Friday, July 17, 2015

What's Going on at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology?

Click on image to enlarge. The sign by which El Pasoans identified their Museum of Archaeology.

If you have never been to the El Paso Museum of Archaeology, make time to go. It "presents 14,000 years of prehistory in the El Paso area, the greater Southwest, and northern Mexico." The museum and the 17 acres on which it sits is dedicated to interpreting the ancient ancestors of 82% of El Paso's population - Mexican Americans, Mexicans and indigenous peoples in our region.

The carefully crafted landscaping around the museum is meant to display native flora as it blends into the Chihuahuan desert ecosystem surrounding it. What people learn inside is interpreted by the desert-scape that they experience outside and vice versa. The artifacts displayed inside came from the desert. Indeed, our identity as El Paso is more than just the magnificent Franklin Mountians - it is also the beautiful Chihuahuan Desert to which those mountains and ourselves belong. Our ancestors survived here and we can learn from them. That is why the museum and its grounds are so important and a key part of the education of all - adults as well as school children.

Yet, the City pays it sparse attention and has failed to act expeditiously to repair damage after recent floods. There seems to be little communication between the City and TxDOT or Ft. Bliss to resolve some of the flooding issues bedeviling the museum. 
Another ugly brown Parks and Rec sign is now displayed. Be sure to bring your binoculars so you can see it as you speed past the Musuem on Transmountain

Cosmetic changes are being made. There's a new sign (smaller and uglier than the previous sign that came to stand for the museum and grounds for so many El Pasoans for so long.) A fence has been removed although that fence diverted visitors away from the pristine desert floor to proper nature paths. Larry Nichols, the new head of Planning and Inspections, and Tracy Novak, the Director of Parks and Recreation, together have deemed the cherished gazebo as unsound. Of course, neither is a structural engineer and no inspection by an engineer is forthcoming.

There is a grounds crew that is untrained when it comes to caring for the native plants. General Services which once maintained park space no longer does so. GS was put under the direction of Ted Marcus of Transportation and you know where his focus is. By the way, Tommy Gonzalez's NOT Lean Six Sigma is based on eliminating staff and not making systems more efficient. Therefore, do not expect much attention to maintenance and do not expect a full-time head of the museum. 

I've just given you the tip of the iceberg. There is more to this story of neglect and mismanagement which will follow including the situation with Indian Springs Canyon.

For now, some good news. In spite of being the step-daughter of MCAD. the Museum of Archaeology offers some very fine programs supported by the El Paso Archaeological Society and others. Tomorrow's talk is especially noteworthy as it is being given by one of the heroes of the El Paso environmental/conservation movement, in fact it's Paul Revere: Mike Bilbo, who will speak about the life of soldiers in this region around 1858, was a key player in events that led to the creation of Franklin Mountains State Park, saving our mountains from commercial development. As a teenager, he and a friend were hiking in the Franklins looking for eagle's nests. They spotted a bulldozer going up to the top of North Mount Franklin and they quickly spread the word. It turned out that old man Knapp, the patriarch of the family now bulldozing more pristine mountain land, wanted to develop on top of the mountain. The rest is history and we have the Franklin Mountains State Park and the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition the vanguard of protection for our mountains.

You can get more info about Mike's talk HERE.

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