|Photo from www.geo.utep.edu|
Once upon a time, Insights Science Museum was fairly successful. Since then, the Insights Museum has been torn down and most of its meager exhibits have gone to storage. In 2003, Stanley Jobe bought land in Sunland Park from American Eagle Brick Company and gave it to Insights because the land is a valuable paleontological asset. In 2002 a young geology student (now Ph.D.), Eric Kappus, discovered dinosaur tracks on it. Unfortunately, in spite of Eric's expertise and his building a hiking trail from one of the dino sites to Ardovino's Desert Crossing, Insights ended their relationship with him.
Insights board members are (we guess) volunteers. I'm sure that they are good and well-intentioned people who care about our community and have served it well. However, they are also amateurs who have little, if any, knowledge about managing land and, in particular, managing land with dinosaur tracks. Dino footprints at one site are slowly eroding because there is no protection from modern day footprints all over the site.
The President of Insights, Ellen Esposito, told me that they have had no success finding benefactors to help them provide free tours, for instance, with Celebration of Our Mountains. Apparently they have also reached out to 13 companies including Western Refinery. They have not had any success with sponsorships.
Esposito told me that "liability insurance, expense of tour guides and taxes must be covered by program fees." Insights recently advertised through the Trans-Pecos Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists for people willing to be trained to be docents. Of course, there would be no expense for tour guides if they are volunteers.
An owner of commercial property in Sunland Park pays significantly less tax on his 24 acres than on his house in El Paso. The approximately 200 acres on which there are dino tracks is not commercial nor is it any longer a quarry operation.
What exactly is Insights' business plan and their goals for this very valuable paleontolgocal treasure? If they truly cared about the preservation of this site, why not turn it over to the Bureau of Land Management and let the Las Cruces office of the BLM manage it? The BLM people are experts.
In fact, turning over the land to New Mexico to make it part of a 500-mile Rio Grande trail has been proposed by Esposito and renowned UTEP geology professor, Phil Goodell. "The State Parks Division of New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resource Department will facilitate discussions about the dinosaur tracks property," David Crowder of the El Paso Inc. recently reported.
Today one even wonders what the purpose of Insights is any longer. The City of El Paso will soon have a Children's Museum. Insights, more so then than now, will be a relic of the past. An indication that that is true is the fact that they cannot find any serious donors.
It is time to admit what many have already realized: Insights has no business managing the Dino Tracks. They should turn it over to the BLM or another NM State agency that knows how to manage land and parks.
(I have reached out to Ellen Esposito for comment but have not heard back yet.)