of the El Paso County Water Improvement District #1 that elpasonaturally has begun saying more about. The Reyes boys were behind a recent successful effort to pass a bill which disenfranchised 75,000 El Paso voters in the WID and placed the control of El Paso water into the hands of a few powerful farmers. Note the recent big donors to Silvestre Reyes: Skov and Stubbs.  Now see who is on the Board of Directors of the Water Improvement District: Skov and Stubbs

I recently was able to see a voting certificate of a member of the WID. This person registered late and yet has a low certificate number which probably means that no more than a thousand or less persons can now vote in the Water Improvement District as the result of Sen. Jose Rodriguez’s infamous bill. The voting card is valid for only one year and, after that, the voter will need to furnish ID and proof of ownership (water) in order to vote again. There are only two places for early voting. In short, the WID with the help of Sen. Jose Rodriguez and others has made it very difficult for the remaining voters to vote. I have emailed Mr. Jesus “Chuy” Reyes an open records request under the laws of the State of Texas asking for the current voting registration rolls. He has acknowledged receipt of my email.

Stay tuned to elpasonaturally for more on the large farmers who run EPWID and why your Public Service Board needs to be far more accountable to all of you – citizens of El Paso – the Public.

Still no word about the Sierra Club petition for an injunction to stop construction on the TxDOT Transmountain project. I say this with a bit of trepidation because, just as I say this, something might happen. I re-published the El Paso’s Sierra Club Chairman’s request for donations for the legal battle. What may have held up U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel from making a decision on this injunction is a ruling that he just made on a Planned Parenthood request for a preliminary injunction to allow it to continue serving women under a State of Texas program for low-income women.  Now that that decision has been made, perhaps action on the Sierra petition will come more quickly.

Also, no news to report about the NW Master Plan, methods to preserve the arroyos and a “conservation easement” to preserve the natural open space in perpetuity. Carlos Gallinar of City of El Paso Planning has been upfront always when reporting to the Open Space Advisory Board and when answering questions from the public. He has been very interested in Low Impact Development (LID) solutions for preserving arroyos. His interest and the Planning Department’s research about LIDs is just another good side benefit of the petition that seeks to preserve land in the Scenic Corridor of Transmountain.

In case you didn’t know, the City’s Environmental Services has a free mulch program. Mulch is a great way to conserve water by preserving soil moisture in your garden and with your landscape plants, shrubs and trees. Mulch is a great ground cover and will help control weeds. Also, over time as it breaks down, mulch will add nutrients back into the soil. Each of the Citizen Collection stations has mulch that you may pick-up. (Bring a shovel.) Environmental Services Director, Ellen Smyth, says that the mulch is free and that you do not need to show a water bill to get it. Environmental Services also has a great Mulching and Composting guide online. Be sure to read it.

Speaking about water conservation, there is still time to get a free water-efficient showerhead from EPWU. Details here. You must fill out the coupon sent with your water bill or download one from online.  Do visit, bookmark and surf EPWU’s Less is the New More water conservation tips page. There is great information here and a number of ways to save money.

I wish that I could visit the PSB/EPWU website and not find anything too egregious. Unfortunately, the current first entry on the home page describes land in the NW Master Plan/Scenic Transmountain Corridor as “PSB-owned land”. No sugar coating – it’s a lie and one they just can’t stop telling. It’s City of El Paso owned land – your land as a City – not the PSB’s but only managed by the PSB. Some of us hope that the day will come when managing City of El Paso land will be the prerogative of Planning and Development. Some of us hope that the day will come when we citizens stop subsidizing developers and sprawl by turning $500/acre desert land without water into $10,000/acre land with plumbed water and sewer.

Finally, congratulations to Judy Ackerman, this year’s recipient of the Frontera Land Alliance “Rock Award”.

Congratulations to Judy Ackerman the 2012 Recipient of the Rock Award

Frontera President, Michael Gaglio, presenting the 2012 Rock Award to Judy Ackerman

At last week's Taste of Frontera, the Board of Directors of the Frontera Land Alliance presented Judy Ackerman with their "Rock Award" in honor of her hard work to promote conservation. 

". . . the activist's activist"

In his presentation of the award, Frontera President, Michael Gaglio, many of the organizations that have been enriched by Ackerman: the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition and its Castner Conservation Conveyance Committee, Master Naturalists, the El Paso Cactus and Rock Club, the El Paso/Trans-Pecos Audubon Society, the Friends of the Rio Bosqye, the Poppies Fest Steering Committee, the West Texas Transmountain Scenic Corridor Petition Group, League of Women Voters and the Toastmasters. Whew!

Gaglio called her "the activist's activist". He concluded by saying that "she is an inspiration to me and a great big part of the reason I am standing here tonight."

John Sproul, manager of the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, was the recipient last year.